By Connie Swaim
“It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it," said associate editor Eric Rodenberg as the AntiqueWeek editorial staff climbed into a company van for a day of shopping the U.S. 40 annual yard sale. U.S. 40 goes right by our office, how could we not go?
While I know one reader of our Springfield column was unhappy that my staff did not buy "true" antiques at that event, I’m just happy that I have a staff who wants to collect something. So what if they don’t collect sterling silver or Federal furniture right now? They are collecting and they are furnishing their homes with items they buy at auctions, shops, malls and yes, yard sales. While Strawberry Shortcake may not make the list of die-hard antiquers, it sure does make the under 30 crowd in the office smile.
Collecting should not be about value anyway, it should be about what makes you smile.
I didn’t buy as much as in year’s past, but I did manage to find a few treasures to bring home. At one stop a vendor had numerous horse blankets for $10 each. Some of them dated from the 1940s, but those were very moth eaten. I’m a sucker for anything horse related. While I could think of not one single thing I could actually do with the horse blankets, I bought two of them. One is the Louisville Downs blanket and the other one is a nice vintage wool example with the name of the horse and the owner. Someone asked me what I was going to do with them and I said that wasn’t the point. The point is I liked them.
By the end of the day, I was wondering if I was just losing my "touch."
After seven hours out in the stifling heat along U.S. 40, I had little to show for my efforts.
I tried to rationalize. Maybe there wasn’t an abundance of treasures along the route. Or maybe I just wasn’t "at the right place at the right time." Or just maybe the "karma" wasn’t right, remembering that in the past, the best "buys" were made when I wasn’t consciously looking – willfully searching – for that "one find."
But, in the end, I had to look into myself. For, I was one among a van of younger, swifter and more keen-eyed females – all bent on finding a bargain. At the end of the day, their coffers were full, mine still half empty. Thankfully, we’re not a competitive bunch … I would be at a decidedly disadvantage.
At an early stop along our annual AntiqueWeek Editorial Expedition into the Edifying Land of Yard Sales, I was able to veer off from the sharp eyes of my co-workers and pick up a vintage train case in its original box. But, alas, in its original box, but in a "very used" condition. Nice, sharp looking, minty train cases still bring good money in antique stores and online, but this wasn’t even close to being a contender.
However, inside I found three sample cigarette packs (below) (four cigarettes each), with two of the packs displaying advertising for the now defunct Trans World Airlines. The cigarettes were once given as complimentary gifts to flyers for enjoyment during flight. If nothing else, they are a novel display item from the past … and maybe, worth the $3 I paid for the train case.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make the editorial team’s U.S. 40 yard saleing trip. I did, however, venture out with my mom the day after. I started in Dunreith, Ind., and only made it a couple of miles to Lewisville before the vehicle was full and we were exhausted.
Once again, I stuck to my guns and only purchased items that will go in my new house. The best purchase of the day was an old wooden rocking chair for $15. I’ve already picked out the perfect spot for the old chair in front of the windows in the living room. I can’t wait to get it in there and start making memories of my own with the old rocking chair.
Collector clutching for clues
Never one to pass up the prospect of browsing at yard sales (an endeavor I’ve enjoyed since my grandparents hooked me when I was but a child), I am proud to say an adorable vintage purse, circa 1940s-50s, was one of my favorite finds at the U.S. 40 sales. I paid $5 for the little gray fabric clutch purse (below) with a label inside that says Graceline Master Purse.
The person I purchased it from said she had acquired it from the estate sale of a collector who had a massive vintage purse collection and that after researching its label, she discovered it was made in the 1940s or 1950s by Graceline, which was a line named after popular actress Grace Kelly (Princess Grace). Naturally, this only heightened the purse’s appeal to me because I love old Hollywood movies.
However, after trying to conduct some research on the purse myself and trying to contact various vintage accessories experts, I am sad to report I can neither confirm nor deny this attribution. All I was able to uncover so far is that Graceline purses seem to be popular items on eBay, but I couldn’t find anything about the company itself other than a Graceline Handbags, Inc. was listed at 27 W. 33rd St., New York, N.Y., in August 1942 and at 1 E. 33rd St., New York, N.Y., in January 1954. Vintage advertisements I’ve found say Graceline Hand Bags ... America’s Largest Producers of Fabric Handbags to Retail at $2 -- $3 -- $5 and Graceline Hand Bags ... America’s Largest Producers of Fabric Handbags $35.65 to $57 per dozen.
If any of the readers out there know more about Graceline, I’d be happy to hear from you! I’d be willing to share any information anyone may provide in a follow-up that will hopefully shed some more light on the subject.
Form and Function
Ahhh, another buying venture! Our trip down U.S. 40 was, as all editorial marketing research trips are, entertaining and educational. This year’s trip was in extreme heat, but I found everything except a coaster set that I was searching for, and ended up with some great buys.
Again, I am shopping for functional items for my new home, so I was a bit more focused than I was during last year’s trip. I felt quite accomplished when I did unload my goods at home, because everything that I purchased certainly fits into my décor (or what will be décor when painting, etc. is complete.)
At our first stop – just outside of Knightstown – I came upon a steamer trunk with great embossed metal work that I absolutely had to have. It’s function? To hold my sweaters, or blankets … something. I know I can find a function, even if it’s just to look great at the end of my bed.
My other purchases were random: a vintage 1950s mail holder (below) that matches the light I bought to go above my little kitchen table (and I’m painting green, so good on the color coordination as well); a tomato (not vintage, mind you); two shirts for my son; and a 1940s vintage beaded clutch for my friend Robin’s birthday – she’s going to go crazy over it.
The only purchase I did not make that I now regret were the set of 1970s TV trays – with a floral pattern that I loved – for $3. They were all in great condition, and sold as a set of four. I didn’t know what in the world I’d do with TV trays since I don’t let my son eat on anything but his own little Cars tray (it has deep wells on the sides for spills) so I walked away. Kim and I both considered them, but went on down the trail of U.S. 40.
I’m looking forward to next year!