My Very Vintage (and Green) Christmas

Vintage SantaThis year I am all over Christmas. Some years it feels like the Halloween decorations are barely removed before it’s time to schlep back down to the basement for boxes of Christmas cheer. This year it’s on like Donkey Kong. The tree is up. The ceremonial Santa shaped cookie jar is on the kitchen counter. The outdoor lights are untangled and ready for stringing. It’s going all Yuletide cheer up in here.

Along with the twinkly lights, warm memories and fa la la la las, I must admit I am not immune to the relentless drive to buy new stuff for the holidays. Everywhere you go Christmas is being shoved merrily in your face. Do you have the right colour scheme for the tree? Will your family dinner be ruined by subpar napkin rings? How will people know you’re festive without a giant inflatable igloo on the front lawn? Everything is encrusted with glitter and the deep nagging fear that you might ruin the holiday if everything isn’t perfect.

The peer pressure is bad but worse is the waste that comes with the modern holiday season. In our desire to be abundant with food and decoration and gifts, we also spend on things we don’t really appreciate. Most decoration is obviously unneeded, and much of it is of such crappy quality it will end up in a landfill after a season or two. I hate the idea of all the shiny baubles in the stores that will be garbage by the New Year. I love Christmas and I want to be a big goof about enjoying it, but every year I become more thoughtful about what I spend and what comes into my home.

In an effort to be both a Santa with cheer but a Scrooge with waste, this year my Christmas preparations will be based on the three Rs – Reduce Reuse and Recycle. The first R is the most important so instead of buying new poor quality items, I will reduce what I buy and invest in one or two decorations that will stand the test of time. Antique and vintage decorations are ideal for lasting appeal and festive cheer. With a little effort and education anyone can find classic ornaments that will fit their budget and stay in their family for years. Antiques can also be reused and recycled to suit the holiday season. Items like antique sleighs, nutcrackers and cut glass table wear look festive and bring an authentic sense of nostalgia to the season.

Over the next month I will write about my ideas for a cheerful and environmentally sustainable vintage Christmas. It will be very festive. By January I won’t even want to see tinsel but that’s okay. It only happens once a year and I love the holiday season. All comments and advice are welcome so if you have any please share!

Image courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

Vintage Mounties

Mountie Collection

A few of the vintage Mounties in my collection

As a Canadian, not to mention a general fan of square-jawed, stoic men in uniform, I’ve always been fond of the classic RCMP officer. Red coats, Stetson hats, a hair cut you can set your watch to, and a noble steed to ride. The classic RCMP  (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) or “Mountie” has it all. The Mountie is an icon of Canadian culture. When you say “Canadian” in other parts of the world, the Mountie is probably an image that comes to mind (maybe along with a hockey player, snow and the general idea of trees). He might be a cliché and not at all representative of the diverse people who comprise the modern RCMP force, but the image endures thanks in large part to the plethora of items made in his image. Some of these items are souvenirs and some are advertising to capitalize on a Canadian association with certain products. As a kid, for instance, I remember being in France and seeing Canada Dry commercials featuring a friendly, fully uniformed Mountie sitting in a bar pushing ginger ale. It was silly, but darned if it didn’t make me feel patriotic.

Since the RCMP formed in 1920, the image of the “Red Serge” or “Review Order” uniformed Mountie became so popular it actually became a problem. By 1995 there were so many shoddy, illegal copies of  the RCMP image running rampant on everything from pro wrestlers to cartoons that they famously struck a deal with the Walt Disney corporation to help control their copyright. In 2000 the RCMP decided  not to renew their Disney contract, saying they now had enough knowledge and experience with commercial licensing to protect the image on their own. Today the RCMP sell their own lines of souvenirs with reproduction images.

While new RCMP merchandise is actually really nice, there’s nothing stopping you from collecting the real vintage stuff. By and large, because there was so much made with Mounties, you can pick and choose different types of objects to collect depending on your space and budget. Let’s take a look at some of my items to give you an idea:

Reliable Plastic Mountie

This handsome fellow makes sure the plants are well protected.

This is one of my plastic Mountie figures. These were made in Toronto, Canada by the Reliable Plastic Company. The Reliable Company made, well, pretty reliable toys and these figures have held up well over the years. They have varying degrees of ware and tear. Some of them still say “R.C.M.P Canada” on the base, but on mine the letters have worn off. The back of the base is stamped with the words “RELIABLE MADE IN CANADA”. They are 8″ tall, and sell for around $15 – $30 depending on condition. These figures were made between the 1950s and 1960s, and can be quite easily found today in antique shops and online.

The following two plaster figures are vintage advertisements for Drewrys beer featuring RCMP officers and real glass beer bottles. The Redwood brewery (not the Drewry brewery for reasons one can only assume had to do with alliteration), was founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1877. The company also opened a brewery in South Bend, Indiana in the 1930s following the end of prohibition. By 1936 all actual beer production took place on US soil.

Even when the beer was made in the USA, the Mountie was still used to advertise Drewrys beer. The figures that feature the trio of a Mountie, horse and beer bottle are especially sought after by collectors. Most of these figures were made in the 1940s and sell for $100 – $200 dollars today. I bought both my Drewry Mounties at the same time from the same dealer, and made a deal for both. The first one is smaller and has a miniature glass bottle. The second figure (with horse) has a full size bottle and a flat back for easy mounting on a wall. It’s a great item for a kitchen or bar area.  The Drewry Mounties are a collectible that straddles two fairly large areas of collecting: RCMP and beer. For that reason they are a good investment for the money.

Drewrys Mountie #1Drewrys Mountie #2

Mountie Salt & Pepper shakers

Finally, I’d like to show off two little men who make salt and pepper a charming addition to any table. I don’t know what company made these salt and pepper shakers. I can guess that they are from the 1950s but I’m not sure. They have small chips and discolourations. These are not prize pieces but I like them and they probably cost less than $20.

My point is that even if you don’t pay much, or expect to recoup your investment, vintage RCMP pieces can add charm and interest to your home. Plus who can resist a man in uniform? I’ll show you more items from my vintage Mountie collection later. If you have any comments I’d love to hear them!

Oh, and remember that deal the RCMP made with Disney to stop fraudulent but perhaps hilarious use of their image? Thank goodness it didn’t take effect until after Monty Python gave us this:

 

Welcome

Hi there!

Welcome to my blog. This won’t be your standard “I’m going to blog every single day because I’m so excited about blogging” premiere blog post (followed, inevitably, by one week of daily posts and then a sharp demise into rarely ever posting). It’s too much pressure and frankly I don’t have any readers yet so why make any promises? Although my skills are a little rusty, I’ve been blogging on and off since 1998. That’s an eternity on the internet! As a blogger, I’m the equivalent of the old lady sitting in a rocker on her front porch. I blogged back when uploading images was a Kafka-esque nightmare of ftp servers and permission errors. I blogged when blogging was the only way to tell people what you thought because we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. No son. No Facebook at all.

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. Despite my elderly blogging stature I’m actually, so I tell myself, still young. I’m in my 30s, and I decided to start this particular blog to talk about my passion for collecting antiques and vintage items.  It’s a somewhat unusual passion for someone my age. People of my generation are supposed to go to Ikea and get a pine table with matching chairs, a particle wood bedroom set, and maybe a plate of those cheap but disturbingly tasty meatballs. It’s modern. It’s clean. It’s kind of boring.

Well, in all honesty I do have lots of modern furniture in my home and for certain uses new is simply better. It’s not about being a zealot, but about mixing the new with one of a kind antiques, funky vintage stuff, and the occasional piece of original art. I called my blog “The New Collector” because I am part of the new generation of antique collectors. I want to spread the word to others who might not see the value in “used furniture”, or who might want to try buying antiques but aren’t sure where to start. I want to show you that antiques can be fun, vintage can give your space personality, and spending your money on really interesting items that will actually appreciate in value is awesome!

At the Christie Antique Show

Me at the Christie Antique Show. No idea who that woman is beside me. Let’s assume another antiques enthusiast!

It is my hope that this blog will grow to encompass many aspects of antique collecting including how to buy, where to look, cleaning & refinishing techniques, the environmental benefits, and why antiques are a great financial investment. I would also love to highlight other young collectors, blogs and antiques related TV shows. I might even start making little videos and doing interviews. I’ve got big dreams for my blog and I am excited to get started. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll visit again soon!