Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"How do you KNOW it's vintage?"

As a writer, I go back through notes and restaurant specials menus and old newspapers just to make sure it really was a Tuesday when my family left for San Diego. For a person who doesn't believe in "The Truth," I'm a bit obsessed with finding as much accurate information as humanly possible when building and relaying a story.

This goes double for my vintage and antique finds. I will research every mark, every classic seam and shape of an item to find its story. Often, a particular logo or trademark was only used during a set number of years, or a company produced a model between very specific dates. Sometimes I get lucky and find a dated magazine advertisement for the exact item I've found. Often it is a known piece of vintage history.

Those are these easy clues. But there are times when I find something truly wonderful without easy to define date markers or labels. What then?

I'm not one to play it fast and loose. But one time I found an estate sale of a woman who had just moved from her condo to an assisted living community. The gentleman who had been taking care of her ran the sale at her directive while the landlord wanted her completely out as soon as humanly possible.
Her condo was incredible, with pristine pieces of American history from the past 75 years. I'd already spent an hour combing through boxes and collecting dishes, knives, irons, place mats, and clocks when somebody asked, "have you been upstairs?"
Apparently, the woman's sister had lived in an almost identical condo two floors above but died 30 years ago. Unable to cope with the loss, they put everything in plastic bags and closed the door, leaving this second condo a perfect time capsule. There was more clothing than I could handle, souvenirs from the sisters' world travels, accessories to make you squeal and knick-knacks telling stories of long-gone times. In this time capsule, I didn't have to worry about things being truly vintage because nothing in the entire condo had been purchased since 1980.

Demolition sales are less clear cut, but if a house is from the 1940s (as most of my favorite ones are), the doorknobs and the railings are probably from the 1940s, too. If I'm lucky, I get to speak to the house owners and they know exactly when different elements (paricularly cabinet knobs) were added to the house. Sometimes, I'm stuck looking at the house and the element itself and I have to make an educated guess. I hate doing that and frequently leave the age blank.

I'm not going to say something is vintage unless I truly believe it is more than 20 years old. If you discover something in my shop isn't what I say it is, please let me know. I am operating on my best research and information, that doesn't make me infallible.

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