Antique World and Flea Market

Antique World sign
Last month Anson and I visited the Antique World and Flea Market in Clarence, New York. This well established picking destination is composed of multiple group shops, storage unit stalls, and a sprawling flea market every Sunday year round. Clarence is a short drive over the US border (crossing at Niagara Falls), so we figured it would be a great destination on a beautiful summer weekend.

The first thing I learned during my visit is to ARRIVE EARLY. We woke up a little late, but we only stopped at the border and for the obligatory road trip Egg McMuffin, and arrived around 11:00am. I felt we made good time but it was obvious we were still late for the flea market. Many of the tables were packing up, and empty spots were evidence that some had already left. I spoke to a dealer who told me that in the summer the action starts at 7am if not before, and that the first few hours are swarmed with buyers. He suggested I arrive no later than 7:30 for a good selection. Fair enough. Any show is the same – early bird gets the worm.

Antique World flea market

It didn’t help matters that this was also shaping up to be one of the hottest days of the year! As it got close to noon it became almost unbearable in the full sun. We found what was left of the flea market pretty uninteresting but there were enough almost promising things that I think you could find some treasures if you came early. I did see a fair selection of toys, housewares, old postcards, jewellery, and collectibles like baseball cards. Nothing really for us, though, so we moved to the adjacent Co-op buildings.

The Co-op buildings have storage units along the exterior walls. These rectangular, windowless units are rented as selling spaces or storage. It’s a pretty good idea because sellers don’t have the hassle of packing up when it’s time to leave. The downside is that if it’s a ridiculously hot day you are confined inside a small, airless tomb. Thankfully, within five minutes of looking I saw something – Vernonware in Tam O’Shanter pattern! A whole pile of it! AND it was on sale. I was able to pick up all the following pieces (with egg cup!) for around $40. I usually buy my vintage Vernonware online and shipping is a huge extra cost. You can pay, like, $10 for the piece and $25 for shipping to Canada. I felt like the trip was already worth it as I put my first purchase in the car.

Vernonware Tam O'Shanter dishes

I literally squealed with delight when I saw this on the bottom of a dusty shelf

The few storage booths that were open had a decent assortment of stuff, as long as you weren’t looking for very old antiques. There were a lot of vintage housewares and decorative items. Used books and clothing. A few guys had a “man cave” (the term really fits when it’s a dark tunnel full of neon beer signs). Other booths had new home items like scented candles and tole painted “Bless this Mess” signs. In one booth that had largely automotive items I found a set of 1970s glasses featuring Archie comics characters. I love Archie comics as much as Jughead loves hamburgers so the glasses were the next things to come home with me.

One of the storage units

China, glass & housewares in one of the storage booths

It was time to hit the buildings. The buildings at Antique World are probably where you will find the higher end stock, and the quality (and price) varies for each building. The Expo Center is good for vintage and less expensive items. One large area is set up in traditional booths, and the other large area has rows of display cases. This building had lots of items in the $20 – $100 range. I saw great vintage Sci-fi paperback novels, sports cards, kitchenware, small furniture, and comic books.  I also finally found a classic McCoy “Arcature” planter with bird, and Vernonware tumblers!

Comic books for sale

Vintage Business pens

Anson is a big fan of vintage business pens. At $1 each, they were an easy buy!

Booth
Cabin Ashtray

We walked across the giant parking lot to the Indoor Flea Market building next. This building has, as the name implies, a hodge podge of different items. There was furniture in every style from Victorian, to turn of the century farmhouse, to 1980s bamboo. Smalls like textiles, kitchenware, holiday decorations, and toys were common. One dealer had a large selection of records and musical paraphernalia. I found a few items, including a vintage tea towel featuring a Caribbean theme with original tags. If there is one thing I love, it’s a tea towel that brings the fiesta to the kitchen.

Booths

Vintage Kitchenware

Christmas decorations

How adorable are these little houses? I was tempted to buy them all.

The third building we visited was Uncle Sam’s Antique Co-op. This is a great mid range building with some surprises for the collector. One booth featured the best selection of vintage linens I’ve seen for a long time. Another had a terrific assortment of 1950s/60s Jadeite kitchenware. I saw vintage Halloween and Christmas decorations (picked up some Shiny Brites for $2 – $3 each), old Barbie dolls, lamps and even large pieces of furniture. Uncle Sam’s hit the sweet spot for my taste and budget. It felt like the dealers set up here had well-developed stock in their areas.

Vintage Halloween decorations

Jadeite

Shiny Brites

The last buildings we visited were 3 Old Dogs Antiques, and The Premier Antique Center. 3 Dogs had good quality primitive furniture, antique train sets, folk art and some nicely framed artwork and advertising. It is a very nice shop with good antiques. The Premier Antique Center is a group shop that had a likewise high class of antique. This large shop had chandeliers, fine furniture, and display cases with delicate porcelain – everything you think of when you think classic antique shop. It was nice to browse but we didn’t buy anything.

booth

Finally, after five hours, it was time to call it a day and go home. There were buildings we didn’t even have time to visit! I will say this for Antique World, it’s big. It seems hard to believe anyone couldn’t find at least something to buy. Between the deals at the flea market, to the mid range booths and high-end shops, there’s something for everyone.

If you plan to go, remember to get there early if you want to see the flea market. The flea market operates every Sunday year round, with extra large (and popular) flea markets the 1st Sunday of the month from May to October. The buildings are open every day of the week except Wednesday. 

It’s bragging time! Check out the haul from our first trip to Antique World:

20130820-175945.jpg

Vernonware tumblers - Homespun Pattern

Vintage Caribbean tea towel

Hola!

Vintage Aluminum Tumblers

“Royal Sealy” aluminum tumblers in nearly new condition? Yes please!

Vintage tea towel

Finally a tea towel for all the Irish Jockey enthusiasts

McCoy 3 Lily planter

Classic vintage McCoy planter in the Three Lily design

Vintage McCoy – Yellow Planters

Happy Easter and Happy Spring! I love this time of year so I thought I’d share some of my cheerful Spring coloured vintage McCoy pottery. You may recall I already enthralled you with tales of my green planters and jardiniere. Well, now it’s time to introduce the yellow planters. Let’s get crazy with some vintage cuteness shall we? Check out this little guy:

McCoy Duck PlanterI originally intended to write this post with an Easter theme, and I think this adorable duck would have fit the bill perfectly (Oh that’s right. Pun intended). He’s not a bunny, but this duck’s baby animal quality, mixed with the egg and jaunty “Sunday best” ribbon just seem Easter themed to me. This planter was produced by McCoy in many colours over the 1940s. Many of the varieties had painted details on the face and ribbon, but I think my version was always just in one solid paint. It’s a charming little piece (around 7″ long) and still easily found in the $10 – $25 dollar range depending on condition.

On my birthday last week I was also the happy recipient of two more lovely yellow pieces. Here they are artistically photographed with a tulip:

Yellow McCoy PlantersThese beauties are classic planters in what is often referred to as the “tufted” or “quilt” pattern. They are from the 1940s / 1950s. I love these planters not only because they are attractive, but because they have attached bottoms for easy use (I promise I’ll put plants in them one day). One is two thirds the size of the other and I really like how the different sizes display as well.

I must mention that I had every intention of photographing my McCoy pottery out in the garden for a seasonal motif, but apparently Toronto weather did not get the memo about Spring. It’s literally below freezing and snowing today. Another photo shoot on the kitchen table it is then! At least I have a beautiful assortment of tulips to brighten a dreary day:

Tulips

Pretty. If you live in a place where Spring exists I envy you. For now I will just have to enjoy my sunny yellow planters and pretend. If you’re looking for more general information regarding McCoy Pottery, check out my earlier posts and another resource I found at VintageMcCoyPottery.com. There are so many types of McCoy pottery planters, and at so many prices, that they really are a fantastic way to bring vintage cheer into any home.

Yellow McCoy Planters

Vintage Vernonware on “Rules of Engagement”

Holiday preparations are in full swing, and I’m off to sunny Orlando this week, so I’m going to make it quick and share a little something I found on TV. I was watching a rerun of the TV show “Rules of Engagement” (don’t judge me) and what should I see?

Vernonware on Rules of Engagement

Vintage Vernonware! A kitchen cupboard’s worth! It’s one of the plaids, and it looks like the pattern is probably “Organdie”. Organdie was designed by artist Gale Turnbull. It was the first plaid Vernonware and the other plaids (including my patterns Tam O’Shanter and Gingham) were inspired by this original design. The Organdie pattern was produced between 1937 and 1958.

The funny thing, at least for a nerd like me, was that the plot of this episode revolved around a burglary. The apartment pictured above was broken into, but the thieves didn’t take anything because there was nothing “worth taking”. Ha ha. Joke’s on those imaginary burglars who didn’t realize that if they carefully boxed up that dinnerware and sold it on eBay, they could have made a cool 200 bucks. 300 on a good day. Sitcom burglars never want to put in the effort.

Here’s another look at the Vernonware. They don’t have a lot, but the pieces they have are quite nice. I especially admire the salad bowls (upper right) and tall tumblers (mid left). I’ve been trying to find those in my pattern and they’re rare.

Vernonware on Rules of Engagement

I’d like to think that at some point the set decorator who compiled these dishes will find my blog. If they do I just want to say hey, good job. Those are some nice dishes. (I’m pretty sure that this article will forever be the only google hit for “Vernonware Rules of Engagement”. I’m going to write niche niche blogs and make my millions!).

In the real world I also made a Vernonware discovery. I bought four bread plates and one small gravy boat in the Gingham pattern from a dealer on eBay. I got the pieces for really low prices – less than $5 for everything – but I had to pay $25 for shipping from California. I still think it was worth it. All the pieces were in excellent condition and my little gravy boat is really cute:

Gingham Vernonware Gravy Goat

Vernonware Plaid Gravy Boat

Another small but lovely piece has joined my collection! Now if only I had some gravy.

Vintage McCoy – “Spring Wood” Jardiniere and Pedestal

I wrote about vintage McCoy pottery before, specifically my lovely green planters. Today I would like to introduce the largest piece in my collection. Take a gander at my pink Jardiniere and metal pedestal from the “Spring Wood” line:

McCoy Jardiniere and stand

Isn’t she a beaut? Skinny legs and all. Jardinieres are large decorative planters (the word comes from the French jardiniére which is the feminine form of “gardener”). McCoy made different jardinieres over the years and many came on pottery or metal stands. Finding a jardiniere with matching pedestal is quite the feat for collectors, so I’m lucky to have found one with both “jard and ped”.

The “Spring Wood” design was first produced in 1961. It was made in pink, white and mint green with hand painted dogwood flower motif and a satin glaze. The design proved popular and was also used on smaller planters and vases. I love this set’s vintage look. The legs in particular, with their slightly “space age” satellite configuration, are classic mid-century modern.

My Jardiniere is in great condition with only one small mark. There is a slight indentation from when the pottery was made on the upper right corner of the design. It’s a minor flaw and otherwise the pot is without cracks, chips or crazing. The pot measures around 9″ wide and 7″ tall. She’s a good solid planter used every day to house my money tree.

McCoy jardiniere and stand

Amazingly, the money tree is still alive!

Spring Wood Jardiniere and Pedestal

McCoy Jardiniere and stand

I bought this set in an antique store in Quebec City about 10 years ago. When I bought it my boyfriend and I didn’t have a lot of extra money, so I know I would not have paid a huge amount (maybe $80?) I can’t remember, but I know the price was on the line between “that’s a lot of money for something I don’t need” and “if I don’t get this now I will always regret it”. I think every collector faces this dilemma from time to time! To sweeten my deal, the price also included a smaller rectangular planter from the same line. How could I resist?

McCoy "Spring Wood" planter

The matching planter

My jardiniere and stand has given me 10 years of stylish keeping-plants-off-the-floor service, and it will always be a favourite piece in my vintage McCoy pottery collection 🙂

Thinking of collecting McCoy? Check out the McCoy Pottery Collectors Society for great info including production dates and photographs of popular lines.

Pez Collection – Peter Pez Display Head

It’s super hot around here so I’m taking it easy and photographing inside stuff this week. I figured it’s about time to introduce you to a minor obsession of mine – Pez dispensers. Remember those little plastic tubes with funny heads that shoot candy when you tip the head back? You probably got one as a kid and never really thought about again? I have boxes of those things. Numerous plastic boxes that form a small wall in our basement. I’ve been collecting Pez dispensers and Pez branded items for over two decades! I started young because it was something I could look for when my parents dragged me to auctions and antique shops. Pez is a great thing for kids to collect because they’re cheap, small, and easy to find both new and vintage. Although my buying and selling has slowed over the years, I still appreciate a good Pez buy. Pezhead for life, yo.

So let me tell you about my newest purchase! A few weeks ago I bought a plastic three-dimensional Peter Pez head from the top of a retail Pez display. Who is Peter Pez you ask? The PEZ wiki (yes, it exists) explains that “Peter Pez is the PEZ mascot. He is depicted on the sales displays, as well as numerous other forms of advertising. Often, Peter PEZ is depicted as a real clown, holding in his left hand a Peter PEZ dispenser.” True to the description here’s the display:

Peter Pez display head

Originally, this Peter Pez head would have been mounted on the top of a circular rack that would be filled with hanging Pez dispensers. At the bottom of the rack were plastic clown shoes to match the head. They stopped using this display in stores sometime in the 1990s. There was a great discount department store called S&R in Kingston that had the full display with plastic head and feet. When S&R  was going out of business a few years ago I BEGGED them to sell it to me. I was willing to come all the way from Toronto to get my hands on it. After a few calls back and forth, they stopped communication and sadly the store closed. I know the employees had a lot of things on their minds and it was easy to forget about me, but I just hope that some other misguided soul was able to purchase the display and it’s not sitting in a dump somewhere.

If you can find the six-foot tall display intact including head and shoes it can set you back as much as $300 – $500 dollars from sellers. It’s quite the rare item and honestly it’s a pretty cool way to display your own Pez dispenser collection. The head alone is usually worth about $100. I found this one on kijiji from a man in Scarborough who was asking for $50. Coincidentally, I had just sold a used air conditioner on kijiji for $50 so it was cash in, cash out. My husband Anson drove me to pick up the head and asked me if I was attempting some type of opposite bartering system where I take an air conditioner and eventually trade it down to a toothpick. Funny guy.

Here are a few more photographs of Peter Pez in all his glory. In case you’re wondering, yes, the other side of the display is the same image. You cannot escape the clown.

Peter Pez display

Pez display hat

How big is Peter Pez in relation to the average house cat? This big:

cat with peter Pez display

This display has real value to me as a part of my collection so I will want to show it off. The bottom has a hole in it from where it was connected to the rack so I’ll probably try to put something in there and mount it on my wall. Most terrifying idea would be to stick a light bulb in this thing and make it glow. You see so few clown themed night-lights these days.

So I guess in summary while I am not the biggest fan of clowns I am very happy with my Peter Pez display head 🙂 The cat, however, remains unconvinced.

California and Las Vegas Trip

Hey it’s me! I’m back from two weeks in sunny beautiful Southern California. I had a lovely vacation with my husband’s family. We stayed for a week right next to the ocean in Solana Beach, and then drove across the Nevada desert to Las Vegas. For a Canadian girl, the palm trees and tropical gardens of California seemed very glamorous. I was also happy to see I could eat my weight in fresh local avocados. California is really just a great place to relax, shop, and get those omega 3 levels up.

Anyway, while travelling around the area I kept an eye out for antiques. I found a charming store, House Vintage, one day with my mother in law. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to look around with family in tow, and the next time I got to that part of town it was Easter and the shop was closed. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my brief look inside and the outside of the shop was fantastic. Here’s a photo:

House Vintage in Solana Beach, California

House Vintage is Solana Beach, California

Check out the purple sign. This is a message every antique shop owner can appreciate:

If you’re here to just pick up random stuff and say “I threw out of dozen of these when I cleaned out the attic” then keep walking looky-loo! I wasn’t able to meet the owner, but I tracked down her blog The Mermaid’s Mercantile and I would definitely recommend a visit to her shop if you’re in the Solana Beach area.

Along the same street (known as the Cedros Design District) you can find lots of great group shops including SoLo where new funky stuff is mixed with mid-century vintage smalls and furniture:

The Cedros Design district also has a large Antique Warehouse, and a huge marketplace called Leaping Lotus. If you’re in that part of California and you like shopping, I would give the whole Cedros Avenue a visit.

So do you like vacation pics? Sure you do! Here’s some other cool stuff I saw:

The mermaid door at House Vintage

Hippy transportation in Venice Beach

Building in LA

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

He was great in Rocky, but for me he'll always be the Penguin.

Balboa Park, San Diego

And in case you thought the cool vintage stopped in California, check out this window display I found in the heart of Las Vegas for the All Saints Spitalfields store :

Can you see what's in the window?

How bout now?

Sewing machines!

Antique sewing machines are perfect for a trendy clothing boutique. They’re graphically interesting (especially all lined up) and they give a strong industrial vibe that is also very au courant in vintage. If I’m judging this store by its cover, I would have found plenty to buy inside. Alas, sometimes on vacation you get distracted, and in this case the family wanted to keep moving to dinner. So much to look at and so little time. Next time Vegas and California! Next time!

Vintage McCoy Pottery – Green Planters

I’m back! I’ll leave my absence unexplained but let’s just say it involved espionage and sports car chases through exotic locales. It was definitely not due to tax preparation.

I thought I might dip my toe back into blog writing by introducing yet another of my collections – vintage McCoy pottery. Vintage McCoy planters to be exact, and in this entry at least, green planters. Here’s the small assortment I have right now:

Green McCoy planters

Those colours are a bit brighter than normal. Guess who has two thumbs and recently discovered all the settings on her new camera? This girl!

As you can see, I haven’t actually planted anything in my planters, but rest assured these vintage beauties are fully functional. I hope to install narrow glass shelves on our dining room window and display some of my McCoy collection with plants. I love the idea of having partial privacy from the planters, while at the same time allowing light to filter into the room. The plants should do well in the light and the shelves will be in a corner so they won’t be in the way. I know this type of window shelving was more popular in the 1950s but there’s no reason not to revive the trend today if it fits your space! Even Martha Stewart is a fan, as you can see from this photo I found on her website:

Glass shelves in window

Mmmmm. That's tasteful.

Even if you’re not at the point of renovating the windows, McCoy pottery is still a very approachable and affordable brand to collect. McCoy started back in 1910 in as a sanitary and stoneware company in clay rich Zanesville, Ohio. The wares first made by the company were more utilitarian in nature, but then in the 1930s they began to market more decorative pieces for the home. Much like the Shiny Brite company, McCoy pottery became very popular with middle class families in the 1950s due to their quality workmanship and mass-produced price. McCoy branched out from mugs and kitchen ware to include planters, cookie jars, jardines, wall pockets and vases. The items came in a huge variety of shape, colour and glaze. I collect pretty much exclusively the planters, but even in this one area I can easily find shapes ranging from flowers to animals, birds, fish and even boots. Take a look at the variety in my small collection of green, standard shaped planters:

Notice the glazing on the bamboo planter (vintage from the 1960s):

The beautiful variations in colour and glaze make every piece unique. The more common shapes and colours are still found for affordable prices. For instance I found this chalice inspired planter at my local thrift store for $10:

Try to find something this nice at Walmart for ten bucks.

You ever hear the expression “the real McCoy”? Well, that’s actually a very old Scottish saying and nothing to do with pottery at all, but it does serve as a memorable warning about McCoy knock offs. The brand is so popular that newly made reproductions have been found in many styles. Collectors who buy pieces worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars must carefully inspect the mark and the quality of the clay before purchase. The marks varied throughout the years, and some items were never marked in the first place. Marks can be convincingly replicated on reproductions, but what is harder to replicate is the heavy clay used in real vintage McCoy. New pottery is more brittle and less dense. The glazing might not be as expertly applied, or cover the proper amount of the surface as well. In general, the knock offs look and feel cheaper than their authentic counterparts. Try to get your hands on some real ones and inspect them carefully to know what feels right.

McCoy pottery marks

You can see the variety of McCoy marks on even this small selection of items.

Don’t let the fear of knock-offs stop you from picking up one of these delightful pieces if you find one at an antique show or in your local SallyAnne. Online sales can be a bit tricky, but this is where feedback and reputation are important. I’ve bought from reputable dealers online with no problems at all. The real McCoys are still available and affordable in many styles. If you are in doubt about making a substantial purchase, you can use the links below to help guide your decision. I’ll profile more of my McCoy pottery later, as well as any updates on those dreamy glass shelves 🙂

Real McCoy Links (about real McCoys!):
Chiquita’s McCoy Pottery – Chiquita likes McCoy a LOT. Great photos of her vast collection, as well as collecting tips and historical information.
McCoy Pottery Online – Marks, history, photos, auctions and all things McCoy.

My Favourite Mountie Painting

I’m back! For all my readers (hi mom!), I should explain that I was on vacation last week in lovely, sunny Cuba. It was a wonderful break from our mild but dreary Toronto winter. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a photo I took looking out my home office window a few weeks ago:

Toronto winter

Yipee.

Now here’s a photo of the sunset on our last evening in Cuba:

Cuba sunset

That's more like it.

Although it’s good to be home I still feel sluggish. Therefore, today I’m going to lazily post some photos tell you about my favourite Mountie painting. I can’t believe I forgot to mention it when I wrote about my Mountie collection before, since this painting has been on my walls since I was sixteen. If I remember correctly, my dad picked it up at a yard sale. He knew I liked Mounties, and he was smitten by the painting’s iconic image and overly dramatic staging. For me, it was love at first site:

Mountie painting

The Mountie and his noble steed.

She’s a beaut, ain’t she? Everything art critics would tell you – that the figures are too rigid, the setting cliché, the whole thing is kitchy – is true. I don’t think that this is a particularly good painting. But, BUT, what it lacks in artistic sophistication it makes up for in enthusiasm. There’s a signature on the bottom that says “J. Hamilton”. I’d like to believe the artist was an older man who was a hobby painter. One day he decided to paint the most noble, upright (very upright – he’s almost jumping off his horse) Mountie he could imagine. He put his subject in the classic Canadian wilderness where grass, meadows, mountains and clouds meet sky.

mountie painting close up

I love how the clouds arrange themselves with almost heavenly reverence around the Mountie. I love how the horse is restless, but the Mountie sits with complete poise and control. It’s all pretty great. You might not respect me for admiring this painting so much, but that is the risk we all take when we find original art and put it on our walls. At the end of the day, I think it’s much more interesting to have questionable but well loved original art, versus bland and mass produced consumer art.

Mountie painting close up

You sir, are a true Canadian hero.

My Mountie painting is not so loved by my husband, but then again he once bought a frame to properly display an “A-Team” poster so I take his opinion with a grain of salt. He really likes other folk art, and I admit this particular piece has a niche appeal. For the RCMP fan, however, it’s the Mona Lisa of Mountie art. If my hallway were the Louvre, this baby would be the star attraction.

Shiny Brite Ornaments

Shiny Brite Reproduction bulbWhen I was a kid, my parents (being antique dealers) always had a hodge podge of different antique decorations for the holidays. Tiny plastic choir boys, a somewhat weary looking elf, a flapper styled angel, and an abundance of colourful metallic glass bulbs adorned our tree. To this day, when I think Christmas I think of those cheerful glass ornaments. They were from the 1940s and 1950s. Although ours were from a variety of companies, the most popular of these vintage glass ornaments was made by a company called “Shiny Brite”.

Shiny Brite ornaments were created by American businessman Max Eckardt in 1937. Shiny Brites were proudly made in the USA (a selling point during WWII as previous to this many glass ornaments were imported from Germany). They were mass-produced in a process that started with unadorned glass bulbs supplied by the Corning company that were then hand decorated and machine lacquered in Eckardt’s factories. The inside of the bulb was coated in silver nitrate giving the decorations a, well, bright and shiny look. They eventually came in a large variety of colours including classic red and green, purples, pinks and icy blues. The colours could be solid or patterned. They also came in a large variety of shapes including balls, tear drops, icicles, finials and pinecones. They proved extremely popular and at their peak came out of four separate factories in New Jersey.

Shiny Brite Box

The classic Shiny Brite box. Notice Uncle Sam shaking hands with Santa Claus!

Interestingly, the history of the Shiny Brite ornament was directly impacted by wartime America. Early pre war ornaments often had large sections of opaque silver and metallic colour. After WWII was declared, decorative silver nitrate became a “nonessential” use of metal, so many of the ornaments were stripped of any silvering, and were mainly transparent with only hand painted colour on the outside of the bulb. These transparent bulbs are some of the most sought after and prized for collectors.

The hooks are also a good indicator of age. Early Shiny Brites had metal hooks and tops. During the war, these hooks were replaced with cardboard tabs from which the owner would use string to hang the ornament. Some bulbs from the wartime era also included a sprig of tinsel inside the bulb for added sparkle, but even this small use of metal was eventually prohibited.

This image from I Adore Style

When the war finally ended in 1945, restrictions on metal receded, and the iconic “Shiny Brite” ornament was reborn. Using sharp metallic colours, glittery mica flakes, and metal hooks and distinctive crinkled tops (stamped with the words “Shiny Brite” and “Made in U.S.A.”) these ornaments became even more popular. They remained affordable for families and flourished until plastic ornaments came on the scene in the late 1950s. For reasons I guess had to do with durability and cost, plastic was preferred over glass, and the Shiny Brite company closed their doors in 1962.

Close up of an original Shiny Brite top

Although this is an antiques blog, I must point out that there are some really nice reproduction Shiny Brites made by the Christopher Radko company. Since 2001 Christopher Radko has reproduced some of the most popular Shiny Brite lines and you can find them in lots of stores (I found some at our local Homesense). They are quality decorations and a great way to get the vintage look in new, pristine condition.

As nice as the reproductions are, however, real Shiny Brites are a great piece of history and well worth the search. They are still quite easy to find online and in vintage stores. If you want to collect real Shiny Brites, there are a few words of warning: Some sellers mistakenly use the manufacture’s name “Shiny Brite” to refer to any ornaments of this type. In some dastardly cases, the tops and hooks may also be replaced to “create” a Shiny Brite from just another vintage bulb. Also, people recommend buying only in original boxes, but it can be tricky to determine if a box for sure contained the ornaments for sale.

As is the case with anything, there is an element of “buyer beware” to collecting Shiny Brite ornaments, but this warning should not dissuade you from these charming items. Most dealers are honest and will answer your questions truthfully. Shiny Brites used to be an easy flea market find, but now depending on the style and age of the ornament the price will vary. Even in you find damaged ornaments, you can still use these to create wonderful decorative wreaths or as filler in vases and bowls. With a little searching and a keen eye you can still find affordable vintage Shiny Brite ornaments that will bring sparkle, cheer and history to your Christmas season.

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: