Category Archives: Porcelain

Famous People – Not So Famous Collections

Celebrities are no more immune to the collecting bug than anyone else, and of course many of them are wealthy enough to really indulge themselves. I’m not so sure how I feel about this – I’m one of those who enjoys the thrill of the hunt. It seems as though having enough money to literally buy anything you want might take some of the edge off. However, many of these celebrities would apparently not agree!

Take Quentin Tarantino, for example, most recently the Oscar-winning writer of Django Unchained. The man behind the classic but violent Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs amuses himself far more sedately when not on the set – he collects old board games. His favorites are apparently those merchandised from old TV shows, such as The Dukes of Hazzard.

Now actor Tom Hanks has an interesting taste – he collects old typewriters. He says he loves the permanency of the typed word. He buys the old machines from all over the world; must cost the earth in shipping, too.

And people still collect stamps. My father was an avid stamp collector – his collection was large, though not particularly valuable. But it’s now a hobby more women are indulging in, such as tennis player Maria Sharapova. Her goal is to collect stamps from every place she goes. She is joined in her habit by British pop singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor. However, Ms. Sharapova has admitted that perhaps she should not have publicly confessed to this type of collecting – she was quoted as saying “everyone started calling me a dork.” Not to worry, Maria. We get it.

Then there’s MTV host Alexa Chung, who claims to collect dead things, i.e., taxidermied animals. Despite being a vegetarian, she apparently has no qualms about killing animals for non-food-related reasons.

Demi Moore and her dolls, Ozzy Osbourne and his Beatles memorabilia, Nicolas Cage and Jonathan Ross with their comic books, Teddy bear collectors Dame Judi Dench and Elton John – the list goes on. Sir Michael Caine with his houseful of art nouveau seems effete by comparison.

I once met a woman who collected farrier’s tools for shoeing horses. It sounds a little unusual until you learn that she had longed to be a blacksmith when she was a child.

There’s always a reason.

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Filed under Antiques and Collectibles, Art, Historical Memorabilia, Porcelain, Uncategorized

The 20th Century By Way of Sheet Music

A couple of weeks ago, I came across about 100 pieces of vintage sheet music. They had belonged to an elderly lady who was an enthusiastic amateur pianist. I knew her fairly well, and I remember she was one of those older people whose friends were all decades younger than she was. She would host regular music sessions at her house, with groups of students showing up to perform.

As I sorted this clearly beloved music collection, I found myself swept up on a journey through the 20th century. It included songs published way back in the early 1900s – I came across “One Fine Day,” from the opera Madame Butterfly by Puccini, published as a popular song in 1908. There really was a time when an opera aria was considered popular music!

From the 1920s, I found a song called “Lover, Come Back to Me” written by Oscar Hammerstein (of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame), with music by David Romberg. It has one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen, summing up all the charm and flamboyance of the flapper era just one year before the U.S. sank into the Great Depression.

My parents grew up during the Depression, and I remember my father telling stories about going to the grocery stores each night to check through the trash for discarded food. People survived the 1930s by singing show tunes like “Begin the Beguine” by Cole Porter, “Good Night Sweetheart,” sung by Rudy Vallee, and “Dancing in the Dark,” from the Broadway hit The Band Wagon.

Looking through the pieces from the 1930s, I was also amazed to find what appears to be the autograph of actress Jane Ferrar on the cover of  “Yesterdays” from the 1935 film Roberta.  Ms. Ferrar is not on the cast list for this film, but it does feature a number of uncredited early appearances by stars to be (including Lucille Ball). It seems possible that Ferrar might have been one of the song-and-dance girls alongside the incomparable Lucy. Did the original owner actually meet Ms. Farrar during her brief period of popularity (or before it)? This is the kind of thing that makes what I do so interesting.

As the U.S. recovered from the Depression, of course, came the war. Sheet music was now printed with ads for war bonds. “As Time Goes By” from the film classic Casablanca highlighted the days before World War II hit its full stride. Covers regularly featured film stars in wartime stories – songs like “My Heart Sings” from Anchors Aweigh and “That Old Black Magic” from Star-Spangled Rhythm.

For some reason the collection includes just a few songs from the 1950s. And then – BOOM – the 1960s: Folk music! McQueen! Dunaway! Streisand! What a difference a decade makes! There are relatively few pieces from the ‘70s and ‘80s – I think my old friend’s tastes were well established by then. (But why did she have a song by Madonna? Inquiring minds want to know.)

Going through this music again gave me clarity into why we collect. This wonderful set of old standards connects – not just the original owner, but us – to our nation’s and our personal stories. Like a musical snapshot, we capture the past and gain insight into how it underlies our journey to modern times.

It also made me want to go watch old movies!

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Filed under Antiques and Collectibles, Art, Historical Memorabilia, Music, Porcelain, Uncategorized, Vintage Sheet Music

Why the Heck Do We Collect?

Welcome to my CollectibleCool blog – for all of us who love collecting. No, we’re not hoarders, though these days there seems to be a certain disapproval from some who frown on keeping anything (blame interior design and hoarder reality shows). We just take great pleasure in the finding and owning of awesome stuff.

But why do we enjoy it so much?

The fact is that people always have. Most of us aren’t collecting in the hope of someday making a lot of money off the collection. My experience is that the majority have a strong emotional connection to whatever it is they collect. Our collections remind us of our childhood, or connect us to a period of history that we are interested in. Some do it because they love the “thrill of the hunt.” Some have struggled through bad times, such as the Depression era, and now the collection helps remind them that they no longer have to struggle. And some do it because the stuff is just so darn cute we can’t resist having more than one!

My mother was a quiet but extremely determined collector. She loved china thimbles, Swedish annual plates, small pitchers, British porcelain items, Beatrix Potter figurines, stone carvings, penguins, European ephemera… Neatly organized throughout the house, her collections fascinated people – you never got bored visiting Mom. She was attached to them because they reminded her of places she had been, and her love for Victorian England in particular. I grew up watching my mother prowling the yard sales, garage sales, and auctions – making herself into an expert and a picker for antiques shops throughout our region.

Today I am following in her footsteps, spending a lot of time locating unique and unusual items and selling some of them (but certainly not all!) on Etsy.com. Please pay me a visit at CollectibleCool today!

Why do you collect? What are your favorite memories about collecting – did you have someone who inspired you, as my mother did me? Or did you get into it in a different way? Share your story!

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Filed under Antiques and Collectibles, Art, Historical Memorabilia, Porcelain