When I went away to college (decades ago), I remember how fun it was exploring the small town down the hill from our campus. My friends and I found all the good restaurants (Strawberry Place was a fav) and loved poking around in the the funky stores that sold embroidered shirts and Peruvian ceramics. We even ventured into places that sold antiques. Not that we had money to buy anything. I worked throughout college and had taken out loans. The phrase “poor as a church mouse” was apt. Still even back then wandering around an antique store, a proper antique store, filled me with wonder. All the fabulous, old, intriguing bits. It felt like hallowed ground!
Now fast forward a zillion years and on Saturday I decided to visit one of my antique happy spots as many vendors were having sales and I hadn’t been in months. Certainly not in 2022 anyway. I spent a delightful hour there.
I adored the looks of this brass gothic revival cathedral cigarette box/jewelry casket, but the price tag read “Wonderful Gothic Style Brass Box $395” which told me the seller didn’t know much about it. Was the $395 price justified?
I didn’t bother having the clerk open up the locked cabinet to take a closer look because I was fairly certain if the piece wasn’t signed (and the seller makes no mention of that), it was circa 1940s-1960s, likely German, Belgian or French and about $200 overpriced.
Though they are nice and have good weight and extravagant details, these mid-century boxes are not uncommon. Older ones come with a latch and lock, like this great French version for sale on Etsy.
But signed boxes, like those made by Erhard & Söhne (Germany), tend to fetch higher prices. This one on eBay is priced at $285, but has the Make Best Offer feature turned on.
Rarer pieces of their metalwork have done quite well. Here are the Erhard & Söhne marks to look for, courtesy of OldCopper.org.
I knew something about these types of boxes because years ago I bought myself an Art Nouveau brass cigarette box and had done research. Mine is marked Germany and W (on the bottom–not sure who the maker is) and features an exuberant floral and flourish design. I have a vague memory of paying a little over $100 for this but have no plans to sell it!
Folks love sterling silver picture frames and this charming one featured storks and flowers and had space to engrave baby’s name. The only info the seller gave was “Sterling frame $95” with no mention of maker or age. It was 20% off (approx. $80 with tax) which would have made it a fair price for a collector, but not for a reseller. (If it had been $40 or under I would have bought it.)
Back at home I researched it and discovered it was made by Lebkuecher & Co. (active 1896-1909). Here are the most recent solds from eBay.
Lebkuecher & Co. is a quality silvermaker and one to look for. Here’s their mark, courtesy of silvercollection.it.
I spotted a crocheted purse with an interesting yellow frame that was said to be antique French. (Apologies no photo.) The label inside read Marilyn Pivnick and it was priced at $125 with a 25% discount or approx. $100 with tax. In the end I decided against it. The body of the purse did not look old, I’d never heard of Pivnick and it lacked a label saying “made in France.”
Turns out Pivnick designed purses from the 1990s to 2010 often rescuing frames from older purses that had seen better days. (You’ll find an interesting article about her at The Vintage Purse Museum.) The purse I was looking at in the store had a carved bakelite frame–I’m guessing that was the antique French part and why the seller had priced it so high.
Here’s a similar purse with a vintage faux tortoise frame on eBay with an opening auction price of $17.99 plus shipping.
In general, Pivnick’s delightful purses are listed online from $20 to $60, including those with bakelite frames.
The only Pivnick purses to fetch big money (that I have found) were those belonging to actress Elizabeth Taylor! The one of the left has a carved bakelite frame with an Egyptian motif which is quite spectacular.
What I Bought
I adore vintage/antique cloissone pieces and this vase caught my eye because it was so atypical. So many pieces feature flowers, butterflies or dragons that this abstract design jumped out at me. When I was paying for it the clerk said the seller had just brought it in and they had both commented they thought it would sell quickly. And it did! I know it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but I think the mod ’70s colors and look will appeal to someone.
I know some YouTube vintage resellers manage to find a lot of items at antique stores with “meat on the bone.” I rarely do. I was a little sad to see so many things I liked priced so high even for collectors. Still I enjoyed myself immensely. Because there were so many quality things. (Fell in love with this antique wood box with a carved lid. How I walked out without buying it I don’t know!! Next time I’m at this store, if it’s still there, it’s coming home with me!)
Wishing you happy hunting,