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Archive for the ‘Antiques’ Category

“Be cheerful. Chest up, chin in, spirit high, brain alert, nerves tuned up for action, muscles full of snap and vim—this is efficient living—biologic, scientific living.” These words, still relevant today, are written by the now infamous John Harvey Kellogg of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes fame in a 1917 yearbook for the Normal School of Physical Education in Battle Creek Michigan. One would expect to find something like this among other historical documents in a library or a bookstore specializing in antique books, not in an old beat up cardboard box tucked away in a small wooden shed on the outskirts of Gibsons, B.C. So once found, what to do with it?

The book, simply titled Blue & White, once belonged to Sylva Huntley who was the only Canadian, let alone British Columbian, to attend the school as part of the class of 1918. Tattered and worn with the stitched binding falling apart, the pages are filled with black and white photographs of school clubs, faculty members and students in their school uniforms. Like any yearbook, there are also signatures and cute comments like “To the cheerful little girl from Canada” and “Hoping some of your soldier boys come back to you alive”.

In amongst all the photographs, the one of Kellogg stands out. With a distinguished looking beard and mustache, he appears in full academic regalia and signs the book simply “Your friend J.H. Kellogg”. He is perhaps best known for his family affiliation and for the School of Normal Education that was part of The Battle Creek Sanitarium, which was fictionalized in the novel The Road to Wellville by T. Coraghessan Boyle in 1993, and later turned into a movie by the same name. However, he was also an accomplished surgeon and a gifted inventor with over 30 patents (including the electric blanket) and is believed to have developed some popular breakfast foods such as Granola, peanut butter, and corn flakes.

The yearbook appears to be rich in history and sentiment-but is it worth anything? And if so, who might be interested in buying? According to Gale Pirie, an accredited and independent personal property appraiser, there seems to be quite a difference between “perceived value” and “actual value” and stresses the importance of doing background research.

Pirie, who offers professional appraisals, is able to provide a historical perspective as well as a more thorough sense of its worth and where it could be sold. At local antique shows she offers appraisal clinics where she provides verbal appraisals for $7 per item—much like a mini Antiques Roadshow.

Holding the book carefully, she spends time leafing through the pages, then pulls out the commencement program which has been left loosely in the book. “This is interesting,” she says. “We don’t often see the programs intact with a full class list of the graduates. These programs were only given to students, so they are quite rare.” As she continues to study the book, she focuses on Kellogg’s signature. She notes that it looks authentic and was probably signed in pencil, as was common practice because ink was often messy. In the end, Pirie suggests that this book might be of interest to collectors, especially those who have interest in items pre-World War I. With all of the signatures and with the program intact, she suggests that it might be worth $350 dollars.

In terms of selling it, Pirie makes several recommendations including online auctions, classified listings, collectors, and antiquarian booksellers with stores or who buy and sell online.

John King, a local antiquarian book dealer, is not so optimistic about selling the yearbook here in B.C. “I think it might be easier to find someone back east who specializes in ephemera,” he says from his home office on the Sunshine Coast. In his opinion, Kellogg’s signature is what makes this book valuable. However, he does admit that yearbooks are not his area of specialty. He is better known for military and British history books as well as books that focus on North West Coast and Aboriginal studies.

As a longtime member of the Antiquarian Booksellers of Canada, he does however offer some insight into the value of selling through online marketplaces for books such as AbeBooks (which was started in Victoria B.C. but recently sold to Amazon.com), as well as Alibris and Bilbio (both out of California).

“I wouldn’t suggest trying to sell through these services with only one book but rather see if a dealer might be interested in buying it. Each of these sites has a monthly fee and it can take time to sell a book.” King mentions that he currently has just over 6000 books listed on AbeBooks and only ends up selling one to two books a day. “Something as specific as this yearbook could take several months to sell,” he says. In the end, the cost to sell it would outweigh any financial gains.

In Vancouver, one of the best known antiquarian bookstores is MacLeod’s Books. This iconic store, with massive piles of books everywhere, has been in operation since 1964 and the current owner, Don Stewart has been running it since 1975. Much like King, he does not feel that there is a local market for this type of publication. “This is so specific and is a better example of what the Internet is good for,” he says. “This is just so specialized and would only appeal to a very specific customer base.” He suggests trying eBay.

Although Stewart agrees that there is a market for books written by Kellogg, he doesn’t think that there would be as much interest in the yearbook. With over 100,000 titles in stock, covering many different history-related subject areas, Stewart should know.

In the end, there is no clear idea of where one could sell this Blue & White 1917 yearbook. We know that it has value; it is just a matter of trying to connect with the people who might be interested. At least for now it will not be relegated to another beat up cardboard box but perhaps end up on a bookshelf waiting to tell its story again.

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With a large wide brimmed hat decorated with a purple ribbon and bright blue feathers, she stands out. But it doesn’t stop there. She is also wearing a long turquoise sweater, bright purple gloves, rhinestone earrings and a long vintage beaded necklace. Adrian who is a regular at the Kerrisdale Antiques Fair in Vancouver, always arrives exquisitely dressed with vintage flair and the most wonderful hats. Her style and elegance seems to be quite fitting for an antique show; taking us back to a time when going out in public was an anticipated event and men and women would always wear their finest.

In Vancouver, this penchant for “dressing up to the nines” appears to be coming back into fashion, especially at the shows. Not only are shoppers more formally dressed, but they are often fully clad in vintage and retro clothing. There is a local couple who consistently show up in 40s gear. Her hair is usually pinned up with large rolled bangs and she wears “popover” wrap dresses and platform shoes while he sports a smart blue fedora and wears cap toe dress shoes. And then there are the pin-ups. Women who have found a way to modernize the vintage pin-up look, making it work with both style and function.

Others like Adrian are a bit more classic in their approach. They attend the Kerrisdale Show looking for very specific items. “I come to the shows to find vintage jewellery, accessories and clothing,” says Adrian, who is a show regular. “As a designer and a pianist, I enjoy being able to wear vintage, and vintage inspired, clothing and jewellery.”

The Kerrisdale show is a perfect venue for these shoppers who are drawn to using the past to inspire their current sense of style. Whether it is about a fashion aesthetic or creating a vintage/retro feel to their home, vendors at this show carry a wide selection of items to satiate their stylish needs.

Catherine Cafferata from Highend Resale, a consignment shop in Vancouver, has been selling at the Kerrisdale show for the past two years and has found it to be a great market for her vintage designer handbags and antique jewellery. In terms of the jewellery, she specializes in designer brands such as Chanel, Tiffany and Gucci (sold an 18 carat gold Gucci ring at the last show). She also carries vintage and discontinued modern designer handbags such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel and Hermès. Her bags range in price from $95 to $295 dollars and are always in mint condition.

Cafferata has recently noticed that “the most popular items right now are vintage alligator, lizard, and ostrich handbags.” She sold a few of these bags at the show and mentions that they are in incredibly high demand in Europe and Asia.  “Charlie Watts, the drummer from the Rolling Stones, recently came into my shop at the Pan Pacific and bought every single alligator, lizard and ostrich bag that I had in stock,” says Cafferata. “These bags are considered quite collectible and desirable because of their unique designs but they were also incredibly well made.”  She goes on to say that, “Because these types of bags are so expensive to reproduce, to buy them new would cost from $4000 dollars and up.”

Susan  from Suzie’s Collectibles in Burnaby carries a terrific selection of retro housewares and vintage collectibles from the 50s and 60s. She also took the time to dress up with some 50s flair at the recent Kerrisdale show. “Why not” she said “and isn’t it great that Adrian looks so amazing.” Together they stand out, especially since Susan is also wearing dark gloves and a fuchsia coloured hat with the mesh covering her face and a matching fushia sweater. Even her booth feels like stepping back in time, with cute salt and pepper shakers, several matching sets of swanky glassware, and vintage linen.

Perhaps we can all learn from Susan and Adrian and take some time out to explore local shows like the Kerrisdale Antiques Fair for vintage and retro finds. Like them we can create our own time machine, taking ourselves back to different moments in time – even if only briefly. The next Kerrisdale Show is set for September 3 – 4, 2011.

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In a different place and in a different time, men of a certain society could easily be distinguished by how they looked and what they wore. In his fur felt homburg or shiny top hat along with his tailored waistcoat or smoking jacket, a gentleman’s sense of style and elegance could not be missed. And, regardless of the event, he was never without a cane to match his outfit (e.g., basic for strolling, silver-topped for calling in on friends or gold-headed ebony for the opera). In the 19th century (and early 20th century), canes were not carried, they were “worn” by men of means. The right cane could clearly announce their status and place within society.

As a result, canes like any other fashion accessory, came in many shapes and sizes but were crafted with great care and always with a sense of style. And, much like a woman’s purse they also became quite utilitarian. It was not uncommon to have canes with secret compartments to stash a flask, hold a snuffbox, or even conceal a weapon. These canes, most commonly known as “gadget canes” became quite popular. And, during the mid nineteenth century with the dawn of the “mechanical industries”, canes began to include the most remarkable selection of items within their now hollow shafts.

According to Catherine Dike in her book dedicated solely to canes, Cane Curiosa, gadget canes can be broken down into four main categories of use: serious outdoor walking, city use, professional, and as a weapon. The outdoor walking stick would be simple yet sturdy, often quite rustic looking and might have a picnic set, fishing pole, a backgammon game, or even small chair tucked away in the shaft. The “city” cane would be more elegant and ornate and might have a cigar case, spittoon, a watch, or perhaps a violin neatly concealed inside. Professional canes would tend to be more practical and carry items such as a conductor’s baton, a hammer or saw, a complete paint set with brushes, or even pharmaceutical tools and doctor’s implements such as a stethoscope, syringe and pillbox.

The weapon canes were even more intricate, as it would take some serious design ingenuity to craft a cane that housed guns and swords. Some weapon canes were a bit more subtle, built with solid knobs at the top that could be quite unassuming to the untrained eye. But, these “knobkerries” or “knob sticks” could easily bludgeon someone to death with enough force. Sword canes came in many shapes and sizes, some even having both a stiletto blade and a firearm enclosed within the shaft. Gun canes were also all quite different and included flintlock guns, percussion firearms and breech loading guns.

In their day, gadget canes were cherished and worn with great pride and style. Somewhere along the way, however, multi-purpose canes slowly disappeared and reverted back to being practical walking sticks for people of all ages and class. Some suggest that this would have been around the time of the First World War.

Fortunately, their appeal as a collectable has not dwindled. In fact, if anything they are now in extremely high demand and sought after by a very select group of international collectors and antique dealers. This is a rather large set of individuals, with cane conventions popping up all over the world on a yearly basis. As a result, finding original gadget canes from the 19th century is becoming increasingly difficult.

Not long ago, a rather large unprecedented collection of original and mint condition canes came up for sale by a European collector who was in his late nineties. This sale drew the attention of many collectors and dealers, as he had collected close to 300 19th century canes, many of which were gadget canes, during his world travels and throughout his lifetime. There was much interest and many offers, but in the end it was a Vancouver dealer who managed to secure the deal. The dealer, who wishes to remain anonymous, has kept part of the collection but has been selling off the rest privately and through Bakers Dozen Antiques in Vancouver.

According to Heather Baker, the owner of Bakers Dozen (3520 Main St. Vancouver) and respected antiques dealer, “it is quite exceptional to see this kind of quality and quantity in 19th century canes. Each cane is so special and you know that the collector took great care in selecting the pieces for his collection.” Some of the collection was recently sold at the Kerrisdale Antiques Fair in Vancouver and about 27 are now on display at the store on Main Street. Prices vary from $300 all the way up to close to $5,000 for the more hard to find canes such as the gun canes. There are even some “naughty” canes in this collection, appealing to the more daring collector.

The piece that has caught Heather’s eye is a rare ivory phrenology cane. Considered as pop psychology in its day, phrenology studied personality traits and intelligence by literally measuring the bumps on someone’s head. It was all quite scientific but never quite proven as a reliable field of study. However, phrenology paraphernalia still intrigues many today. In her store, Heather has quite a few other references to phrenology, so having an actual phrenology cane was quite exciting for her.

Heather is not sure how long the canes will remain in the store, but hopes more people will come in to see them first hand and appreciate the intricate craftsmanship that went into making them. It may no longer be a sign of your place in society, but owning a gadget cane would certainly set you apart from other collectors.

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She lives in the country surrounded by wildlife, rides a Honda Gold Wing 1800 motorcycle, and has been an active member of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association, B.C. D Chapter, for three years. Not the typical profile you would expect for an antiques appraiser. Yet Gale Pirie, an accredited and independent personal property appraiser (i.e., not affiliated with any auction house or store), is highly respected in her field and considered to be one of the best in British Columbia. She has also appeared as an appraiser on the Canadian Antiques Roadshow.

Although she is known for her expertise in porcelain and pottery, she is a generalist – “appraising everything (except real estate), from human skeletons to railway tracks and dinosaur teeth.” For Gale it is not just about determining an item’s value, it is also about creating and understanding the connections to our past.

Gale grew up in an affluent neighbourhood in Vancouver called Shaughnessy, but wasn’t surrounded by antiques in her home. For her, the connection came from a few special items that her grandmother had brought over on a ship from Europe in the late 1920s. Although a privileged Catholic family in Poland, they were forced to leave the country with very little. Her grandparents managed to bring their young family and a few possessions that included a sewing machine and some feather quilts. Gale’s mother took great care of the quilts over the years and as Gale and her twin sister got older, their mother had the quilts redone for their respective hope chests. This is a piece of Gale’s family history that she treasures and that helped her to see early on the importance of preserving and appreciating where we come from.

Gale went on to become an educator in both the public school system and in colleges. She eventually became the Director at a public college, from which she has since retired. Throughout her career she has always maintained a passion for literature, history and antiques. She has been especially fascinated by our local history, whether from our aboriginal ancestors or from those who came later to settle the land. She believes that all of these stories and artifacts make up our country, and it is important to maintain these connections.

While still working she fueled her passion for history and antiques through ongoing research and study, eventually becoming an accredited appraiser in 2000. She began doing appraisals part-time, initially working with lawyers and insurance companies appraising items for legal purposes. Most of her work came from word of mouth referrals, but in 2007, just around the time she retired, she received a call from the producers at CBC to appear as an appraiser on the Canadian Antiques Roadshow. This led to increased exposure for Gale’s appraisal work, and today she has a busy practice offering direct appraisals for individuals one-on-one or at appraisal clinics, as part of fundraising events, evaluating in-kind donations, offering her services for pre and post loss insurance, and for legal purposes.

Her work is quite diverse as are her clients, some of which are scattered all over the world. As much as she can offer appraisals over the Internet, she prefers to do them in person as she can create a better context for the item and its historical relevance. This then allows her to develop a deeper connection to the story behind the item and this may have an impact on the value.

Some of Gale’s favourite moments are when she can help kids get excited about the past and connect with their own family’s history. While offering an appraisal clinic at the Kerrisdale Antiques Fair in Vancouver, Gale was asked to appraise some items for a father and his three young sons. They had brought in three albums of postcards and the boys were not all that interested initially. Through a series of questions, and with a purpose in mind, Gale was able to engage them. The albums contained 1000s of postcards and letters written back and forth between their great grandparents while the great grandfather was working overseas. She explained to the boys that they were all written in pencil as they didn’t have ballpoint pens then and that for the time, these postcards would have been considered quite “steamy”. The albums offered an amazing overview of what was going on during that era but also a detailed account of their great grandparent’s courtship.

Although British Columbia is still considered quite young by historical standards, Gale believes that the “wild west” is quite rich with history. She loves the notion that “many people who came out here were either looking for something or running away from something.” As a result, she is fascinated by the “characters who built our province”. From the missionaries to the prospectors looking to make it rich during the gold rush to the Japanese Internment camps…they have all collectively added to our province’s diverse history.

In Coquitlam, B.C. Gale was asked to appraise items from a gold rush hotel in Rossland B.C., the Hotel Allan. The hotel was designated a heritage hotel as a result of the work of Bill Barlee, a former B.C. politician raised in Rossland, who is also well know for his impressive collection of “old west artifacts” and a popular T.V. series called Gold Trails and Ghost Towns. He also wrote a book called Gold Creeks and Ghost Towns and much of his collection can now be found in the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. Unfortunately after the hotel was officially designated, it burned down. However, many of the historical items had luckily been removed when it was sold. Turns out the family that hired Gale had at one time owned the Hotel Allan.

Gale was also recently flown into the Crescent Valley to appraise some items in a heritage building that she discovered was once the Crescent Valley Jail. While there she was quite intrigued by the room where she was doing the appraisals and by asking questions and doing a bit more research, she realized that the room was once the cell where the Sons of Freedom (Doukhobor Extremists Group) were incarcerated.

Gale continues to research our history through these many connections and passionately shares these stories with her clients. Even though Gale lives in B.C., she travels extensively and offers personal property appraisals across Canada and Internationally. Gale has a Web site where she can be contacted and she also regularly appraises at local flea markets and antiques at the Croatian Cultural Centre and at the Kerrisdale Antiques Fair.

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Once known as “Antique Row”, Vancouver’s Main Street has evolved into one of the city’s most eclectic and vibrant shopping districts. At first glance, it would appear that “Antique Row” no longer exists and that the stretch of antique stores that used to be found between 26th and 29th Avenue has been replaced by a new breed of designer and specialty stores. However, many of the original antique stores are still around, and several new stores have since opened…they are just more spread out in what could now be called “Main Street’s Antique Corridor”.

From just off Hastings Street all the way to Marine Drive you can easily visit up to 25 antique and collectible stores, all along one easy access route that crosses the city from North to South. Many of these shops also sell their wares online via their respective Web sites and will ship across Canada and the United States.

A great starting point is the Antique Market (1324 Franklin) which is located in an industrial part of town a few blocks east of Main Street. In the business over 30 years, this store started out on Main and was there 28 years before the owner, Harry Stryer, decided to consolidate the store front with the warehouse six years ago. An avid traveller and seasoned business man, Harry has transformed his warehouse into a stunning retail space that showcases and impressive collection of architectural antique wrought iron, antique French iron, period lighting, antique lighting, Chinese antiques, and antiques from England, Belgium as well as from more exotic places like Egypt and India.

From there, head west towards Main Street and visit The Source (929 Main).  Located on the border of Chinatown, this shop has also been around for over 30 years. Owned by two sisters, Lorraine Shorrock and Clare Reandy, The Source specializes in heritage iron and brass (building and furniture hardware), antique furniture, stained glass, architectural antiques, and British Pub items (e.g., original pub signs).

A few blocks further South on Main Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenue, is another fun place to stop. Here you will find three vintage stores that specialize in Mid Century Modern; Your Fabulous Find, ReFind, and the new Space Lab. Although technically not antique shops, these stores cater to the “20 somethings” looking for Danish Teak, Art Deco, or what one of the owner’s affectionately calls “groovy bachelor pad stuff”. Maynards, which has operated as a Fine Arts and Antique Auction House since 1902, has moved their showroom next door at 1837 Main Street.

Just a few blocks up the road is another well known and respected antique store called Vancouver Architectural Antiques (2403 Main).  At this location since 1994 they specialize in antique lighting, fine antiques, and estate appraisals.

Continuing south, you come across two very different stores at Main and 16th Avenue; Sellution Vintage Furniture (3206 Main) and Alexander Lamb Antiques (3271 Main) which has a small backroom that houses a collection of vintage tribal photographs and artifacts in a mini-museum called Exotic World.

Baker’s Dozen Antiques is the next must see store on this route. Located at 3520 Main Street, this store caters to antique toy collectors but also features an impressive collection of dolls as well as a diverse selection of folk art and other harder to find antiques and collectibles. When there, ask to see Heather Baker’s provocative three dimensional collages in the back room.

Past King Edward Avenue and heading towards the original antique row is a cluster of antique stores that specialize in European, Asian, and North American antiques. Arriving here is like stepping back in time, many of the buildings in this area were built in the early 1900s. These include Red Corner Antiques (4219 Main), Modern Time Antiques (4260 Main), Red Rose Antiques (4285 Main), Renewal Antiques (4296 Main), Wholesale Antiques (4373 Main), JoJo’s (4376 Main), Abe’s Furniture (4386 Main), J&J Antiques (4394 Main), Le ‘Gent Antiques (4402 Main), Timeless Antiques (4406 Main), Old Stuff Two (4510 Main), and Sugar Barrel Antiques (4514 Main).

Of particular interest in this section of Main Street is Secondtime Around Antiques (4428 Main). In their 30th year of business on Main Street, the owners Mark and Tracey Porter buy mostly from Belgium and France and in lesser amounts from Austria and Germany. They do carry English antiques but buy them locally and selectively. With over 8000 square feet of showroom space, they offer a wide variety of styles such as Victorian, Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, Edwardian, Art Deco, Louis X1V, Louis XV, Federal styles including Hepplewhite and Duncan Phyfe, as well as Country French and Canadiana.

From here, head further south on Main all the way to Marine Drive, turn right and you then come across two other larger well known antique stores: Antique Warehouse (226 S.W. Marine Drive) and Farmhouse Antiques (1098 S.W. Marine Drive).

This makes for a full day if you plan to visit all of these stores, but rest assured there are many excellent places along the way to stop for coffee and lunch.

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Bby Lake - OverviewWith dreary cement floors and retractable bleachers, transforming a community centre’s ice rink into a shimmery showcase of British Columbia’s (B.C.)  finest antiques is no easy endeavour. But the Burnaby Lake Antiques Fair, recently held at the Bill Copeland Arena in Burnaby, accomplished just that and more.

Held on August 29 – 30, 2009, 65 vendors from across B.C. showcased their wares to an impressive crowd of just over 3,000 people. The two day event, now in its 8th year, is considered by many to be one of the best antique shows on the West Coast.

Even before the doors opened at 10am, the eager shoppers (who had already been in line since before 9am) were privy to a bird’s eye view of the show from the wall-to-wall windows overlooking the impressive displays below—further fueling their fervor to get in to the show. Without losing their place in the long line up, they would take turns to see if they could spot their favourite dealers while studying the detailed floor plan.

Dealers, avid collectors, and weekend shopping enthusiasts were all united in one objective–to be among the first to seek out elusive treasures, much coveted collectibles, and perhaps something a little unexpected.

Bby Lake - Joy of CookingI even found something that I didn’t expect. A 1943 copy of The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer. Because it was a well used cookbook and not in mint condition, I paid only $5 for it. I rummage through cookbooks the same way I go through magazines, I go through them thoroughly and often. I am especially excited when I find older cookbooks that have clippings and other recipes neatly tucked away in the pages. From this book, I found a lovely recipe for chicken Bby Lake - Joy of Cooking open bookwings that I intend to try making soon. Recently inspired by Julie and Julia, the new movie that captures Julia Child’s life in post war France, I have rekindled my love of cooking. So this 1943 edition was a perfect find. Now if I could only source out a first edition of Julia’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Producing a successful antique show is like choreographing an intricate dance. All the elements–from recruiting dealers to coping with a thousand last minute details to the instant the doors open to the public, must work in complete harmony. Synchronizing such an event requires leadership, juggling skills, diplomacy, and a talent for “rolling with the punches.”

Renee Lafontaine, of 21st Century Promotions, possesses all these attributes and then some. A former antiques dealer, she has a knack for bringing together some of the best dealers in the area and with her keen eye and meticulous attention to detail she keeps it all flowing smoothly.

Bby Lake - Plane phone“You never know quite what to expect,” she said with a laugh. “I remember when I organized my first show and it had decided to snow that day.  I was so worried that no one would come.” But they did come, despite the weather, and she has never looked back. She now produces 12 shows in the Lower Mainland. Local appraiser Gail Pirie is also on hand at most shows to offer appraisals. You can find a complete listing of all Renee’s shows on her Web site at http://www.21cpromotions.com

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