Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Keeping Myself Honest:The Fiesta Challenge

It's just 3 little pieces. Or that's what I keep telling myself.

You see, I've told my husband several different times now that there are two distinct categories of dishes that I really don't want to collect: Depression glass and Fiesta.

Actually, scratch that. I also told him, "I promise. No Jadeite. It's way too expensive."

And I was good to my word. That is, until a blue mug hopped into my hand at Goodwill for 29 cents.

And the thing that irked me the most is that it's heavy like restaurant ware. I *hearts* heavy old restaurant dishes.

So, it came home with me.

Then came more trouble. Turquoise saucer: 1 quarter at a little mom & pop junk store (this place doesn't even have a name as far as I know).

Rose colored (?) teacup again at Goodwill, 19 cents.

So, I made a decision. I'm keepin' it real, and setting an actual challenge for myself. No more Fiesta unless it is for practically pennies. No exceptions. (well....) And I'm going to 'cop to' every piece I buy, and keep an honest record of how much I really spend on my "junkin".

I have too many exceptions, where the amount of money I'm willing to spend is too flexible. I already collect vintage Pyrex, some odd pieces of Fire King, odd pieces of restaurant ware, so I genuinely have PLENTY of different 'collections' going already.

So, 3 pieces of Fiesta. Grand total spent (not including tax) = .73 cents

I realize the hazard of this is that I will indeed never find another piece of Fiesta, either new or vintage for these prices - which is probably a good thing for my kitchen, but not so hot in terms of having something to write about, lol. But, in all honesty, I have other things I probably need to institute this 'challenge' on, so we will see what happens!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I collect: Fire King Charm

This is every single piece of Fire King "Charm" pattern that I own. And while it's not exactly what you'd call a 'massive collection', what I have of it isn't exactly deliberate, either.

It all started several months ago. One square, pale blue teacup sitting in one of my favorite little junk shops. Unmarked, and a total mystery to me.

Helpfully, my brain suggested: "Didn't you see a lone saucer just like this in an antique store?"

Why yes, helpful brain, yes I did.

The urge to reunite the two was irresistible. I paid the dollar for the teacup, vaguely confident that the matching saucer (also a dollar) would still be waiting for me my next trip to the antique store.

I also did a little research. Fire King "Charm" pattern, made from 1950-56. Every piece in this line is square, except the rectangular serving piece (Confusingly, these are called 'Oval Servers'. Ah, confusion..). I have pieces in 3 of the original 6 colors. These are Royal Ruby, Forest Green, Azurite (the pale blue), Jadite (pale green), milk white, off-white, and pink.

Technically, Royal Ruby and Forest Green (the two brighter, more transparent colors) were not considered a part of the Charm line, despite being made in that shape. On their own, they were two popular color schemes offered by Anchor Hocking in a variety of shapes, and were marketed more as colors than patterns.

Unlike most Fire King pieces, these guys are not typically marked. Marked pieces do pop up occasionally, but generally are recognized more by the characteristic square shape, as well as distinctive striped bottoms. You can see this quite clearly on the green saucer above. The transparency on the Royal Ruby and Forest Green is most likely why these were more commonly labeled with gold foil stickers instead of being marked in-mold.

And since reuniting the Azurite cup and saucer, I've found the rest of my pieces at thrift stores. My best finds have been the Forest Green Oval Server for $1.49 at a Goodwill, and a 9 inch Azurite dinner plate at the re*Store for a dollar! I can't really speak for what these pieces are worth, but to purchase online could set you back $18-$48 dollars a piece, depending on whether you look at ebay, etsy or replacements sites.

And since finding the Azurite dinner plate, I really think I'm love with this color. It's so pale. Much lighter than than the popular delphite and turquoise blues.
I could gush about this Azurite Charm the same way The Pioneer Woman gushes about her Jadite collection . Check out the Charm pieces! Cautiously, I estimate her collection to be valued at one bazillion dollars.

Poor Azurite. So similar, yet so un-similarly valued. Still, I think it's gorgeous. Here it is again (I can't resist another photo-op)

And finally, please excuse the very wrinkled 'tablecloth' in the background. It's actually a curtain I very hastily grabbed when the mood stuck to take pictures. It looked like a good enough backdrop to my eyes at the time, but looks pretty darn horrible in the photos. No amount of 'fancy china' is going to make me much of a domestic goddess. I've got too much "Eh, it's good enough" in me for that to happen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Antique Stores: Friend or Foe?

To me, antique stores are charming. Much like friends, booths have varied personalities. Some are quite tidy and organized, others are a casual jumble of happy colors. Some are so specialized that you can tell at a glance whether it's 'your kind of booth' or not. Other booths are so stacked, packed and knick-knacked that you fear even stepping foot in it, afraid that you will not just knock ONE thing over, but cause a tsunami of tchotchkes to tumble out every-which-where.

Digression: It's kinda funny I count these messy booths in the 'friend' category, but with some very careful & precarious, ballerina-like 'positioning', I have pulled out some of my very favorite treasures from these types of booths. I've come to think of it as American Pickers-style antiquing, but with air conditioning :-)

Also, like friends, you find booths that either wildly overvalue themselves as well as those who are on the shy side, price-wise. Generally, I find the spacious, well-groomed booths to be a good bit more pricey than their rumble-tumble brethren. Are they the equivalent of what we call "high maintenance"?

But on the whole, variety really is the spice of life. It just wouldn't be a good antique store without the mixtures and contradictions. A good antique store can feature finery behind locked and lighted glass display cases, as well as provide a welcoming home to kitchy kitchenalia.

Are you ready to rumble? Cause I sure am!
In no particular order, things I hate to see in a booth:

*Dishwashed to Death. There's almost nothing sadder to me than finding what was once a lovely, colorful vintage mixing bowl (think Pyrex or Hazel Atlas) that is quite obviously stripped of color and shine. I expect it at Goodwill, but when it makes its way into an antique store - Shame on you. I'm especially sassy about this because you tend to be the same people who price it as though it was still in mint condition. And you may not think much about the blogging community, but this is so common that we've coined our own term for it: DBD. Death By Dishwasher. Please don't do it.

*Reproductions and reissues not labeled as such. Now this is an issue where booth owners get cut miles of slack. Good-natured antique buyers assume the owners may not be aware that a certain depression glass patterns were commemorated in unique colors or styles. Or that "fantasy items" were produced and sold through places like MarthaStewart.com or Cracker Barrel restaurants. A good booth owner should care about their items, research them individually, price and label them with fairness and honesty. Being "unaware" is a losing proposition for both buyers & sellers!

and finally, my personal pet peeve:

*Sellers whose booths seem like nothing more than a public tribute to their own personal collections. Please tell me I'm not the only one who has encountered this. Wildly overpriced pieces displayed gloriously and meticulously in spaciously well-appointed booths. Sometimes I halfway expect the booth owner to be sitting right there in a fine leather chair, black phone in hand, talking in serious and hushed tones to J. Edgar Hoover.

But if this isn't ringing any bells, maybe it's because it's not the right kind of rebel. This could just as easily describe the James Dean booth, filled with movie memorabilia. Or the Bruce Lee booth, filled with ninja stuff and swords.

Likely enough, it isn't even a rebel thing. It's a personal identity thing. Childhood toys and games, record collections, glassware collections, you name it. The tip-off here is not necessarily the content itself, but how it is priced. And when it's priced to stay forever, I tend to come to the conclusion that instead of paying booth rental fees, they should perhaps consider putting that money towards a safer way to enjoy and display their personal collections.


My rants are many. So many good things about antique stores. So many minor annoyances. But always, I will go back again and again. The thrill of the hunt! To me, antique stores are the perfect remedy to a disappointing patch of thrifting, and thrifting is the perfect remedy to antique store sticker-shock. But I've gotten so many good deals both ways, I will continue to love them both.

Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Inside peek at my hoosier-style cabinet

I never actually got around to posting about completing my Primary bowl set. It's a sordid tale of spending too much money for individual pieces, then spending even more money on individual pieces because I lucked into some of the original T.M. Reg 1940's versions that are somewhat heavier, thicker, and have some color variation.

So, long story short, I have a complete set of 1940's older bowls, and I'm one 'modern' red bowl away from having an entire 1950's-and-beyond set. Honestly, I could have paid the typical antique store ransom price and had 1 bowl set, and that would have been the reasonable thing to do. But, the problem is, I'm not a reasonable person, lol!

I did not realize when I bought the lidless bundle of mostly primary refrigerator dishes back over the summer, how crazy it actually was to be purchasing most of 2 primary refrigerator dish sets in one fell swoop. I paid 23 dollars for 2 yellow & 1 orange (citrus daisy) large fridgies, 3 medium blues, and 3 reds. They were all taped together, so condition was a question mark. The large fridgies and reds have been through a dishwasher. They aren't awful, but they have lost some shine.

On the bottoms, they were marked in black permanent marker, one dollar for the large & medium, 50 cents for the small. They obviously came from a thrift store or yard sale. I'm supposing the seller thought a markup from 8 bucks to 23 was good enough profit, especially since they didn't have lids.

This bundle has been both blessing and curse. I've seen many a single primary fridgie for more money than I'd ever pay, but starting off with so many with no lids, I'm constantly on the hunt for them. I've found two lids since, and I've bought a few more pieces that I lid-hop around. I have enough now that I've 'retired' the older style lids with the pieces they belong to & use them for display, and have one of each size to use regularly. These are brilliant for holding leftovers, and I was happy to add in another small way that my food does not come into contact with plastic. (My feelings towards plastics are another rant for another day. I have flour in Tupperware canisters as we speak. To me, it's less about trusting or distrusting plastic and more about genuinely questioning something that is so pervasive, it's almost impossible to avoid.)

The other two pieces, both pottery, are an unmarked teapot I've since found out was made by Cronin, and a Hall for Westinghouse refrigerator dish. The Hall piece has a humdinger of a chunk chipped out from the inside of the lid, but it was also a bargain at 3 dollars. It still displays beautifully.

And it is probably ill-advised to admit to this, but it had a horrible metal ring-shaped stain on the top that would not soak or Magic Eraser out of it. I hit it with Bar Keepers Friend and it took it right out without doing any apparent damage to the piece or color. Once again, this is not *advice*. This is merely a *rambling recollection* from a girl who is willing to potentially damage a piece in order to *potentially* improve it.

How's that for a disclaimer? ;-)

And also, this is the inside of my very-much-unrestored Marsh hoosier-style cabinet. On one hand, I'm eager to (hopefully!) return it to it's former glory. But on the other hand, what isn't showing in this picture is the horrible-looking black chewing gum stuck on the insides of the cabinet. This horrible black gum actually makes me kinda sad. My mom told me stories of 'saving' her gum in funny places when she was kid (the bedpost idea wasn't just a song!) so she could chew it again later. When the day comes that I have to remove it to sand and paint, I will probably have to try to convince myself that it was just a gross adult who did it, lol.

Rant blog for my fellow Pyrex junkies

And just a little bit of rant in relation to my last blog. I got GREAT DEALS yesterday. I don't know why these pieces were reasonable prices floating above the sea of crazy, but they very much were. Same day, same mall:

Booth I got the yellow Embroidery casserole for 12 dollars with carrier was charging 15 bucks a piece for 12 ounce red square ramekins.

Same booth I got the $25 pink Scroll casserole had a delphite divided dish for $45 dollars.

Different store, bought NOTHING there, wanted $45 for the (444) largest Cinderella pink Gooseberry mixing bowl & $25 for the next smallest. And they were NOT in very good shape!
$22 for largest Sandalwood Cinderella mixing bowl, $20 for next largest. *sniff* I so would have bought that one if it had even been flirting with being reasonably priced.

Not the same day or place, but these prices reminded me of a more local store that wanted $25 for the smallest patterned Friendship mixing bowl.

So, once again, I don't know why I found a couple of great pieces for great prices, but I'm happy I did!

Tickled Pink

Pink & turquoise blue are my favorite colors for vintage kitchen wares. These two colors were quite popular in the 1950's - which also seems to be my favorite era. I can just see my grandmother as a young woman in her late 20's - 30's, and my mom as a little girl, romping around the kitchen, clutching her "Tiny Tears" doll.

Unfortunately (for my wallet!) many, many other collectors are just as in love with this same era! And sometimes, I suspect a generation battle is occurring. My mom, a baby boomer, grew up with these items and decor, and I'm sure there is a nostalgia factor to it. Me, on the other hand, grew up in the 70's and 80's, where the color palette of "my generation" could probably only be described as 70's autumnal or 80's crazy neon. And neon did not seem to catch on as a kitchen phenomenon. What we got instead seems to me to be a powdery, country colors. Rose pinks, country blues, ducks, stuff like that.

So, as for collecting, I think the boomers are buying up nostalgia they experienced in their lifetimes, and the Gen X and Gen Y kids are, well, jealous. (My apologies to all 3 generations here for the tongue-in-cheek generalizations! ;-)

As an X'er, I have yet to embrace the 70's dingy of my childhood. Perhaps one day I will truly embrace Av0cado green (which my mom jokingly pronounces ah-vah-kah-doo), burnt orange, or 80's mauve pink, or country blue with little duckies on it.

But right now, I'll be honest: I covet pinks, turquoise, yellow, accents of reds and greens. Pastels and Primaries in lovely harmony. I covet 1950's, when my grandparents were approximately the same age as I am now.

And by far, the most expensive vintage fancy I have is Pyrex. Pinks, turquoise and Primary sets are some of the most expensive Pyrex available today (IF and WHEN available). And the thing is, Pyrex is still one of the least expensive options. Help my soul if I was actively collecting Fire King, Hazel Atlas, or McKee from this same era. (I passively collect these items, gladly, on the rare occasion they turn up at a thrift store. I tend to draw the line at picking them up at antique stores, mostly owing to the prices).

So in 8 months of collecting, and visiting very local antique stores, I had never even seen a piece of pink Pyrex for sale. Disclosure here: I live in the South, where prices are reportedly higher than in other areas of the country. (I've experienced this!!!) Also, what I mean by pink, is the light pink - not the darker flamingo shade, which I have seen and bought before.

My only two pieces of light pink were the two smallest Gooseberry refrigerator dishes, found at an odd little collectibles shop that specializes in cards, toys & comics. But of the dozen antique stores in a 25 mile or so radius, not one single piece of pink Pyrex - at any price!

So yesterday we ventured about an hour out of town, to a small antique district, where I found my first pink pieces. I also broke my own record for most money spent on a single piece. Not exactly something I'm proud of, mind you. But it was necessary in order to come home with these:

So there we have it! Every single piece of pink I own. From top to bottom: Pink Gooseberry, pink Daisy space saver 1 1/4 quart casserole, and Pink Scroll 2 quart space saver casserole.

The pink daisy was 10 dollars, and I was very happy to get it at that price. When I got home with it, I noticed the lid was priced separately! $6.50 for a lid?! But neither I, nor the cashier noticed this, so I got it for the 10 bucks I thought I was paying!

But the pink Scroll is my most expensive piece. It was $25 bucks. I'm pr etty sure most of my family and friends will think I am crazy. And I almost didn't buy it because, honestly, 15 dollars is about my limit.

But, this same piece just recently sold on ebay, mint in carrier for over $ 153 dollars. And no, I'm not kidding.

Funny thing is, I got a carrier the same day. $12 bucks for this Embroidery promotional space saver:

What an UN-fabulous backdrop, lol. My very much un-renovated kitchen with its wood paneling and my very much un-restored hoosier-style cabinet. Ah, future projects...

And while my pink Scroll is not the minty-fresh example that sold for 153 bucks on ebay (!!!!), I do have an original carrier to put it in, so I'm tickled pink with my most expensive Pyrex purchase.