Buying “Smalls” on Vacation

I’ve been a California girl for over 30 years now but I look forward to my annual visit to see family members in New York some 2,700 miles away. It is a tad bittersweet though. So many of my family, including my beloved mom and gram, are gone now, but there’s my dad, a favorite aunt and a few cousins that make my trips a delight, along with my youngest brother who joins me from another part of the country.

I can count on lots of good conversation, food, wine and antiquing. For my antiquing I have a couple of go-to spots in my small hometown where I know I will find good stuff at reasonable prices…and this trip was no exception! I found a great selection of smalls to bring back.

Curious what qualifies as a small?

They are definitely no bigger than a breadbox. Most sell for less than $2,000, and some for under $50. They tend to be between 70 and 200 years old. And if they fulfill these criteria, they can be just about anything, from a silver nutmeg grater to a matchbox made out of the remnants of a samurai sword. Such is the world of ”smalls,” a category of antique usually greater in personality than size or price. – “The Big Business of ‘Smalls'”, New York Times

Here are a few of my favorites from this trip…a large Victorian celluloid mantilla hair comb with red rhinestones. Isn’t it striking?


I love all things wood and this small antique painted wood dumb bell was so charming and ready for a new home!


This old leather railroad conductor’s wallet/folder, though well worn, intrigued me. I had to buy this one. Hoping some train buff loves it too.


I adore sterling silver jewelry and this vintage Siam dome ring is a perfect “everyday” ring. At size 8 it’s too big for me, but perhaps it would fit you.


This odd bit is actually an old copper or bronze bar pin. It has a most intriguing design and feels a bit brutalist to me, though brutalist jewelry is mid-century and this closes with a C clasp (1890s-early 1900s).


Math anyone?? This 1958 Math Magic game was a Salvation Army find for less than $2! Not a small, but too good to pass up.


In the end, these all fit in my suitcase with a few other finds and three bottles of delicious New York state wine! All in all, it was a fabulous trip, but a bit sobering flying into San Francisco airport through the haze of wildfire smoke and later watching the devastating news. Praying for safety for those still in harms way.

Happy hunting,



  1. great finds. I think the hair comb was my favorite; it needs a black mantilla with it! When I’ve gone on vacation, I’ve been known to mail my dirty laundry home and carry my treasures! There’s TOO many parts of our country that needs prayers right now; it is so sad.


  2. Hi Kathy. That’s too funny about mailing your dirty laundry home. 🙂 I’ll have to consider that next time! You’re so right…so many parts of our country are suffering. Such a tough season! Blessings, Karen


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s