We recently attended an estate sale where I discovered a box of antique wood blocks. The box contained four unique groups of blocks, which are now offered in our store.
Early alphabet blocks are hand carved and painted. They often feature word pictures and numbers as well as letters. The blocks shown above and below are 1.75" cubes with a color stripe painted across the sides with raised letters.
Antique blocks that have been played with and passed down over decades are rarely in original pristine condition. In my opinion, flaws that develop over the years such as wormholes, chips or fading simply add to the character of old blocks.
Carved letters and numbers are often painted with different colors on opposing sides. Word pictures on the sides of blocks can be flat or carved.
Blocks with ridges are another variation found in this lot of blocks. The ridges help the blocks stay together when they're stacked.
The letters are carved out rather than raised, while the word pictures are raised (the green zebra, for example). These blocks are smaller than the others, roughly 1.25" cubed.
These blocks are quite lovely old things. There's plenty of wear, but no limit to their decorative value and allure to collectors. Just imagine how they entertained and educated little ones long ago.
Naturally, some old alphabet toys are worth more than others. Complete sets typically fetch higher prices. The sets shown below sold at prices starting $95 up to $1500 (images and information from Worthpoint.com.
Vintage and antique blocks look great just as they are, displayed on a shelf in a nursery, kitchen or den. Some collectors like to complete the alphabet or spell out words. If you're the crafty type, check out Etsy to get ideas for upcycling old blocks into new and fun home accents. Whatever you do, don't pass up that box of blocks when you encounter them at a sale or thrift store down the road.
Visit our Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay to get your block fix or simply to peruse a fascinating assortment of merchandise.
Guest blog post by Emily Graham
Emily Graham is the creator of MightyMoms.net. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms, from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.
Vintage is in and that means your kids might perk up when you suggest hitting your neighborhood or online thrift store in search of materials for your next craft session. Everything from old buttons to antique costume jewelry can be re-purposed into cool crafts and wearable things even the pickiest tween will be proud to create.
Here are a few ways to turn your vintage finds into contemporary masterpieces:
Jewelry Art. We’ve already mentioned that you can use jewelry to create beautiful brooches, but a pile of old costume jewelry can also make great wall art. Head down to Goodwill or check out estate sales in your area. You can likely find a grab bag of old busted jewelry for a few dollars and old framed art pieces. Using glue and lots of patience, embellish your old painting for a dazzling one-of-a-kind piece of art.
Are you a writer with special expertise and a connection to the vintage, antique, collecting and re-purposing world? Interested in contributing to our Scouting Blog? Contact us for guidelines.
Guest blog post by Emily Graham.
Emily Graham is the creator of MightyMoms.net. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms--from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.
Arts and crafts are fun to do with your kids, but projects can get messy in a hurry. To avoid disrupting your main living areas, designate a room to contain your kids excitement for crafting and all of their glue and glitter, too. You don’t have to buy brand new—thrift and vintage resources can provide everything you need to furnish and stock your hobby room.
Rescued furniture can serve your purpose quite well and you won’t have to worry about a stray stroke of paint or blob of glue. An old kitchen table scavenged from the curb or thrift store is the perfect work surface for your hobby room.
No matter what types of crafts you and your kids enjoy together, you’ll need storage options for crafting necessities. If closet space is not an option, rescue a chest of drawers, bookcase or filing cabinet to keep supplies out of sight when not in use.
Think outside of the "rubber tub" when it comes to organizing your craft supplies. Once again, thrift stores offer a wealth of options when you need bins, boxes or other containers to store materials.
Collect old baskets to organize paper, fabric, ribbon and more. From small to large, there's a basket to hold your stuff.
Vintage glass ball jars are perfect for storing markers, brushes and crayons (and can double as wells for painting projects).
Vintage tea, coffee and cookie tins are especially fun to re-purpose for your crafting area. They come in all shapes, sizes and patterns. Stack tins when storage space is in short supply.
Even your supplies can be pre-owned or gently used. Paint, fabric remnants, construction paper, kid-friendly tools and other crafting essentials can be found in hobby stores but are also easily sourced from garage sales and second-hand shops.
Check out this Redfin article for more ideas to help you create a kid-friendly crafting space in your home.
Are you a writer with special expertise and a connection to the vintage, antique, collecting and re-purposing world? Interested in contributing to our Scouting Blog? Contact us for guidelines.
Every wonder how Santa Claus became associated with Christmas? Confused by the references to St. Nicholas, Belsnickel and Woodland Santa? Here's a short history of the many identities associated with the jolly old elf.
It all began with St. Nick
Father Christmas for Grown Ups
Father Christmas, a variation on Saint Nicholas, was associated with adult revelry. The Victorian era brought a return to the idea of St. Nick as a gift giver whose purpose was to delight small children.
Along came Belsnickel
Santa Claus, the jovial elf
Modern-day Santa Claus evolved from the re-imagining of Saint Nicholas by Washington Irving at the turn of the nineteenth century. There was a tug-of-war in the religious community, as the Puritans disapproved of pagan holidays. Literary work re-imagined Santa Claus as a gift-giving jovial elf (think Night Before Christmas, famously illustrated by Florence Sarah Winship). That imagining has persisted in our culture to this day, where Santa is in charge of toy-making elves and flying reindeer.
Woodland Santa is magical, too
Woodland Santa, portrayed as a friend to animals, is another variation of Saint Nicholas. He may be dressed in brown or white robes, sometimes fur lined, but often less elegant than the ermine and red velvet garb of his counterpart. He’s frequently shown with birds perched on his arms or head and forest friends at his feet.
Which Santa do you believe in?
No matter which Santa figure you feel the most affinity for, you'll find a figure or ornament for your collection in the Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay. And have a very Merry Christmas, for one and for all!
Here's another run at the topic of what kinds of treasures catch my eye at estate sales. Personally, I find it very rewarding to discover objects that have special worth to collectors or simply still have purpose. I admire the craftsmanship of earlier generations and believe there's great value in preserving and re-homing pieces of history that might otherwise be discarded.
Cotton, linen, silk or taffeta—these fabrics never go out of style. I love to rescue pretty tablecloths, towels and bedding. Intricate laces and needlepoint artistry are always coveted and frequently go overlooked at crowded sales. Recently I happened upon a generous stock of unused Royal Society stamped linen, a true treasure. I look for items in pristine condition, but also rescue linens that will rebound with a good soak.
Christmas collectibles and decorations top my list, followed by Halloween and Easter. There are many classic figures and ornaments that are consistently in demand, but I'm not opposed to kitsch either. Quirky items have an appeal of their own. At Christmas time, flocked bottle brush and ceramic trees, Fontanini cherubs and nativity figures, Mercury glass bulbs and pieced felt and wool needlepoint stockings are always desirable. Halloween paper goods, animated objects and the occasional costume are quality finds. And for Easter, old-time paper mache or painted eggs and cute rabbits in all shapes and sizes are fun to rescue.
It's impressive to see how earlier generations valued design and created amazingly attractive paper goods. Embossed and gilt decorated cards were the norm in the early 1900s, when folks relied on the post to stay in touch with friends and relatives near and far. As I wrote about in an earlier post on vintage Valentines, intricate die cuts and tissue paper honeycombs were common but added appealing dimension and delight. Pieces that have survived the intervening decades relatively intact can fetch a good price from collectors.
What are you looking for from a vintage vendor? Let us know what sets your heart a-flutter and we'll do our best to help you locate the items on your wishlist.
Cool Vintage Finds attracts shoppers from all over the world. We love hearing from people who are thrilled with their purchases and eager to tell us why. It’s especially fun to get the backstory—why something caught their eye, how they plan to use it or why an item is particularly meaningful. A recent transaction with an Australian eBayer (I’ll call him Mr. Halloween) was so special and inspiring, it deserved its own blog post.
It started with a Gemmy animated bookshelf ...
Next to Christmas, Halloween is the most popular holiday with our customers. We snatch up Halloween collectibles whenever we can. So when we saw an animated bookshelf by Gemmy at a local sale, we knew it would be perfect for our store.
Sure enough, Mr. Halloween came across our bookshelf and got in touch. He sent an email to be sure the item would work for his purposes before buying. When I assured him the books were motion-activated (creepily moving in and out as an eerie soundtrack plays), he knew it was something he and his daughter would love to add to their (not so little) Halloween display … down under. Yes, that’s right. Mr. Halloween hails from a small town in New South Wales, a state on the East coast of Australia.
Mr. Halloween was pleased and let us know it!
We received a nice message from the ultimate champ of Halloween haunting after his bookshelf arrived safely.
Thanking you so very much for getting the Haunted Books here to us in Australia … on our door step nice and safe.
I have given you a very good feedback and also all 5-stars rating.
The books are going to look good with some other Animated books on Halloween night in our Front Foyer [Car port] as it is fun and noisy and slightly scary for anyone and everyone will think that everything should be put into a museum.”
When I say this guy goes all out for Halloween, I mean ALL OUT!
Mr. Halloween was kind enough to share photos of his elaborate ensemble, which takes up much of their house, carport and yard! I thanked him for his business and the great photos and asked if I could share them in our blog. He was happy to oblige.
The creepy fun starts with a ghastly graveyard ...
... and a marketplace of monstrosities.
Needless to say, the displays are totally bewitching.
"Bloody good job, bloke!" -- Said some Englishman somewhere.
Make no bones about it, this smorgasbord of specimens is out of this world!
But wait, there's more inside!
Right this way, past the gallery of ghouls ...
... super creepy Dracula finds these ladies dead gorgeous.
Watch out for the wicked wall of weaponry and the possessed bear rug.
Looks like someone's lost their head over Halloween!
Even the dungeon ... I mean basement ... is chock full of horrors!
The mummies are amazeballs, just like in Tales from the Crypt ...
Hats off to the creators of this massively spooky spectacle!
Many thanks to our Australian friends who work so hard to put together this entertaining Halloween Hall-of-Fame-worthy haunted house. We're proud to know that Cool Vintage Finds played a small role in making this October 31 even more spectacular.
Surely it's taken years for Mr. Halloween and his daughter to amass their amazing collection of Halloween props. So better get started, you've got some catching up to do! If you’re in the market for Halloween collectibles, see what we have in store in the Halloween Scene corner of our store.
Whatever you do, be sure to have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN this October 31!
Halloween is a popular holiday that generates all kinds of items that appeal to collectors. Here are some reliable brands for sought-after spooky, quirky and fun Halloween decorations.
Martin Luther Beistle started his paper goods company in 1900. His alliance with the Paper Novelty Company in the 1920s produced the wonderful honeycomb and cardboard cut-out Halloween decorations that are desirable to this day. Authentic vintage Beistle paper goods (those originating decades ago) are in high demand with Halloween collectors year round. Reproductions abound, bringing the company’s classic designs to a wider audience (and making it more difficult to discern the old from the new).
The same company that excels at producing Christmas collectibles has offered a generous array of collectible ceramic and resin Halloween decor. Snow Village Halloween is the company’s haunted equivalent to their Christmas village line. Still actively producing products, Dept. 56 is known for quality and quantity. Popular retired designs can command a high price.
The Empire Company is well known for its plastic blow mold holiday decorations. For Halloween, Empire makes everything from hand-held plastic buckets to hold children’s candies to outdoor lighted decorations to guide costumed characters to your door.
Fitz and Floyd (aka FF or Omnibus)
Since 1960, Fitz and Floyd Fine China has been creating elegant hand painted ceramics for everyday and special occasions. Though their Halloween line is less extensive than their Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter offerings, you can find heirloom quality Halloween pieces for your home.
Gemmy Industries was founded in 1984 and specializes in all kinds of novelties and animation. The company makes a huge variety of Halloween decorations, from outdoor lights and inflatables to costumes and tabletop décor. Animated Halloween decorations by Gemmy Industries are popular on eBay. Look for shuddering skeletons, talking jack-o-lanterns, howling ghosts, cackling witches and more.
Gurley Novelty Co.
Halloween-themed Gurley candles are popular collectibles today. The company was started by Franklin Gurley, a candlemaker based in Buffalo, New York, in 1923. Very early candles by Gurley were sold under the Tavern brand and are rare finds. In addition to candles shaped like Halloween ghosts, witches and other ghouls, Gurley sold Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter themed candles that are also popular with collectors.
Midwest Importers (aka Midwest, or also Midwest of Cannon Falls)
Based out of Cannon Falls, Minnesota, this prolific producer of decorative collectibles has created many desirable Halloween-themed pieces. The company often features works of artists such as Eddie Walker (now retired) whose holiday-themed figures are still popular with collectors. Walker’s chunky figures are easily recognizable by design. Look for whimsical figures in faux wood carved resin. His work is typically marked with his full name or initials on the back or bottom of the figure.
Look for these brands and more as you decorate for Halloween. Check out Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay to add to your collection today.
Styles that take me back ...
... to the sixties. I was just a squirt back then, but the current obsession with the Mid Century aesthetic has reawakened my fondness for preserving the fashion, decor, toys and trinkets that dominated the decade.
From foo dogs to ginger jars, silk kimonos to gofun dolls—I'm partial to the rich symbolism and artistry exported from Asia.
Quirky and random stuff
Some of the things that turn my head defy description. I know it when I see it, and then it's up for grabs to the next quirky collector who happens on our store.
What do you like?
Act now to line up a gift for your favorite dad this Father's Day. The special day set aside for the top pop in your life always falls on the third Sunday in June, which means in 2017 we celebrate on SUNDAY, JUNE 18. There's still time to get a thoughtful and one-of-a-kind gift for your dad. Here are some ideas to help you nail it this year.
Find his favorite fragrance.
Do you have fond memories of dad's cologne wafting in your nose when he crushed you in a bear hug as a young cub? Recreate the moment with a gift of the stuff from back in the day.
Present him with a boss shirt.
Everybody's wardrobe needs a fresh infusion now and then. Find something for dad to wear that captures his personality. (Your thoughtfulness will be extra appreciated if he's the kind of guy who hates to shop.)
Add to his collection.
Is your dad a collector of some kind? Zone in on what he's passionate about and find a piece that will complement his collection. If you don't have time or are worried you won't make the right choice, consider purchasing an eBay gift card. The gift is doubly good for collectors who believe the hunt is half the fun!
Score a conversation piece.
You dad will love having something you picked out especially for him in the spaces where he spends his time.
Do Dad's Day in a big way this year and let him know he's special.
Ask not what your dad can do for you . Ask what you can do for your dear old dad! Finding something meaningful and useful that's also gently used is a great way to honor dad and the planet.
If there's one thing you can say about our eBay business, it's that no two days are ever the same. Our Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay offers an eclectic variety of merchandise. The store attracts serious collectors, window shoppers, costumers, staging professionals, crafters and even resellers looking for that special something. We're getting better at rescuing gold when we're out and about. Here's a short list of items that customers have been eager to buy.
Someone wanted this hat.
My partner in crime recognized the value of the well-constructed straw hat shown above, and sure enough, it sold to a buyer in Korea within hours of being listed on our eBay site. What makes this hat special? Quality (the straw was super sturdy); origin (made in Italy); age (over 50 years old); condition (flawless) and style (self-evident).
Chinese pottery is very popular.
I'm drawn to stunning works of art with Asian origins. Fortunately, many of our customers also appreciate our finds in this area. The buyer of this Chinese Satsuma vase asked us to be on the lookout for other pieces featuring this beautiful "1000 flowers" or millefleurs pattern.
Mid Century has a big fan base.
Retro towels, table cloths, bed linens and interior decor are hot right now. Mod floral and atomic patterns are often scooped up as fast as we can list them. Judging by sales, buyers also appreciate no-iron percale sheets (popular in the 60s and 70s) more than ever. Made in the USA and union made—two labels that are harder to come by in newer merchandise—tend to increase desirability.
Classic patterns continue to please.
Toile patterns are consistently good performers, so we like to score it for our store. Pillows, throw blankets, comforters and table linens often feature this pattern in blue on white or off white. More rarely we've found it in yellow on white and also red on white. Variations on this theme complement French Country (sometimes dubbed "romantic" or "shabby cottage") as well as American Colonial decor.
What are you looking for?
Send us your suggestions for our future shopping excursions. We may just find exactly what you've been looking for.
Learn about our recent discoveries and what captures our imagination in this blog, then peruse the treasures in our Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay.
Brought to you by...
... Susan Buie, writer by day, vintage curator and co-proprietor of the Cool Vintage Finds Store on eBay in all the moments in between.