Tag Archive | online store

Vintage Enesco Unicorn Music Box

I found this lovely vintage hand painted porcelain music box at a thrift store for less than $2.  It was coated in a brown veneer of cigarette tar from spending a couple decades in a smoker’s home.  Probably due to the very dirty condition, no one had given this gorgeous piece a second glance.

The music box is from 1988 and is a rare holiday edition from a series called Elusive Legend by Enesco.  It was made in Taiwan and measures 7.75″ high.  The music is Carol of the Bells.  This piece is exquisitely modeled and carefully painted.

Enesco started in 1958 as a subsidiary of N. Shure Co. (NSCo, sound it out!)  It was the arm of the company that imported items, mostly from Asia, for sale in the US.  The musical movement works perfectly and the porcelain has no damage.  The metal music box itself is by Schmid, a manufacturer renowned for high quality.

I spent about one-half hour carefully cleaning the smoker’s build-up.  The mess needed to be removed without getting any water into the metal workings.  Once I saw how beautiful it was, I wanted this for myself.  I’m a huge fan of anything horsey.  Then I checked the value.  This item is rare and sought after.  It is worth about $200.  Sadly, I must sell the little unicorn, I can’t afford such an expensive bit of decor.  I’m sure it will go to a very deserving person.  The piece is in my eBay shop.

 

Vintage Beaded Clutch Purse

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I wanted to show this particularly nice vintage beaded clutch that I recently discovered in a thrift shop and have listed in my eBay store.  Over the years I have found and sold several beaded purses.  This is one of the most elaborate so far.  The front is completely encrusted with red-gold colored sequins, each with a tiny gold bead sewn in the center.  Over the sequins is sewn a pattern of flowers all in gold beads.  The beads are on pale yellow satin.  The reverse has a geometric pattern in gold beads.bead4

As you can imagine, all the beading gives this little purse a fairly substantial feel in the hands.  Beads are heavy! The interior is more of the yellow satin and there is a small pocket for a mirror.  The clutch folds to close and is held with a snap. bead5
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The condition is amazing!  This bag was likely made in the late 1950s to 1960s.  The label reads Richere Bag by Walborg, hand beaded in Hong Kong.  Walborg was a company founded by Hilde Weinberg in New York City in the late 1940s.  She originally worked as a vice president for a cosmetics manufacturing firm and resigned in 1949 to study the handbag business for eighteen months before establishing her company.  Walborg Corp. continued under her ownership until 1971.bead7

Beaded purses were especially popular in the 1950s.  Their production was first done in Europe.  Manufacturers moved to Asia when labor there was found to be less expensive.  The beading was performed in Japan and Hong Kong and later in China.  Richere  is one of several well known names in this particular style of purse.  Small clutches mostly served as evening accessories or were taken to special functions such as weddings and fancy parties.  The intensive labor involved in producing such finely detailed work meant the purses were expensive status symbols.

Today beaded clutches are enjoying popularity again, especially among brides looking for a unique vintage design.bead3

This clutch appears in excellent vintage condition.  The beading is intact, somewhat amazing considering the fragile nature.  The piece is quite clean, with just a bit of smudging on the satin around the snap.  Often these purses are found missing portions of the beading or with serious stains.a1

Here is another beaded purse currently in my online shop.  It is a more modern design, most likely from the 1970s.  There is no maker’s label.  The pretty pattern on this red satin clutch is two-sided.  Another example of how hard some poor beader had to work to earn their wage.  I hope these workers considered themselves artists because to me a well-beaded clutch bag is a work of art.a2

Kabamaru

k1When I was thrift-shopping the other day to find interesting things to add to my online stores, I discovered these five little bowls.  They are 4.25″ in diameter and 1″ tall.  The cats are very cute and the bowls appeared new so I scooped them up for 90 cents each.k6  They are designed look hand done, though if you examine closely, you will see the fingertip marks and other “handmade” flaws are the same on each piece.  These were all done in the same mold and the art work, though appearing handpainted, is transfer.  Each bowl has the artist’s first name and seal and the name of the featured cat in English.k2The artist is Hajime Okamoto.  He has Westernized his name by placing his given name first and family name following.  In Japan he would be called Okamoto Hajime.  He goes by Hajime and that’s good enough for me.  I decided to do some research on the artist before listing the bowls for sale.

There is not much information available on Western websites about this artist, although he is fairly famous in Japan.  His cat series is especially popular.  Cats are considered bringers of good fortune.  (Such a breath of fresh air for felines after being associated with demons and witches in the West.)  Hajime was born in Osaka in 1942.  He went to China in the 1980s on cultural exchange to Jilin Province and his work is said to be influenced by his time there.

In 1986 he began displaying his art in China.  By the early 1990s his work was exhibited in Osaka and in 1995 a national Japanese gallery exhibit gained him great recognition.  His art graces calendars, puzzles, bento (lunch) boxes, plastic rice bowls, chop stick sets, an illustrated kids book and ceramics such as these bowls and matching cups, spoon holders and platters.k3In 1998 the cats debuted.  Hajime says his cats were developed while listening to 1960s jazz and he imagined them as laid-back, relaxed creatures living a slow and free life amid the bustle of humans.  They all have names and personalities.  Many of his designs feature inspirational sayings about how to be happy.k4The leader of the cat clan is Kabamaru, a tiger kitty who is always depicted as the largest in the group.  Kaba means hippo and maru connotes young male.  There appears to be some differing of opinion about the origin and meaning of the suffix maru that is used in so many Japanese names including ships.

Some Japanese say maru means round or circular and it must.  It can also signify powerful, a full month, small and round in the face, perfection and purity.  But, I found an interesting post by a thoughtful Japanese named Nangi that I think explains the true origin.  Ancient Japanese were reputed to be very superstitious.  They believed that an evil god or demon named Oni brought pestilence and death.  They hoped to fool the demon into not touching their babies by giving them a name that literally meant filth, excrement or feces.  Like Hajime-maru, for instance.  So maru meant poop.

Over time the suffix took on a broader connotation:  a general charm for good luck.  It was associated with  young boys and also was attached to sailing vessels to help bring a positive outcome for frightening voyages over deep water.  All of this tells us the meaning of Kabamaru cat’s name is young male hippo.  There are other cats such as Momoji, Sakon, Urume, Tango, Musashi, Inari and Shirorin.  I will resist trying to find the translations for their names.k5The cute little bowls are available in select shops and markets.  The prices range from $10-$20 per piece.  Some places they are called plates.  I believe they are intended to be used at meals to hold side dishes, small servings, sauces, etc.  I had no idea I would learn so much researching these simple bowls!  They are currently for sale in my eBay store.

Some links I found researching:

https://www.minzuu.com/blogs/meet-our-artisans/17238457-hajime-okamoto-and-the-kabamaru-series

http://www.jref.com/forum/threads/what-does-maru-on-names-mean.14139/

http://www.holymtn.com/Japan/HajimeOkamoto1.htm

http://fareastcynic.com/2008/02/19/cat-art/

Great Find!

ret1Yesterday I spotted this set of flatware at a thrift store.   It is a discontinued pattern called Contour made by Retroneu.  The stainless is 18/10 and very heavy weight.  The high quality of the utensils caught my eye and made me think they might be worth more than the $4.50 I paid for them.  ret2ret3

Last night I listed them in my eBay store.  They sold in 10 minutes.  I think that’s the fasted I’ve ever sold a listing.  I offered them for a good price so they would move quickly, and realized a net profit of $95 on the deal!

I may have been able to squeeze a bit more out of a sale, but I’m happy and the buyer is happy.  That’s what matters.

Hand Painted Made in Japan Ceramic Collectibles

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Many collectors favor the kitschy handpainted ceramic items produced in Japan during the early part of the last century.  Most are marked either Nippon, Japan, Made in Japan or Occupied Japan.  There are so many specialized subsections to Made in Japan collecting that it is hard to name them all.  Some include human figurines (such as the ones pictured above,) or animals–horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and other wild animals, salt and pepper sets, match holders, ashtrays, planters, vases, wall pockets, and candle holders.  c5Vases shaped like ladies’ heads complete with fancy hats and jewelry are sought after and can command big prices.

Another popular area for collectors is all things for the table:  plates, cups, sake and tea sets and rice bowls, especially dishes with luster painting.  Tableware was the first export from Japan after trade was opened with the West in the 1850s.  Noritake is a big name in this area of production.  I have carried all these ceramics and more in my online stores over the years, with great success.

Some pieces are very well done, others were fired and painted rapidly with an eye to production over quality.  In general, earlier work is better quality.  Industrialization and the advent of the production line led to a drop in quality.

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The figurines are of a Georgian couple, probably courting, and are of midling quality with some nice detail, but very quickly painted.  The condition is excellent, no damage at all.  They are marked Made in Japan with a red stamp.

Items from Japan were not always marked, especially prior to 1891.  In that year the US required all imports to be marked in English with the country of origin. From 1891 to 1921 the word Nippon was usually placed on pieces.  After 1921 until 1941 the word Japan was instituted in place of Nippon.

During the war years, 1941-1945, an embargo was in effect on Japanese imports.  By 1947, imports were making their way west again and were marked Occupied Japan.  This labeling was in use until as late as 1952. After that time the Occupied was dropped.  Paper labels came more into use. Since paper and foil labels are more easily lost, import pieces from that time are often not marked. Sometimes a practiced eye can spot an unmarked Made in Japan piece based on quality and form.  The import of inexpensive Japanese ceramics continued into the 1960s then began to shift to items made in Taiwan.  After that, made in China became the norm.  This is one big reason collectibles made in Japan are popular, they are no longer manufactured.

The nostalgia of Made in Japan ceramics also drives the market.  A popular collectible is a series of small figurines shamelessly based on Hummels and called American Children.  Much of the Japanese work imitated favored established Western forms, such as the figurines above that mimic European work.  Certain companies, most notably Otagiri and Takahashi, operated as importers of higher-quality Japanese ceramics well into the 1990s.  Both these companies were based in San Francisco and provided fine work from various Japanese sources to upscale department stores.

Here are a few more of the Made in Japan offerings currently in my online stores:

Owl salt and pepper set

Owl salt and pepper set

Mother dog and tethered puppies

Mother dog and tethered puppies

Shafford spaniels

Shafford spaniels

Otagiri Harvest stein mug

Otagiri Harvest stein mug

Train nursery planter by Ardco

Train nursery planter by Ardco

Takahashi vase

Takahashi vase

Peach luster landscape pattern tea plate

Peach luster landscape pattern tea plate