Vintage Halloween Beistle & Postcards


I’m a fan of Halloween. Not so much the gross stuff but the spooky, kooky fun part. The carving pumpkins and handing out candy part. And especially the decorating part. It may come as no surprise that I have a soft spot for vintage Halloween decorations. Iconic images of black cats, pumpkins, owls and witches really speak to me during this season.

Last year I happily discovered the Vintage Beistle Halloween website. Beistle is the oldest and largest manufacturer of decorations and party goods in the United States. They’ve been producing seasonal decorations since 1900. Their older designs are mostly 3 dimensional “fan” decor, garland, and flat (sometimes jointed) illustrations. On their website you can buy reproductions of some of their best early images. I bought a set of these 1950s cat themed cutouts:


Aren’t they great? Is the witch really small or is the cat really big? I love the mix of fun and fantasy in these old designs. Each cutout is about 9 inches long and on heavy card stock. I just prop them up on a book shelf and they make a lovely nostalgic display.

You don’t even have to buy reproductions to get Beistle products however. New stock is available from the company every year, and sometimes older stock gets mixed in with new designs. I found these large cutouts at one of those pop up Halloween stores a few years ago. They’re dated 1986 and I’m pretty sure I had the exact same ones in my grade school classrooms! Does anyone else remember that flaming skull?


Beistle and other types of paper decorations are considered “ephemera” meaning they’re produced to be used for only a short time and then thrown out. They are inexpensive to buy and consequently stored without much care. Because of their temporary nature, antique and vintage paper decorations are hard to find in good condition. Rare designs are highly sought after and prized by collectors.

One thing I love about collecting paper ephemera is the easy storage. Being able to store decorations in envelopes is perfect for small living spaces. Over the years I’ve been tempted to buy larger items like jack-o-lanterns but I haven’t made the jump yet.


Vintage Halloween decorations at Antique World

Along the same lines, antique and vintage postcards can provide a great variety of spooky images for just a little cost and space. Vintage Halloween postcards can be very strange (lots of pumpkin heads and devils), but they can also be surprisingly funny and sweet. Natural elements like animals and landscapes dominate, with less truly dark or morbid imagery. Quirky little rhymes are also common:

Antique and vintage Halloween decorations celebrate a time when Halloween was a night for a little danger but a lot of fun. Who wants gross when you can have mischievous cats and jolly pumpkins? Or skeleton pumpkins trying to sweet talk a witch? Weird Halloween is the best Halloween, and the best Halloween is vintage.

Vernonware History and Marks


I am a collector of Vernonware plaid dinnerware dishes. These bright, cheerful vintage pieces are our day to day dish set, and over the years I’ve learned a few things about the company. Although I’ve already written about my Vernonware, I received the following question from a reader. I thought it was a great jumping off point for further discussion on the marks and history of Vernon Kilns:

Hi! I inherited a Mid-Century house with furnishings, and found Vernonware that I remember using as a child in the 60’s. It is the Homespun pattern. The mark on the back has “Vernonware” in the ribbon, but I have seen some online that say “Homespun” in the ribbon. Is one Vernonware and the other Vernonware by Metlox?

Thanks for your question! Before I answer, let me just say that I am not a definitive expert on marks. I invite anyone who has something to add to please leave a comment. I’ve learned so much from the visitors to my blog! The comments have helped fill in a lot of history, and in turn help us all become better collectors.

So, with that caveat let me give you my opinion. I am almost certain that both variations on the mark originate with Vernonware and not with the later reissued Metlox line. I base this opinion on three things. Number one, I’ve seen Metlox Vernonware marks in books and online, and they have always contained the word “Metlox” in the mark. Number two, I have a small collection of Homespun that I believe dates to the 1940s. I inspected my pieces and even this small group alternated between saying “Vernonware” and “Homespun” in the banner. Number three, marks for Vernonware (and California pottery in general) are notoriously varied so it makes sense that you would see these differences among pieces.


My collection of Vernonware “Homespun” pattern

That’s my short answer, but to further understand Vernonware marks we should start with a brief history of the company. Vernon Kilns was a creative studio that produced artistic as well as utilitarian pieces, and they used a wide variety of marks (or backstamps) over the years.  Some marks on their dinnerware contained the banner but some did not. Some had marks with no mention of Vernon Kilns, and some Vernonware isn’t marked at all! Sometimes, the only way to identify Vernonware is by the shape, style, or other feature.


A few marks found on plaid Vernonware. The mark on left is very uncommon, and most plaids had some variation of the “ribbon” mark on right.

What we came to know as Vernonware started as a company called “Poxon China”. Poxon China was founded in 1912 by a young English ceramist named George J.W. Poxon in the city of Vernon, California. Mr. Poxon must have had clay in his blood because that “W” in his name stood for Wade. Wade as in the famous Wade English pottery. Marks from 1912 – 1931 will usually either say “Poxon China” or “Vernon China”.


Early Veron Kilns, via the book “Collectible Vernon Kilns”

In 1931, the company changed ownership to Faye G. Bennison, and under his leadership the company flourished and was now officially called “Vernon Kilns”. Marks from 1931 to 1958 can vary in actual wording, but most included the words “Vernon Potteries” “Vernonware” or “Vernon Kilns”. Many marks also included the name of the pattern, “California” and sometimes “Made in U.S.A”. Vernon Kilns employed some wonderful designers for their art ware (usually decorative pieces like figures and vases) and these may have a mark that includes the artist’s name. Many of these specialty marks will also say Vernon Kilns, although it is important to note that some do not.

Sadly, after many successful years Vernon Kilns stopped production in 1958. Soon after Metlox Pottery, from nearby Manhattan Beach California, bought their molds and after modifying some shapes, produced some of the Vernonware designs for a short time. The marks I have seen from this relatively small run say “Vernonware by Metlox” on the mark.


The Vernon Kilns Staff, 1937. Photo via the book “California Pottery”

The takeaway from this little history lesson? Vernonware marks are inconsistent and changed many times through the years. To further complicate things, there were marks that made no mention of Vernon, and authentic pieces that had no marks of any kind. There is also evidence that Vernon Kilns produced pottery for other companies before they closed production in 1958. These pieces are identified by shape because the patterns and marks are not identified with Vernon Kilns at all.

Collectors often prize the “hidden gems” more than the obvious suspects. Serious collectors of Vernonware as well as other California pottery learn to identify by shape, pattern and quality as much as mark. If you are interested in improving your identification skills, I recommend adding the following books to your reference library. I have certainly found them to be useful and interesting. Happy collecting!

Collectible Vernon Kilns by Maxine Feek Nelson (Second Edition) – The most comprehensive identification and value guide I’ve found. It contains the history of the company, advertisements, and photographs of all the various lines and specialty items. A great reference for the Vernon Kilns collector.

California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism by Bill Stern – As the title suggests, this book takes a larger look at all the major California potteries and trends. This is a written history of California pottery, interspersed with beautiful photographs of exemplary work.

Antique Signs for The Kitchen

antiquesigncollageKitchens are funny rooms. They’re designed for utility, but they’re also given a special place as the “heart” of the home. They’re hospitable spaces, so it makes sense that even modern kitchens benefit from a lived-in element. Decorators have been injecting rustic details like corbels and chalk boards into kitchen design for a while, but I think one of the most interesting objects you can add to your kitchen is an antique or vintage sign.

The best old signs to use in the kitchen relate directly to food. It’s a little on the nose but it works! Consider a painted wood sign. Collectivator seller Colin Paul Antiques has hand painted signs from a farmer’s fruit stand. One that sold quickly simply said “Delicious” – referring to the type of apple – but what a perfectly suited word for the kitchen!


Signs saying “Carrots” and “Sauerkraut” are still available.

Also for sale are a series of handmade cursive script signs from a 1960s era grocery store. The font is mid century vintage, and with an assortment of words you can find something that really suits your taste (see what I did there?). Depending on your style you can find wood signs that work in vintage, country, or rustic “shabby chic” styled kitchens.

While wood signs have always been popular, they were not very durable for outdoor use. By the end of the 19th century, signs started being mass produced in full colour porcelain and tin. Porcelain and tin signs are associated with national brands but they were also produced for smaller, local companies. Bisback Antiques, for instance, is offering a great 1950s ROE Feeds tin sign. Tin signs often have vibrant graphics that really stand out on a wall, not to mention their nostalgic appeal.dscn1058


One thing to note with wood and tin signs is the proliferation of reproductions. Homey “family” messages on faux aged wood and reprinted tin signs are in decor shops everywhere. In general, these signs are sold as new and I don’t really have a problem with them, but they usually strike me as a poor imitation. I still think it’s worth the effort and money to buy the real thing. Old signs have a story. They are cultural and commercial artifacts. I also find the chips in the paint, the dents in the tin, and even the marks from where the sign was mounted add to the visual appeal.

Now say you want to have an authentic sign, but you want to start at a lower price point. In this case, a great thing to look for is antique and vintage shipping crate labels. Sometimes they will be framed, but often they will not. Unlike the unique painted wood signs, shipping labels were mass printed. The extras you find still have vibrant images of landscapes and appetizing produce that work beautifully in a kitchen. They are a fairly common item and usually cost only between $10 – $100.daisymills


Daisy Mills” and “Surety Apples” labels for sale.

I bought a “Zenith” shipping label at the Pickering Markets for $20. I love the apple and how it represents a Canadian company. My friend found framed shipping labels at a local group shop for similar prices. There are so many labels out there that can really add interest to your kitchen without breaking the bank. zenithapples


Whether the sign is on wood, tin or paper, as with any collectible there is room to grow in rarity and price. Signs can truly be works of art. They can be one of a kind. In the upper end, antique signs can easily cost thousands of dollars. Take a look at this gorgeous 1920s general store sign from J.C. Miller Antiques . It ticks all the boxes – colour, content, and beautifully weathered age. gstoreantiquesignVintage and antique signs are sought after by decorators looking for that one amazing piece, or collectors who have a space on the wall (and isn’t there always room for just one more?). With a little effort, you can find an a sign that speaks to you. Whatever your style or budget, old signs and kitchens are a match made in heaven.

The Changing Face of Antiques in Restaurant Decor

This week I read a well researched, compelling article in Collector’s Weekly called “The Death of Flair: As Friday’s Goes Minimalist, What Happens to the Antiques?“. I highly recommend you follow that link and read the article yourself. It follows the history of the “casual theme restaurant” like T.G.I Fridays from hot 1970s singles bar to cliché family establishment. The decor in these restaurants has always relied on huge collections of nostalgia and antiques. Now that the designs are changing to be more minimalist (and apparently, Millennial approved), the old stuff is coming off the walls.


The old T.G.I Fridays on left, new design on right. Images via Collector’s Weekly.

I found it very interesting to learn about the networks of antique pickers and dealers who make restaurant decor their business. Throughout the years, the market went through trends that affected what antiques were in demand. When the restaurant chains started in the 1970s, they wanted bang for their buck. Whatever was abundant and affordable made the cut, and that’s why items like porcelain signs, stained glass windows and Tiffany style lamps became standard. As these same categories of antiques became harder to find, and more expensive, reproduction or “fantasy antiques” (I love that term) were added to the mix.


Antiques for use in restaurant decor via Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

My favourite part of the article includes a short video on the massive Tennessee warehouse that still holds all the 90,000 individual antiques used in Cracker Barrel restaurants (unlike the other chains, Cracker Barrel is expected to keep with their antique tradition). This family business grew with the popularity of the restaurant; from local antique dealers to networked provider for a large national chain. It’s pretty amazing to see what is essentially a library filled with categories of antiques instead of books. Each and every Cracker Barrel restaurant uses approximately 1,000 antiques in their dining rooms and 99% of their decor is authentic.

Doesn’t that warehouse look like a fascinating place to visit? A few years ago on a trip to Nashville, we made it a point to visit the local Cracker Barrel. It was my first time encountering this temple of Southern Americana. Everything from the rocking chairs on the front porch to the shotgun mounted on the wall added to the impact. There were large advertising signs mounted with old musical instruments, photographs, clocks and farm tools. It was kitsch but it was also interesting. I could see that some items were worth more than others but they were all mixed together into a cohesive whole. In this way, Cracker Barrels are like Tiki bars – they represent a getaway into an idealized version of the past. The nostalgia is real because the items are real. They also serve huge breakfasts for very reasonable prices (go for the antiques and stay for the grits).

I came away from this article with a new appreciation for the business of American restaurant decor, and the use of antiques in that industry. I hope restaurants don’t get overly “tasteful” and boring in their desire to appeal to the younger generation. On one hand, yes, Millennials don’t like tons of stuff on the walls, but on the other hand they value the idea of authenticity. You can’t throw a rock in a hip restaurant these days without hitting an Edison bulb or rusty industrial relic. Times change and what is cool now will seem outdated soon. I might be a dying breed but I don’t go out to stare at my phone. Let’s keep something interesting on the walls. If it can be something antique all the better.

My top 3 Most Versatile Antique & Vintage Items


I love a versatile item, don’t you? In modern homes it’s a real bonus if an item can look good, add character and serve a function. Some collectibles can only really be used for one purpose, but others can be repurposed into a variety of uses that suit your particular needs. Here are my top three versatile, charming, and often inexpensive items that can be used in creative and fun ways throughout your home. I’ve found all these items at antique shows, flea markets and shops over the years and I’m still discovering new uses for them.

Jars – Ah the humble, hard working jar. New jars are nice, but real vintage jars are still an easy find. I love them for their imperfections and old fashioned marks. My favourite has a soft blue colour that is timeless and pretty. Old jars just say “country home” and fit in many relaxed styles.


Jars for sale at the Aberfoyle Antique Market

What can you do with an antique jar? Almost anything! You can paint them, etch words into them, switch up the lids (find new lids at kitchen supply stores) and even add knobs to the tops. Here are some of my favourite old jar uses:

  • Bathroom Storage – Q-tips, cotton balls and bath salts look lovely and stay protected.
  • Succulent Terrariums –  Small trees and fake snow make fun holiday decorations as well.
  • Vases – An old fashioned way to display your fresh cut flowers.
  • Lights – On the easy end, you can put a candle or string lights in a jar to great effect, or if you feel crafty, there are great directions out there for turning jars into table lamps and even chandeliers.

Vintage “GEM” jar with garden peonies. A dollar store grid top made this jar a vase.

Tins – Graphic, fun, functional tins. Keep your eyes peeled and you’re sure to find something you like at a wide variety of markets. Collectors prize certain brands (and clean condition), so price will vary.


One of the most common problems with old tins is that they can warp, rust and become difficult to close. Don’t let that stop you, however, if you fall in love with a great image. You can still use tins in the following ways:

  • Desk & Kitchen Organizers – One of the easiest ways to enjoy a tin is simply take the top off and fill it with something you need to have out on a surface, like pens or cooking utensils. Big tins can hold bags of flour or pet food. Glue magnets to small tins and you can use them on your fridge.

Vintage “Girl Scout” tin. Purchased at the Nashville Flea Market, this tin is both a great souvenir and a handy way to corral my pens. I love the badges!

  • Planters – Fill a tin with dirt and plant something that won’t require much water, like a succulent. Easy to grow and display.
  • Candles – Wax, wick, you’re good to go!
  • Jewelry – Difficult for beginners but if you know how to work with metal, small pieces of cut antique tin can inspire wonderful designs. Also a great use of otherwise very damaged and inexpensive tins.

Large Potato Chip tin used to store bags of flour in my parent’s kitchen

  • Caddies – With a little effort, you can turn multiple tins into a tiered caddie for your office or craft room.

Caddie (and instructions) via Better Homes and Gardens

Corbels and Trim – A corbel (also sometimes called a bracket) is the piece of wood, usually carved in a  decorative pattern, that sticks out and holds up the structure above it. Trim is simply any piece of wood that was once used to outline a piece of furniture or structure.


Antique corbels used as book ends and mounted in the entrance-way of a kitchen. Images via HGTV

Trim is quite cheap but delicate antique corbels can be expensive. Reproductions are an option, but keep your eyes open and you may get lucky. Real old wood has a wonderful worn aesthetic that adds so much warmth to your space. This type of architectural detail is found at salvage shops and antique shows. As you can imagine, decorative pieces of wood are pretty all-purpose. Some popular ideas for antique corbels and trim include:

  • Shelves
  • Book Ends
  • Kitchen Counters & Cabinets – Mounted underneath counters and cabinets, corbels can add texture and nostalgia to modern kitchens.
  • Shelf Brackets – Either paired with antique trim or new wood, corbels likewise compliment shelves
  • Coat Hooks
Coat Hooks

My DIY antique trim coat hook. Still holding up our coats in style!

Architectural salvage has experienced a resurgence in popularity, so it’s a good idea to buy great pieces when you see them. I found the two vintage corbels below for only $60. I think I’m going to simply nail them to the wall and use them as shelves as is. Luckily I always have a few smalls that need displaying😉


I hope this encourages you to find spots for these charming old items in your home. Do you have any more ideas for using jars, tins or trim? Please share in the comments below!

The Roadshow Antiques South Market

collectivatorrasouthThis summer we took a sunny drive to nearby Pickering Markets for the first time. This large building is situated just east of Toronto off highway 401, and encompasses a farmer’s market, flea market, food court and antique market. There’s plenty of free parking and multiple entrances so it’s easy to navigate. We didn’t spend much time in the flea market but headed straight to the antique section that anchors one end of the building. This is home to the Roadshow Antiques South location. It’s a smaller sister market to the Roadshow Antiques North market in Innisfil Ontario. I’ve never been to the other location, but based on the website it appears quite similar.

The Roadshow Antiques market is sectioned off into aisles and most of the booths are filled with items. I’d say only 5 – 10% of the booths were either unoccupied or very under stocked. The staff were friendly and I had a few people ask me if I needed help finding anything. It was also easy to simply roam the booths without feeling watched or rushed. For convenience the front cash has cubbies so they can hold your items while you browse.




In terms of general quality of stock, I’d say it’s a mixed bag. I had no problem finding cool vintage items at fair prices, and a truly great selection of Pez (more on that later). However if you’re looking for strictly older antiques or furniture you may be disappointed. This market weighs more towards collectibles and nostalgia of vintage (or newer) age. There were a few booths featuring vintage jewelry and fashion accessories, toys and advertising. Some dealers specialized in popular collectibles like cameras and records. There was some good antique and vintage furniture scattered throughout, but the emphasis was on smalls.



The Roadshow Antiques market is not going to wow you with every booth, but with over 150 dealers it has something for almost everyone. If you’re looking for classic collectible items like bottles, tins or china you’re in luck. Of particular interest to me were a few stalls full of classic vintage kitchenware. There was diner styled plates, glasses, cake stands, and Pyrex at good prices. I even found a small Tiki display and picked up a new mug for my collection. Speaking of Tiki, if you’re the type of person who finds kitcsh irresistible, there were plenty of “bad art” paintings, cutesy 1950s figurines and odd decor to catch your eye.



Finally, as I mentioned above, there was Pez. So much Pez. I was in the last aisle of the market, ready to pay and leave, when I turned to see a towering Peter Pez display filled with older dispensers. I literally gasped like a Southern lady with the vapors. If you’re a Pez collector this is a GREAT place to go. The Pez dealer, Darlene, was there and we had a lovely conversation about her collection (some of which can be found on her website Pezopedia). She also sells Lego minifigs, Hot Wheel cars and other collectible toys.


In the end, I think most people would enjoy checking out the deals at the Roadshow Antiques market. Many of the booths had sales on all regularly priced items, and I imagine stock gets replenished quite often. The rest of the mall offers a food court (the Italian and Mexican food was good), a large section of discounted toiletries and clothes, as well as a great British booth with cheap tea and crisps. We enjoyed spending a few hours comfortably browsing and we left with a bag of interesting items. I look forward to visiting the Pickering Markets again.

The Aberfoyle Antique Market

A few weeks ago I attended the Aberfoyle Antique Market for one of their twice annual Saturday Special Shows. A smaller version of this outdoor market takes place every Sunday from late April until late October. Aberfoyle is located just outside of Guelph Ontario (an easy drive from Toronto). I hadn’t visited in many years, and I was really impressed by how this market had grown and improved since my last visit.


One thing I liked right away when we started walking around Aberfoyle was how the grounds were more interesting and rambling than I expected. There were rows of booths in a field, but there were also buildings, curved pathways, and small groves of trees. Many of the sellers who set up on Sunday have permanent booths in buildings so it’s a nice mix of outdoor and indoor browsing. The food area as well has been improved with a restaurant, a few fast food carts, and a lovely seating area with comfortable patio sets and umbrellas. Unlike some outdoor shows which tire you out and offer scant comfort, Aberfoyle had plenty of shady and easy spots to sit down. We had to park in a distant field and the show even provided a shuttle bus to our car.



We arrived in the late morning and the market was really crowded. Buyers had arrived at opening and were already walking around with purchases. There was a really good mix of people with all ages represented. Young families, retired couples, kids looking to furnish their first apartments – everyone was there. The weather held out and was fairly sunny until the mid afternoon when there was a touch of rain. It never became worse than damp but it drove half the crowd away by 3pm and we noticed a few dealers starting to pack up early. We stayed right until closing at 4pm.


So what did we find at Aberfoyle? Pretty much everything that fits the category of general antique or collectible. Overall the stock appealed to a wide variety of taste (and budgets). There were also specialty dealers with collections of advertising, early pottery, tins and kitchen ware. There were a few Canadiana dealers with early smalls, textiles and furniture. Architectural objects like trim, reclaimed wood and metal gates were also available, and at reduced prices than we’re used to seeing in Toronto. I didn’t find too many newly reproduced pieces. In general the quality of stock across the board was good.

img_9590img_9599img_9597img_9638We left Aberfoyle with a few bags of treasures and two decorative metal doors for my parent’s garden. I’m happy with my purchases and I have a feeling I could easily buy something every time I visit. Aberfoyle was a great way to spend a day, in a beautiful venue, with a lot of interesting items to discover. It’s a great show that rewards all levels of antique and vintage hunters. I will definitely try to visit again for the smaller Sunday market during the summer, and the next special show this fall.

The Bowmanville Antiques and Folk Art Show

Spring has finally sprung! Spring brings Easter and for those of us who love Canadian antiques, Easter also brings the Bowmanville Antiques and Folk Art Show. Bowmanville is considered a top destination for early Canadian antiques. It’s a vetted show, meaning that all items for sale are checked for authenticity before the doors open. You can be sure you are seeing premiere Canadian country furniture, pottery, textiles and folk art at Bowmanville.

The Bowmanville show has been held on Easter weekend (Friday night and Saturday) for many years in Bowmanville, Ontario (a short drive from Toronto). My parents used to attend as dealers and even as a teenager I knew Bowmanville was special. People would line up to get in right at 6pm on Friday. When the doors opened the hall would suddenly be charged with voices and movement as collectors shot from booth to booth – sometimes making purchases in minutes.

This year we arrived ten minutes after doors opened but yes, people had still lined up, and when we entered the room was crowded and noisy. The crowd was mostly older, probably long time collectors, but I was encouraged to see a few younger faces as well. Bowmanville is a show that serious collectors who love this type of antique wait all year to attend. The dealers are top quality and they bring out their best.






This year the show also featured a selection of (not for sale) antique Canadian trade signs, displayed in the entrance hallway near the washrooms and doors. It was a great use of the space, and a welcome addition. People often talk about educating buyers and I would love to see all the shows embrace more exhibition and guest speakers.


We spent the first hour hustling from booth to booth, saying hello to friends (many of the dealers regularly post their stock on Collectivator), and seeing what we might be able to take home. The crowd made photography a bit difficult, but dealer Adrian Tinline kindly let me copy some of his pics taken right before the show started. These pics are from the popular Canadiana Facebook page, a great hub for Canadian antique enthusiasts. As you can see, the booths at Bowmanville looked amazing. The huge effort the dealers put into showcasing their stock is always a treat in itself.





As with every year I’ve attended Bowmanville, there were a few missed buys. A few years ago it was a tobacco cutter. This year it was a small blanket box. In both cases we hesitated and walked away, and both times the item sold by the time we reconsidered. Let this be a lesson – don’t hesitate if you know you want something! This year we were able to quickly pull the trigger on a folky parrot shelf from Wendy Hamilton Antiques and a lovely green tramp art mirror from Croydon House. Our dining room has a “tropical” theme, with antique furniture and folk art mixed in. The shelf obviously fits and looks great on the yellow walls. I may use it to hold a selection of my vintage tiki mugs. The mirror is still looking for the perfect spot but this beautiful small object will compliment any room.


The Bowmanville show is expertly run and from what I saw there were healthy sales this year. Mostly smalls, as is the general trend, but some outstanding large pieces of farm country furniture were marked “Sold” in the first hour. I encourage anyone to attend Bowmanville, even if it’s just to see some museum worthy examples of our material heritage. Many items are priced reasonably, especially for the quality. You will find beautiful, interesting and rare objects in every booth, and that makes Bowmanville an exciting destination for any antique and folk art enthusiast.

Midsummer Antique and Vintage Show

It’s hard to believe we’re already almost through August, but before summer ends I wanted to offer some thoughts and coverage of the Midsummer Antique and Vintage Show in Orillia, Ontario. The show was on July 26th – one day only – and it was the fist annual show in this location from Gadsden promotions. From what I saw, this is a show that should be back for years to come. I certainly enjoyed my walk around the grounds.

The Midsummer Antique Show in Orillia

Orillia Ontario is a few hours north of Toronto and the drive is pretty easy (and scenic) along the highways. The show was at the Orillia Fairgrounds, and we pulled up to the show field at around 11:00am.  There was tonnes of field parking, rows of outdoor booths, an open area for the food trucks, and a building with more dealers, a snack bar, and washrooms. All in all, the show was a nice manageable size with around 70 dealers. There weren’t many places to sit, but the building and tents did offer a reprieve from the sun. There was a lot of space between aisles and sections so you could move at your own pace.


When we arrived in the late morning there was a busy feel to the place. Lots of people walking the aisles and having those intense, quiet conversations about potential purchases. I can’t walk onto a field show without getting flashbacks from my childhood. I remember driving out with my parents while the sun was still down, arriving at a field still damp with dew, setting up, and starting a long and often very hot day. I wasn’t buying or selling in those days, of course, but I know from experience that these shows are hard work. It’s always gratifying to see crowds and know the sellers have a good chance at sales.



As far as stock was concerned, the Orillia show had a fair selection of large furniture, primitives and art, with more selection in vintage collectibles, antique smalls, and textiles. The quality was solid across all stock types. It was a good mix for the general antique or vintage enthusiast. Some dealers were very specialized so you could find, say, a booth full of pressed glass or postcards, but most dealers had mixed offerings in their particular style. If you were looking for something to catch your eye, you could probably find it on that field.




Hello handsome!

So after all that, did I find something to buy? You bet! I actually found too much to buy. I have a soft spot for vintage McCoy planters and I found multiple dealers with McCoy I just had to bring home. There were also a few antique smalls (including a set of lawn bowling bowls for Anson), but our most exciting purchase was a metal table with four chairs. We have a small backyard so we can’t do large outdoor furniture. We both really liked the size and the style of the set on first look. I was immediately drawn to curved legs, and I liked that the metal would be easy to maintain and store over the winter. All in all, I think it’s quite a charming little set and I’m happy we pulled the trigger on a more expensive purchase. I’m also very happy that the show organizers provided someone to move the table and load it into our Nissan Versa. Very appreciated help!

Our new backyard set! Love those curved legs and pedestal :)

Our new backyard set!

The Midsummer show was a success for me as a buyer, and for me as a Canadian looking to spend a precious summer day outside. You can’t beat looking at interesting items under sunny skies (bring a hat though, that sun is hot). I hope we can make the trip up to Orillia next year. This is a great addition to the summer show calendar.

Celebrate Canada with Canadian Antiques

It’s July 1st, and that means it’s Canada Day! This year Canada turns 148 and I wanted to mark the occasion by featuring a few pieces of Canada’s material heritage. On Collectivator the sellers regularly post fantastic pieces of antique Canadian furniture, smalls, and art. These unique items provide a glimpse into the lives and culture of early Canadians. There are so many items I could use, but these are four that caught my eye (links in title go to original posts on Collectivator). I think these items are beautiful as well as historically interesting, and perfect for a day when we celebrate our country’s past.


Antique Cradle from Nova Scotia – It seems appropriate to celebrate a birthday with a cradle. We have a few on Collectivator (both for babies and for dolls) but this one is my pick because of the beautiful original green paint outside, and the robin’s egg blue interior. That is just a gorgeous colour combination, and reminds me of the ocean (fitting a maritime item). It actually predates confederation with the seller dating it to 1830. It is a simple piece but one that perfectly encapsulates the union of form and function in an item common to Canada’s early homes.


Fraktur by Mennonite Folk Artist Anna Weber – This beautiful piece of artwork is a Fraktur; a Pennsylvania German art form that combines calligraphic and pictorial elements to decorate religious and family documents. Frakturs were often made as gifts for friends and family in Mennonite households. This particular Fraktur is by artist Anna Weber from Waterloo County, Ontario. Anna Weber was known for her strong visual elements and use of motifs like the tree of life, birds and flowers. This Fraktur is dated 1873, and is signed by the artist.

Mi’kmaq Fishing Creel – This antique fishing creel made by the Mi’kmaq people of Eastern Canada is a good example of traditional methods and developed technique. Aboriginal antiques come in many forms, but I wanted to highlight this utilitarian item specifically because it is also a work of art. I admire useful items that are finely made with such aesthetic consideration. Although not as decorated as many Aboriginal antiques, this 100 year old fishing creel nonetheless reflects the distinct culture and life of its makers.


Wall Box Dated 1908 – Wall shelves or boxes are somewhat common in Canadian antiques. Much like the square versions of today, these boxes would hang on the wall and serve to display special items or keep little things organized. No matter how small the house, a homeowner could always find room for a wall box. What makes this one so great is the hand carved “1908” date, and the photograph of two stylish young men. It’s not a selfie, but the photograph proves that even people at the turn of the century wanted to look cool.

History is often best understood through the lives of everyday people. One of my favourite things about working on Collectivator is learning about Canadian history through the items that people post. I’m always being introduced to something new (ironically, with something old). I hope you enjoyed a little bit of Canadian history today and Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day from Collectivator