Intriguing Finds through My Looking Glass – An Eclectic Sampling

I count my blessings that I have a lifelong antique collection to fall back on for a bit of extra income. A PR and communications professional, I found myself unemployed in mid-June for the first time in 20 years. I could write a 5,000-word blog just about my last employer, but I know that diplomacy will serve me better than spite as I strive to land a new position. So back to the matter at hand – a few of the high points in my hunt for treasure over the years. For this blog, I am posting an eclectic sampling of some of my most memorable finds – not necessarily because of the resulting sale, but for the memories associated with the acquisition. 

My mom bought this complete set of Hartland Plastics musical cupids in 1976 at a fantastic store that sold new old store stock from dime stores. Our close friend Bebe turned us onto this treasure trove of a shop called Mary’s. It was located near Yoshi’s Cafe, in the 3200 block of North Halsted – long before it became a hip neighborhood. In any case, Mary decided to pack up shop and move to Michigan while I was away at RISD, so my mom visited the shop and bought a few things at close-out prices. Mind you, Mary’s prices were fantastic to start, so this was quite a deal. I held onto this wonderful set until a few years ago, at which time I sold it to a lucky collector.

This next item came to me via my older sister’s boyfriend. Jay’s dad owned National Wrecking Company and he worked for him and found this badge on site. The company was contracted in the early 1970s to demolish the Union Stock Yards in Chicago. All that remains today is the historic gate, designed by the venerable firm of  Burnham and Root. Jay knew that I was a history buff and had just read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair so gave it to me. I held onto this gem for 30 years and finally decided to part with it a few years ago. I especially like the spelling of employe. I always wondered about employee 1106 and if he suffered a similar fate to Jurgis Rudkus.

I bought this slightly beat up but very cool Elsie the Cow bank at a temple rummage sale in Morton Grove about 14 years ago. It was made by Master Caster in chalkware, metal, and later – cheap plastic versions. I dated mine to 1940 – some are dated to the 1950s.

Rummage sales are very hit or miss and generally require that you stand in line with countless folks if you want to get in when the doors open. I usually have to psych myself up and get into battle mode because there is a lot of shoving and pushing.

A trend has developed in the last few years in which churches are charging $5.00-$10.00 early-bird admission fees – usually the night before the sale starts. I have a philosophical issue with these fees and since the selection is likely picked over by the next day, I will not patronize these sales.

I found this small Roseville vase at the Village Discount in Roscoe Village about 15 years ago. I think the number-one reason I like hunting vintage treasure is so I can do the research and discover the history about the piece. I am a professional antique restorer specializing in art pottery. I have restored more Roseville pieces than anything else, enabling me to attain a level of expertise about Roseville. This piece was unmarked but I intuitively thought it was Roseville and was pretty happy when I confirmed this at home.

Whenever I travel, I like to frequent flea markets and antique stores. I was delighted to discover that Covent Garden had a flea market. Unfortunately, my daughter was with me and being very difficult, so we got there as the dealers were packing up and the maintenance man was sweeping away the day’s debris.

Nevertheless, I was able to score this cool figa with sterling cap. This rather large figa is one that I am keeping for my own collection. I will likely pair it with an elk tooth and sterling charms on an antique watch chain.

I gravitate towards pieces that are visually cool, but also love jewelry that is rich in symbolism. The figa is an Italian amulet of ancient origin, dating back to the Roman era and Etruscans. Historians state that the original symbolic meaning was heterosexual intercourse – today it is widely worn as a good luck symbol.

When I am in the Big Apple, I always visit at least one flea market. I like The Antiques Garage and Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market. Lately I have been scouring flea markets, thrift stores and rummage sales for antique charms, gumball charms, vintage lures, and religious icons to utilize in my collage necklaces. These two pieces acquired at The Antiques Garage are beckoning to be incorporated into one of my unique charm necklaces, an example of which is shown below.

The elements in this necklace were acquired in Italy, Michigan, New York, at church rummage sales, and on ebay.

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