Saturday, March 5, 2011

Don't Look The Gifted Crap In The Mouth

So your great great auntie passes away and it is up to you to get rid of the years of sentimental belongings that she had tucked in the back of the drawers and hidden on chotzke bookshelves.  Old things that are, well, sort of ugly and dated.  The first thought that crosses your mind is, "The thrift shop is going to be so pissed at me when I try to unload this on them." But you start looking at them a little closer.  The materials are cheap but they are old and sort of charming in their ugliness. And she loved them for a reason.  Kept them for 30, 40, maybe 50 or even 60 years. So you put them in a box in the basement and try to forget about them.

Well, you may be glad you had.  There are a series of collectible items that I have run across in auctions and antique stores and online whathaveyou that have suprised me.  Because they are not made of silver or gold or porcelain.  They tend to be a little tacky next to modern belongings. And they are collectible as hell.

For instance, chalkware.  Chalkware looks like figures that are formed from dried up toothpaste, sanded down and painted. It is found in figurines, lamp bases, anything that you wouldn't eat off but can be pressed into a shape.  You may recognize the material from manger figures and mid-century religious statuettes.  Apparently Christians in the Truman era were wild about chalkware.  Chalkware manufacturers were prone to kittens, doggies, cowboys, smiling fruit, and floating heads (sometimes with string coming out of their mouths). I found four from the  1950's in the shape of ballet dancers that were intended to hang from the wall.  One didn't make it through the shipping process to California.  Which explains why chalkware is collectible.  It is really hard to keep it intact.  That creepy looking clown figurine from 1952 that you always wanted to break? Be glad you didn't.

Then there is toleware.  Aka painted tin. Sexy, right?  You've probably seen a million pieces but they  just never registered. A lot are painted with floral patterns, occasionally a Pennsylvania dutch motiff.  Tip trays (small rectangular trays), round trays, serving trays, coasters, lampshades, most places where painted tin comes in handy. Items are being pursued by collectors as long as they haven't been dented or chipped or otherwise abused.

Enamelware is another surprising and hugely diverse type of collectible. Kind of the sometimes deceptively older and more practical cousin to tolewear.  Again tin looking.  Again painted (actually coated in thin glass).  Sturdy in very specific colors, often used for cooking. You know those blue tin coffee mugs that you used for camping? That could be enamelware. Some pieces can be very very old. It is a huge market. And you can have a piece in front of your nose. Or more likely in your back yard or basement where someone used it as a planter or used it to haul water. It can be that coal bucket.  Or the camping mug.  Or the sentimental teapot that you kept on the top shelf of your hutch because it looked quaint. It reminded you of cooking over open flames. It didn't occur to anyone that it could have value because it was so darned useful.

What I'm saying is, before you pitch it out, if you have an item that is in pretty decent shape that is kitchy (aka ugly looking but sort of cool) or useful and even a little old, it may not be a bad idea to poke around a bit.  Punch in the description and see what Ebay has to say on the topic. Other things like lighters and tin signs have very large collectors communities.  And if they aren't worth anything, its an excuse to finally unload the bunch of crap in a box in your basement.

No comments:

Post a Comment