Collecting and dating Snow Babies made in Germany and Japan

snow babies
December 1912 Ladies’ Home Journal illustration of Christmas Table Decorations featuring German Snow Babies at play.

Bisque ceramic Snow Babies will melt your heart!

Perhaps you are wondering why I would want to give you tips about finding and collecting a Christmas item in the late summer. It is wiser to collect and search for snow babies anytime but the yuletide. My last score was on a very hot day in May at an estate sale when nobody else was thinking Christmas. Aging collectors are downsizing their beloved possessions in order to move to a smaller home and to be fully in charge of passing them on to another collector. So go to estate sales and living estate sales and even flea markets and keep your eyes open for these little darlings.

 

This jointed doll was made before WWI and has a finely modeled face and and painted features. Note that it is all white but for the face.

I believe the ceramic bisque snow babies were preceded by an edible confection called Zuckerpuppen or sugar dolls, which were made as far back as the early 19th century to adorn cakes, the christmas tree and even as holiday decor. A confectioner commissioned Hertwig and company to create an inedible and enduring version in ceramic around  the late 1800s. There is some speculation of who created and when these first ceramic figures came into being. The first snow babies were larger figures with the most amazing painted and modeled faces complete with dimples. Their eyebrows were brown and the eyes have extra finely detailed features. Even the nostrils had little red dots. Shoes were black, brown or no color at all, if color is used it was generally pastel and the poses were inactive. If there was a ski pole as part of the figure, it would be only one which would look large and heavy. These first snow babies were featured in the 1911 December Issue of The Ladies’ Home Journal in the USA. They may or may not have a Germany stamp on them. The start of WWI brought this first version of snow babies to an end.

This between-the-wars snow baby in a bright red sled pulled by two dogs was also made in Germany.

 

The second generation of snow babies were produced in Germany between the Great Wars. These items were smaller and in more active poses. Bright colors of red, blue and yellow were used on these on shoes and even props. The eyes are little more than black dots and they were more roughly painted. They were often cold painted which means touching or cleaning their faces can remove some of the paint. With the onset of WWII the production of this group of snow babies ceased.

After WWII you can find made in Japan snow babies. These were stamped with Japan on their base and may have been inspired by earlier German figures.

 

Newer Snow Babies from Department 56 are being collected and enjoyed by a younger crowd. From Fishbone Collectibles on etsy.

In 1987 Department 56 put out their line of Snow Babies which are delightful, larger, more active and even year round collectibles. These can be bought new or used at flea markets and yard sales if you are lucky.

There are books that you can purchase or borrow through your library to learn more about the antique snow babies. I have the Snow Babies book by Mary Morrison. Like almost any thing that is collectible in vintage and antiques, it pays to do some reading and research to increase your knowledge.

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Good jeans: denim gets the job done

denim blue jeans

Most of us have a favorite pair of denim jeans. Comfy and casual, jeans are a staple in most people’s wardrobe. It’s common to see people wearing jeans almost anywhere now from the office to the club, out on a date to doing yardwork.  

But jeans were not always fashionable. Jeans used to be work wear. Worn by men who labored for a living and needed pants that would hold up under heavy stress and not come apart. While some jeans are still made as work apparel, they are more often a fashion statement with a pair of designer jeans costing upwards of $100.00 or more.

denim blue jeans
A classic pair of well worn jeans can make an outfit just as a poor fitting pair can ruin one.

While the story of Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis who created the first pair of patented riveted denim jeans in 1873 is a part of history, there’s more to it than that. The success of those first riveted work pants lead the company to continue to innovate to this day. Many companies were quick to follow in Levi’s footsteps.

But Mr. Strauss and Mr. Davis tapped into something much bigger than just work wear.  They created a new fashion that would far outlive them and their wildest dreams. Denim jeans as we know them didn’t become a popular fashion item until the Hollywood bad boys like James Dean and Marlon Brando started wearing them both onscreen and off.  America was taken by storm and the rest of the world was not far behind.

Jeans are now the most popular pants throughout the world.  It’s said the average American owns 7 pair of jeans. They run the gamut in style, fit, fabric weight, and price. A well worn pair of vintage jeans is a coveted item and can sell for thousands of dollars. So next time you are out garage saling, wandering the flea or thrifting, check out that rack or pile of denim and see what treasures you can find.

denim blue jeans

Denim Jeans Day fundraising

First came Casual Friday. Then someone had a lightbulb moment: could the power of casual be harnessed to go good?  The concept is simple, if you want to wear your jeans to work on a declared “Jeans Day,” you gotta ante up $5 for a non-profit. Fundraising doesn’t get much easier or more comfortable. The beauty of an idea that’s this uncomplicated is it can be done on both a national or local level. So…who can you help with your favorite blues?

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Vintage FYI: vaseline or uranium glass

Vaseline glass or uranium glass is commonly seen vintage glassware that comes in many decorative shapes and colors. It is a favorite with collectors because glows when exposed to ultraviolet light. It earned it’s name from its yellow or green oily look similar to petroleum jelly and because it’s made with uranium oxide. Production began in the 1840s and continued for about 100 years before being heavily regulated by the U.S. Government in 1943. In 1958, the use of uranium was deregulated and production began again.

Vaseline glass has carried with it a stigma regarding the amount of radiation it emanates. Similar to the “Radioactive Red” Fiesta ware, radiation levels have been proven to be relatively harmless in comparison to average daily exposure.

Over the course of its many years in production there have been myriad manufacturers of vaseline glass leading to a wide variety of colors, styles, and price ranges.  With the extensive amount still available it’s easy to start a collection or add to one.

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14 words vintage sellers love to know

definition of vintage

One of the challenges of being an online vintage seller is finding the right words to describe your items. Some of those words are so cool they make us feel smart just knowing them. Some are the kind of words that are fun to say. We’re not ones to be stingy with information, so here’s a short and entirely random list of words we’ve used recently to describe vintage items.

Ambrotype

A photographic process that was popular in the mid to late 1800s. Ambrotypes are glass negatives that were made positive by coating the back side with black lacquer.

 

 

Colophon

Back in the 15th and 16th centuries, books often had a page at the very back of the book that listed the details about the book – who the author was, when it was published, and sometimes included advertising. “Colophon” is a Greek word that means “finishing touch” – an appropriate word for this special page.

 

Lenticular printedJiminy Cricket mug

A printing process that gives 2D images the illusion of depth or movement. Jiminy Cricket’s eyes are lenticular, they seem to blink as you look at them. 

 

 

Millefiori

Millefiori is the Italian word for “a thousand flowers” and is a glass-making technique. Multi-colored glass pieces are fused together, then cut crosswise and embedding in a clear molten glass that creates the floral-like pattern.

 

 

Reticulatedreticulated compote

On pottery, a pierced work pattern that forms a mesh or a net. Reticulated borders can be found on rare fine antique ceramics and on novelty travel souvenir plates from more recent times.

 

 

Rigareeglass rigaree

A decorative applied band of glass, usually frilled and crimped. It’s a bit like a cake decorator applied it as frosting.

 

 

Trompe-l’oeil

Trompe-l’oeil is a French word that means “fool the eye”. Trompe-l’oeil items are usually painted very precisely to make things look real. These painted items are meant to deceive the viewer.

 

Ephemera

Things that exist or are used for a short period of time. In the vintage world, it applies to paper items such as souvenirs, pamphlets and posters, that were typically discarded but have since become collectible.

 

 

Goofus Glass 

Pressed glass that was decorated with bright unfired paint in the early 1900’s . Because it was mass produced by American glass companies and relatively inexpensive, it was often given as prizes at carnivals or as a gift with purchase at the local gas station or furniture store.

 

Parure

Parure refers to a set of matching jewelry meant to be worn together.  Such as a necklace, brooch, bracelet, and earrings, considered as a “full parure”. A semi, or demi parure would consist of just two or three matching items such as earrings and a necklace, or a brooch and bracelet set. The word parure is derived from an old French word meaning to adorn or to embellish oneself.

 

Firkinwooden firkins

Also known as a sugar bucket, a firkin is a small wooden lidded barrel with a u-shaped wood handle secured with wood pegs and bands.  A firkin could also have been referred to as a quarter of a barrel of ale or beer.  

 

Aurora Borealis 

No, not the northern lights but the finish that was first applied to crystal rhinestones back in the 1950’s. Also referred to as AB it is not a color itself per se but rather an enhancement or brilliance which also produces color changes as the light (or lack of) reflects on the crystals.

 

 

Amberina 

The term Amberina refers to a type of glass with gradient color most usually ranging from red at the top to amber at the bottom. Both, or either, of those colors may be deep vibrant colors or very light that is may appear pink with a light yellow base.

 

Brocade

Anyone who grew up in the 1950’s or 1960’s should remember brocade.  It was the fabric of choice for the ultimate party dress back then.  Brocade is usually a silk fabric with silver or gold threads woven through it.    Brocade fabric dates all the way back to Byzantine times and was one of the few luxury items. Now brocade fabric is most often used for drapery or upholstery.

 

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Pop Culture Stamps

I think Elvis was the first stamp I fell in love with and it seems I am in good company because this stamp, issued in 1993, is the most popular stamp of all time according to the Smithsonian’s Postal Museum. 

elvis presley stamp
Elvis stamp issued in 1993

Typically stamps feature historical figures and cultural sites, but in keeping up with the times and to boost stamp sales, they can also feature pop celebrities and fictional characters. This is the fun stuff. The USPS hopes these fun stamps will entice the younger generation into stamp collecting. Some notable pop culture stamps included rock and roll legends, superheroes, cartoon characters, Disney, vintage cars and trucks, Harry Potter, Starwars just to name a few.  

disney villain stamps

Have you ever wondered who decides what goes on the stamps we use to mail that birthday card to your favorite aunt? Well, it just so happens there’s a committee for that and they take their work very seriously.  The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee consists of 12-members appointed by the postmaster general that evaluates future stamp issues based on public submissions. In the past, no person could be commemorated with a stamp until at least 10 years after their death. At some point, it was reduced to 5 years and eventually, the rule was done away with. U.S. presidents are featured on a stamp on the first birthday following their death.

This was just a brief glimpse into the world of stamps. Visit Stamps.org to learn more about stamps and collecting. Share with us in the comments below if you are a collector or just a stamp fan–what is your favorite stamp?

 

 

 

Collecting antique pictorial souvenir china or view china

souvenir view china
An assortment of shapes, views and themes that one can collect.

Our historical society has a permanent display of view china with old black and white transfer images of our  small town including churches, natural scenes, and our common and I admire and peruse the collection whenever I can. A few years ago, I came across view china in an antique store and noticed that the plate had a great image of a Connecticut scene and we were in Vermont. I thought this isn’t right for it to be so far from its origin. That moment began my crusade to get these beautiful and historic items back where they belong.

Most people don’t realize that view china is quite old because they might link it to kitschy 1950s souvenir dishes. The earlier transfer view china is much older, mostly made in Germany from 1890 to before WWI. Another bonus I enjoy about view china is the story of the merchant that purchased and sold the piece. Some have their name and the name of their shop imprinted on the base of these dishes and so it gives even more depth to the snapshot of a town in an earlier time. As people got more leisure time they were able to take trains (perhaps even a day trip) to various locations and bring back a piece of view china as a memento of the day. This benefitted both the shopkeeper and the tourist. Most view china was not used, although I have seen some used in very interesting ways!

There are two ideas about collecting view china. One is collecting on a theme such as steamships, bridges, beaches, lighthouses, Civil War battle sites, or towns. The other type of collection focuses on the shape of this porcelain such as tea cups and saucers, pin trays, shoes, smoking dishes or pitchers.

A hand colored and stenciled pin tray of Devil’s Den in Gettysburg Pennsylania

I think that as collections of view china are being downsized or split up from estates it is a fresh opportunity for you to begin a collection or try to get them back to historical societies in the areas they picture. If you are interested in more on view china I suggest you get one of the books available, mostly on the used book market.

 

The back stamp on this pin tray shows a post 1891 Made in Germany stamp
An example of a folded corner dish and sugar bowl featuring Minot’s Light, a lighthouse in Cohasset Massachusetts.
The back stamp shows the name of the shopkeeper who ordered these Minot’s Light pieces. If you were related to Joseph, you could hold something that he must have held at one time!

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English teacups: a collecting love letter

teacup

teacup

Decorative teacups, most of which came from England, were at the peak of their popularity as collectables in the 1950s and 1950s. It’s the things that made them popular then that are making them popular again:  their shapely shapes, pretty decorations, swirling curling handles and saucy saucers. Of course vintage teacups are ready to serve up your tea, but they are also dandy for off label uses like organizing things on your dresser, providing a safe home for your air plant, storing your pennies, catching your keys and a thousand other uses yet to be imagined.

Anyone who spends more than 35 seconds on Pinterest can tell you that teacups are a popular party favor. Even your least pinkies-up-plus-pearls kind of guest is going to have to work mighty hard not to be happy with their new bone china friend.

Teacups are proof that strong is beautiful. Made of bone china or porcelain, they’re made to last. Bone china is a soft-paste porcelain made with clay, kaolin and bone ash. It’s the sturdiest of the porcelains. Regular porcelain is a clay made with kaolin and other additives depending on where it’s being made.

Most English teacups can be used for actually drinking tea. Once formed and decorated, the painted or stamped design is covered with a clear glaze, making it safe for food use. But there are exceptions. Those that have a mesh of cracks in the clear glaze, known as crazing, are no longer food safe. And it’s probably not a good idea to use Rose Medallion, a popular export ware from the 1920s on, or Japanese novelty lusterware, for example, because those usually do not have a clear coat food-safe glaze.

There are many, many makers of teacups from England, ranging in quality from exquisitely delicate to fancied-up utilitarian. In general, 0n the higher end of the price spectrum are cups made by Shelley, Paragon, Aynsley, Coalport. In the middle are Royal Albert, Royal Standard, Rosina and a multitude of others makers. Like anything that was a trend at some point, there are makers galore and prices are all over the place from several hundred dollars to a few single dollars. Tea cup prices are determined by the same things as all vintage: scarcity, desirability and condition. If you’re favor shopping, you can often find teacup lots online at good prices. And it’s okay to politely ask a seller if they will offer you a bundle price. 

As with most things we humans collect, there is some teacup lingo you’ll find in listings. We’re arranged a few of the more common ones here, arranged alphabetically for your convenience.

Backstamps are the maker’s marks printed on the bottom of many cups and saucers. They are often accompanied by a handpainted style number or maker’s mark.

The bowl is the big round part that holds the tea, it can be flat, conical, flared or a more decorative shape.

Chintz is a tiny overall floral pattern.

Coffee cans are not teacups, but they do come with saucers. They are small straight sided cups usually used for espresso.

Corset waist teacups have a generously sized top and very nipped in bottom.

Demitasse cups are smaller than teacups and are generally used for espresso.

Fluted teacups and saucers have a series of furrowed wedges radiating from the center ring out that get grow in size as they head to edge.

Footed teacups have a distinctive foot at the bottom.

Luncheon sets include a teacup, saucer and matching luncheon plate.

Scalloped teacups and saucers have edges that are composed of arches or semi-circles. They can be evenly sized or alternate large and small.

Smooth shaped teacups and saucers are just that. Smooth and simple. They let the decoration do the talking.

Snack sets or tea and toast sets or luncheon sets are oversized plates with a place for your teacup. There is no saucer.

Swirled teacups and saucers are like fluted teacups that had a ride on the tilt-a-whirl.

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If you want to find out more about teacups, here are some wonderful places to read more:

The National Shelley Collector club has a fabulous pictorial glossary.

The Tea Blog of the English Tea Store has tasty tea time recipes and tea cup loving posts.

Teacup handle shapes have different names, Tea with Friends offers an introduction

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Non-bone china teacup related factoid: NOAA’s Storm Center describes 3″ hail as teacup (for reference, the scale ranges from  .5″ is marble or mothball to 4.5″ for grapefruit)

 

 

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Crazy About Catherineholm Lotus Bowls!

Have you ever been the last person to get a joke? Or the last person to realize that low-waisted jeans are (were) the latest fad? Or maybe that you were the last person to know about the most popular television show that was popular 10 years ago, and you’ve only just discovered (and love) it?

Well, that’s how I feel about my latest discovery – the Catherineholm Lotus Enamelware bowls. How did I not know about these bowls before this week? How have they escaped my radar? Granted, I usually check out the barns, garages, and basements at estate sales before anything else, and I usually don’t spend much time in the kitchens – maybe that’s how I missed these fabulous bowls! I am sure over the years that I have seen this pattern before in pots and coffee pots, but never really gave it any thought before now.

This week I spotted a green bowl with white flower petals on it. The green caught my eye since it is similar to the lime green I use as accent pieces in our living room. There were no maker marks on the bottom of the bowl, so I searched the internet to learn more about it – and found out it’s a Catherineholm Lotus Enamelware bowl. And I am in love!

Did You Know?

In my research, I found that this design was released in the early 1960s, originating from the Catherineholm factory in Norway, and isn’t limited to just bowls. The design pieces and colors were attributed to Grete Prytz Kittelsen, and Arne Clausen came up with the lotus pattern.

What I like most about the bowls is that they are made of steel, coated with enamelware. The colors are bright and vibrant and the pattern is just as trendy today as it was in the early 1960s. 

Since this line of enamelware was only made from the early 1960s to around 1965, some of the pieces are quite rare. And naturally, are also quite expensive. Some of the bowls are marked, while others are not. 

These Catherineholm Lotus enamelware bowls are so popular, there is even a group on Flickr, filled with photos!

I am now on a quest to find at least one bowl in yellow, orange, green, black, and red with the white lotus flower petal. And don’t even get me started on the striped bowls!

Do you own or collect Catherineholm Lotus Enamelware? What’s your favorite piece?

photo: Hudson River Mercantile

 

A bedding glossary: what do you call the thing that covers your bed?

vintage bedding

At the end of a long day when all you can think about is laying your weary head on your pillow, the question of what the proper name is for that top layer of bedding you peel back so you can crawl between the sheets probably does not cross your mind. But as a vintage seller who occasionally writes a listing for that top layer of bedding, it does cross my mind. And it often makes me wrinkle my brow because there is a surprising amount of nomenclature for the big rectangular things that sit on top of your blanket and sheets. And all those coverings have slightly different characteristics which define them.

Establishing ground rules: The words “bedding,” “bed linens” and “bedclothes” can be used pretty interchangeably here in the USA. Those words mean the whole enchilada from mattress cover to sheets to pillowcases to blankets to that top layer that is the subject of the glossary that follows. 

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vintage bedspread

Bedspread is the term most of us are most familiar with. It can be made of all kinds of material, usually a single layer, and it covers the pillows and reaches all the way to the floor on three sides of the bed. Summer bedspreads are usually light and thin, winter bedspreads are a little thicker. (photo: Betty Pepis Interior Decoration A to Z, 1965)

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vintage coverlet

A coverlet is also a single layer of fabric, it also covers the pillows but it only reaches down just past the top of the box spring, just below the place a bedskirt starts on a traditional bed. (photo: Billy Baldwin Decorates, 1972)

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A bedcover is a generic term that is used for both bedspreads and coverlets.

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vintage daybed

A slipcover or fitted bedspread is tailored to fit a bed’s dimensions precisely. Usually used on daybeds or perhaps in a guest room, it’s not all that commonly seen currently, but it was a definite fave in the 1950s and 1960s. (photo: House and Garden Complete Guide to Interior Decoration, 1953)

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vintage quilt

A quilt is two layers of fabric, sewn together with a layer of something warm in the middle like flannel, wool or batting. The top can be a single piece of fabric or it can be made with a patchwork of many pieces of fabric. The quilting stitches go though all layers and generally are an important design feature. (photo: www.countryliving.com)

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rayon comforter

A comforter is two layers of fabric sewn together to be puffy and warm. It might be filled with a polyester batting, down, or synthetic down substitutes. It is stitched or tufted through all layers to prevent the filling from shifting.

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vintage duvet

A duvet is thick and puffy like a comforter, but unlike a comforter which is used with sheets, duvets have a removable cover that acts as the top sheet. For those Ikea fans out there, their bedding department sells a lot of plain white comforters that fit inside their many patterned duvet colors. (photo: Fabric Magic, 1987)

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A couple of quaint old terms you may hear are eiderdown, a luxe comforter filled with feathers from the eider duck, and counterpane, yet another old word for a bedspread, but used with charm galore in the Robert Louis Stevenson poem from his collection A Child’s Garden of Verses.

the land of counterpane

 

 

Your Favorite Iconic Toys

tricycle

If someone asked you to name a vintage toy what would you think of? The little red Radio Flyer wagon? Barbie? Hula Hoop? Slinky? Erector sets? Easy Bake Oven? Frisbees?

Your answer would probably depend on the era you (or your parents in some cases) grew up in and more than likely at least to some extent the area of the country where you lived.

Creepy Crawlers ant
1960s Thingmaker Creepy Crawlers giant ant mold from ThirdShift.

For me it was Barbie (who was born the same year as me!), the Slip ‘n Slide, the Easy Bake Oven, Viewmaster and best of all the Thingmaker (aka Creepy Crawlers), well next to my all time favorite, my Hot Wheel cars. (Yes, I was a tomboy).

You may be surprised at just how many folks seek out toys from their childhood. Maybe it is part comfort. You know, reminders of the “good old days.” Maybe it’s to find that one toy that always eluded them, or broke too soon. Perhaps to share the fun from their past with their children or grandchildren. Whatever the reason vintage toys are a hot commodity and will most likely stay that way – perhaps forever.

Every decade has their favorites…. Rubik’s Cube, Garbage Pail Kids, Star Wars, PEZ dispensers or Beanie Babies anyone? Whatever your favorite(s) I’ll bet just the thought of them brings a smile to your face. You may find some of them at the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Enjoy!

If you enjoyed reading this article you might also enjoy visiting these fine shops for items like the ones shown here:

 

  1. Vintage Lesney toy cars.
  2. Vintage buckskin toy horses.
  3. Vintage paper dolls.
  4. Vintage scooter.
  5. Vintage story film cards.
  6. Antique toy furniture.
  7. Vintage Buddy L Coca Cola truck.