Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Complicated Vintage - Terminology in our Changing Times

Complicated Vintage - Terminology in our Changing Times

This post really is complicated.  I want to start with the term "Antique".
Prior to the online takeover into the world of vintage & antiques, vintage was a word that was rarely used...cars come to mind and few other things but basically the word got big when the Internet got big.  Vintage is defined by 20 years old or older, Antiques are defined by 100 years old or older.
Here's where it gets tricky...
Prior to the Internet, antiques were sold in antique shops and at shows.  Antique "style" items were made all the time and labeled as "Antique" although they were not.  The reason for this was that with so few ways to buy true antiques, people knew that the word "Antique" on packaging, meant "antique style".
Now with the packaging long gone, reproductions of "antique style" items (many are of Victorian designs) that were made throughout the 20th Century (and are vintage in their own right) are being sold as genuine antiques.
If you happen to find one of these items in their original packaging (see below), you will notice the word "Antique" which at that time in the mid 20th Century meant antique style...no computers, no need to be exact...people understood the difference.
This particular set of brackets was dug out of my brother in law's basement.  You can see the age on the box (which I cleaned up considerably).  This set was made by the Iron Art Company of Phillipsburg, NJ.  Founded by John Zaranski and Melvin Friedman sometime between the 1930's and the 1950's. There is very little information on the company. Phillipsburg was a railroad town and at that time many of the main lines passed through there on their way to NYC and other cities.
Iron Art produced home decor items as well as model cars, etc..  They are not in business at this time and there is some confusion as to when they ceased operations.
These brackets are not marked, some of the Iron Art pieces are marked and have JM followed by a number or marked Iron Art.  There are many companies old and new, with the name Iron Art, so be sure to look for them using New Jersey in your search.
The thing is that this company reproduced Victorian themed design items in the middle of the 20th Century but the packaging says "Antique"...obviously if it has packaging like this, it's not antique (see above) but they are vintage.
People who come across them without the packaging, may be selling them as antique so they have become known on some sites as "modern" reproductions, making it very difficult to list them as the vintage pieces that they are.

What does all of this mean?  A lot of confusion:)

It's important to know our terminology history, to understand what is and is not antique (and vintage).  Times change, circumstances change and terminology changes...being informed and digging a little deeper can protect a seller from selling an item that is not truly antique and our customers from buying an item that is not truly antique, while allowing us to still sell items that are reproduction "vintage".  Knowing your company timelines will help considerably towards this goal.

Ruby Lane's RealorRepro.com offers some good tips on identifying antique versus vintage or new reproductions or iron trivet pieces at 
While this article shows only trivets, looking for gate marks and certain other characteristics will help you to determine old from newer old and new.

Good luck out there!:)


Look for my next post on "vintage" reproduction Limoges

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Complicated Vintage - The Overlapping of Some Companies

Basically this is a "not all this is that" type of post.

I've found that vintage listings these days seem to be like the old game of telephone operator.
You know the one, where someone at one end of the table says something, the person next to them repeats it to the person next to them and so on and so on.  What you end up with is never what the first statement or sentence was...that's what happens when you're constantly researching items and pulling up listings of identical or similar pieces and/or companies.  I see a little of this married with a little of that, it all depends on how much research the person does.

That begs the question, how do you know what the background really is?

In my researching, I take pieces and then Google things outside the normal actual piece that I'm researching.  I Google the company, the founder and any tidbit I can find within those results that will take me a step further.  Why do I do it?  I like to:) and it's amazing the history and stories that you find...all of which, I can guarantee, will help you at some point with another piece that could be totally unrelated to what you're researching at this time.

Recently I picked up these adorable Jam and Jelly Jars.  I love when I find the ones with attached spoons as they're harder and harder to come by these days....and you never have to worry about losing the spoon:)

Enterprise Exclusive was a sales and distribution company (commonly known as ESD) founded by Harry Pearce in Toronto, Canada.   The company began importing items from Japan in the 1950's and as Harry was a good friend of George Lefton, they imported their items together giving ESD (the obviously smaller company) a better deal on pricing from Japan.

There does seem to be some confusion as to the Lefton/ESD pieces.  Basically, one company did distribute the other's wares but not all...so contrary to what you may see, not all ESD pieces were Lefton and not all Lefton were ESD.  My personal assumption, based on a plethora of research, is that the Enterprise Exclusive pieces, were sold exclusively by ESD.

To reiterate, not all Enterprise pieces that you find will be Lefton and vice versa.  Lefton is marked Lefton and Enterprise is marked Enterprise.  Their partnership was more for bulk ordering/money saving purposes than distribution purposes.  You may find a piece with both markings, but as of yet, I have not.

That's enough for today, but this happens with many vintage items in many categories...so as I come upon them, I will post them and hopefully sort out some of the confusion.

As always, thanks for reading!


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Complicated Vintage - Czech Jewelry Fakes

Complicated Vintage - Fake Czech Jewelry

These pieces are made in both Eastern Europe and China.  As they are usually large and striking in appearance, one may overlook the back of the brooch or necklace, which shows an unplated back of visible solder marks.  One more reason to always look for pictures of the back of items.  If a seller is not showing you the back of a piece, there's usually a reason.

This is a large flower brooch that I picked up 5 or 6 years ago, in the very beginning of the whole "fake" craze.  At the time, I believed it to be a genuine unplated item.  These pieces actually come from a warehouse/s of new jewelry pieces made to look old.  Some of these pieces may be signed, so don't let that fool you either.

The bottom line, if an item isn't plated or coated, don't take the chance.  It was a valuable learning lesson for me years ago and my first introduction into the "fakes" market.

Really quite a shame, as the brooch was very striking but I have to admit that from the beginning I did feel that even on the front of the brooch, there was "a little too much going on"...too many different kinds of stones and shapes.

There's a flip side to this, as some sellers will take original vintage jewelry items and silver or gold "paint" them to make the finish/plating appear to be in better, like new condition.  Again, be sure to look at picture of the back.  If the finish looks a little bright and thickly done, it's been retouched.  Usually this done on top of a badly damaged finish and there is really no prep work involved, so your odds of having this thick coating chip or peel off, are very high.

Remember that almost every vintage piece will show some kind of small wear. Simple things like hand lotion and perfume can add wear to the finish of an item.  If a piece looks too good to be true, it usually is.

Once again, good luck out there and happy hunting!

Thanks so much for reading!


Friday, June 10, 2016

Complicated Vintage - Austrian Jewelry Fakes

As we tredge through these times of Fakes, Reproductions and Re-Issues, it's important to remember that there is a geographical component in some cases.
You may find different faked items in your part of the country or outside the US.
I will be discussing the ones that I personally come across in the NY Metropolitan area.

Today's topic is jewelry, specifically Austrian Jewelry.
I recently came upon this set at the end of a long day of hunting.
The color and condition caught my eye and the price was right, so I grabbed it.
Once home, I gave it the once over and grew suspicious.  The color of the setting was a little too "goldtone" and the metal seemed a little light by comparison to other Austrian pieces that I had found.  Notice the tab like setting closures, they're not your standard prong set, they're a cheaper and newer version.
How do we tell?
The newer versions have a more "punched from a pattern" look to them.
So in this front facing picture the red flags are...
1) The color of the gold
2) The weight of the pieces
3) The "punched from a pattern" look to the prongs, they're a little too big and too long
4) The crystals look more like glass than crystal and since Austria is home to crystals, it really wouldn't make sense for them to use glass:)

Now for the back
At first glance, one would think, "Wow, open back settings".
That's one of the tricks to making it look old.
Look at the pin bar, it's hard to see in the pic but it reads "Made Austria".
The only two things that I've ever seen on Austrian pieces is "Made in Austria" or just plain "Austria", never "Made Austria", which has more of a Eastern European sound to it and many of these pieces are coming from the Czech Republic.

It's a beautiful set, but it's not vintage and it took a combination of factors to lead me to that conclusion, which is usually the case.  The better the fakers get, the more you have to look at different areas of the piece.

I felt that this was a good example to start us off with, as true Vintage Austrian jewelry, especially sets, can command decent prices.

So you are now armed with at least a little information before you head out on your weekend hunt!

Good Luck Out There!

If you have more questions, visit me at The Vintage & Antiques Community on G+

Thanks so much for reading!


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Buying Vintage and Antiques Online - Keys to a Good Buying Experience

You're shopping online, looking for that perfect vintage or antique piece.  You scroll through Pinterest, Instagram and/or Google Images, click on the shop or site but how do you know if the piece that you're buying is a fake or original and if the site or shop is reputable? 
Will your item ship in a reasonable period of time? 
Will you be able to return it, if it doesn't meet your expectations? 
Will you be able to communicate with the shop owner?

All crucial questions that could send you out to the nearest antique mall versus buying online.

 Take a good look at the site. 

  Do they have an "About Us" page?

Is there a way to contact them via email or phone?

Do they have a location listed (State or Town, Province, etc.)?

Do they have a return policy?

Are there good, clear photos from all angles available?

Do they state their shipping policies?

Are there markings/hallmarks on the piece that are not discussed in the listing?

Do you see flaws to the piece that aren't mentioned in the listing? and if so, have you contacted the seller to ask questions about it and not heard back?

Do they show their feedback?
(Feedback can be a relative thing, which is why I put that last. Many shops push their customers to leave feedback, while others communicate privately.  Additionally, the feedback set up of various sites can make it difficult for people to use that option.)

These guidelines are good to keep in mind, not only for Vintage and Antiques, but for new items as well.

Also keep in mind that a lack of communication from your seller, can be a bad sign.  We are in a business that requires communication, so those who are not communication friendly, really should not be in the retail business.  However this is the Internet and occasionally email glitches happen.  I would suggest (for those who have not received any communication) that you contact the seller to be sure that your item has shipped and to obtain a tracking number.  
I send a thank you email, with details of when and how the item will ship.  I follow that up with the expected delivery date and tracking number.  After the appropriate shipping time has occurred, I track my packages and contact my customers to be sure that they've received and are happy with their purchase/s.
That might be a little over the top for some, but it helps me sleep at night:)

It's important to note that we all make mistakes.  It's how you handle those mistakes that makes all the difference.

In summation, give the seller and the site, a "once over" and if you answered "no" to any of the questions above...move on to someone who does list those things.  The great thing about buying online is that you have many options, make the most of them, but do it wisely.

Thanks so much for reading and good luck out there:)


Thank you to +Margaret Siemers and her post in our Vintage & Antiques Community on G+ ,for blog post inspiration:)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Vintage & Antique Business in Our Changing Times

An recent share from +Sharon Meredith to our Vintage & Antiques Community on G+ (the article was on how retail spending is down) got me going on a topic that's been shuffling around my brain for awhile now.
Is there a shift in the Vintage & Antiques business?

I think typically retail sales are always down prior to an election and with this election being somewhat volatile and more polarizing, people are even more fearful of spending.
The bright side, more people are buying online and less in retail outlets. 
Here's where the shift comes in...I do think that brick & mortar antique/vintage shops are on the rise again and this will in turn hurt the online seller. Since the online vintage/antiques business initially hurt the brick & mortar businesses, it could be said that turn around is fair play.  

Lambertville, NJ with photo credit to Hunterdon Happening

The popularity of vintage & antiques has made the actual shopping part of it, more of a social event that appeals to a larger audience than before the "craze" began. There were always those of us who went "antiquing" but now, with the popularity of all that is vintage and antique, the age range and diversity of those who visit small antique towns and flea markets, has grown...that in turn, will slow the online businesses down. Combine that with the flood new vintage/antique online dealers over the past 6 years or so and you get my point.

Could the wheel spin the other way again, maybe... but what can you do to improve your business during these shifts? My suggestion is to stay in trend with the trends and always keep a percentage of your shop geared to the trending items (can I use the word trend one more time?:)) 

Stay on top of social media changes and who is using what to shop.

Interesting, quality pieces at reasonable prices, always sell.

Keep your shop fresh.

Take bright, clean, detailed photos from many angles. ...and as always, exceptional customer service and communication always keep the customers coming back despite the economic and/or societal circumstances.

Thanks so much for reading!


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Complicated Vintage - Reproductions, Fakes and Re-Issues

This vintage life is becoming more complicated.  There are days when I feel like I'm researching fakes and reproductions more than I am legitimate pieces.  Keeping on top of what's newly faked or reproduced and documenting it, is almost a full time job!
Let's all remember that Antiques are 100 years old or older and Vintage is 20 years to 99 years (technically:)).

Reproductions are items that have been made to look like another item, with a certain degree of quality.   Many times it can be difficult to tell the two apart.  This has been going on since the beginning of time.  It is important to know the small details that differentiate the originals from the reproductions.  This could be anything from how a piece is put together to colors that weren't used in the originals or the size of an item.  You hope for some kind of signature, hallmark or backstamp, but that can also be faked.  
The older manufacturers of "reproductions" did not try to mimic a hallmark, they would just leave the piece unsigned.  Newer manufacturers are the "Fakes" and they will stop at nothing to trick you into thinking that their poor quality imitation is actually the real deal.

A Re-Issue is when an original mold is used by the original company, to make a new version of their old piece.  These are almost identical and can be identical but dating them is still crucial to the future value and the value of their original counterparts.

We try to stay on top of these continuing changes in our Vintage & Antiques Community on G+ and with frequent visits to Ruby Lane's RealorRepro .  I'm thinking that a series of blog posts might also help in keeping things current and easier to find.  Each post will feature one item or group of items from a manufacturer that is being reproduced, faked or re-issued.

Today we'll start with something easy for most of us, yet still shocking to me when I was recently given one as a gift.
Notice the intentional crazing done to make the vase look older, as well the chips/wear to the paint.
This vase is available at Hobby Lobby.  Some will say, one look tells you that it's a fake but remember that these items can pass through many hands, ending up at your favorite flea market or estate sale and being sold as "vintage".  To see it on the shelf in Hobby Lobby, is one thing but to see it when you're out and about hunting, maybe with a little dirt on it and a good story about how it belonged someone's grandmother's, to go with it...well let's just say it makes things complicated for some of our newer sellers.  Suddenly, it's being sold as vintage, another seller sees the listing, having picked up the same thing and lists it as vintage (without doing the research)....and on it goes.

Look for my next post on the flooding of Fakes in today's market.

Thanks so much for reading!