Finding Antiques in Unlikely Places

On Super Bowl Sunday I had plans to go out to dinner with girlfriends. I decided since I would be passing by a thrift store on my way to the restaurant I might as well leave a little early and pop in for a few minutes. This particular store is one of the shabbiest I go to…cracked linoleum floors, a mish mosh of shelves, scratched display cases, stuff crammed all over. It’s a wreck, but every once in a while I find stuff here so I continue to pop in from time to time.

I was expecting the store to be empty because of the game, but was surprised to find it fairly hopping! I didn’t have much time before dinner so I focused on the shelves with pottery, glassware and metal. And that’s where I found this silver plate (EPSN) creamer. It’s a scarce W.K. Cowan Co. Chicago piece. The company, best known for making furniture, was in business from 1894 until 1916 making this creamer at least 100 years old!


I see a lot of silver plate items in thrift stores and yard sales. Lots. And most lack quality, age or are appallingly fussy. You’ve probably seen these pieces too. But I think this Cowan creamer’s design is so clean and handsome and I would happily have this in my house. Wouldn’t it make a charming vase for a small group of posies? Or even as a pencil holder?

There’s a tiny bit of corrosion that can be fixed with a lemon juice/baking soda scrub and I’ll give it a light rub with a Weiman Silver Wipe to clean it up a bit, no heavy polishing though. Thankfully the rattan-wrapped handle is in fabulous condition.

While this is not a huge score (wish it was sterling!), I was delighted to find this nice antique in this run-down store.

After I bought the creamer I was reminded of other unlikely antique things I have found in unlikely places! Take this collection of old cast iron bits. I found the rings and little ball on the floor, literally in the dust, under a table at an estate sale. The sale folks hadn’t even thought they were worth putting on a table. I think they were surprised that anyone wanted them. (They sold them to me for 50 cents.) The railway spike, found at a different sale, was in a garage mixed in with a bunch of overpriced tools. Generally I don’t even look at workbench stuff, but decided to give it a go. Glad I did. I got the spike for practically nothing too. I put the pieces together in this appealing lot and they just sold for a nice profit. 🙂


Frankly, it’s not often I find antiques at yard sales. Occasionally vintage stuff, rarely antiques. But a few years ago my oldest daughter and I were heading out one Saturday morning to hit some yard sales. Almost as soon as we left it started drizzling. (Drat!) We got to the first house and the folks were all set up with tables outside, but had covered everything with tarps to protect it. The drizzle and the tarps made it a less-than-optimal-shopping experience and I wasn’t finding anything of interest. Nothing that screamed “buy me” until I spotted this one little piece of very old porcelain. I was surprised when I saw it because nothing else at the sale was older than 10 years or so. There were lots of things like Pottery Barn plates, a donut maker, glass trinket boxes, DVDs, padded hangers. Typical stuff. And this.


Isn’t it sweet? I bought it for the grand price of $1. It has a maker’s mark in a fancy cursive “R” but I haven’t been able to confirm who made this. A guy on an antique board said it was Herend Rothschild, and while it looks similar to Rothschild bird pieces, I haven’t been able to find that the company ever used “R” as a maker’s mark. So it’s still a mystery. Once I finally figure it out I may sell it. Maybe. Maybe not! Right now I’m using it on my nightstand as a lovely receptacle for my rings.

So I’m reminded of three lessons when out thrifting that I’ll share with you:

  1. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Run-down thrift stores, down-at-the-heels estate sales and humble yard sales will sometimes surprise you.
  2. Be tenacious in looking everywhere. Look high. Look low. Open drawers and boxes. Look under tables. Look in areas you normally wouldn’t.
  3. Listen to your gut. If you feel a strong visceral attraction to an item, go with it.

As always, happy hunting! Would love to hear your stories!


  1. Hoping to go to a family/business garage sale this weekend…but alas we are expecting 10 inches of snow tonight!!! I’ll let you know if I go this weekend.


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