Thursday, November 27, 2014

Mean While Back at The Store:

There is something to be said about having a store pet. Small dogs and large non-threatening dogs are the most common canine.  Who doesn't love the thoughts of a lab curled up under a table or sprawled on a couch. They typically, welcome a pet or a "Helloooo there boy!  How are you pretty guy?" They will spring to life, like a key wound toy soldier, and pant or cock a head with the look of "HEY you want to play or rub my belly?"  Cats are the most common pet in residence. I guess that this stems from the fact that, cats are self preservers.  They make it seem proper and right that YOU, serve them and not the other way around.  They seem to blend in. They make themselves become part of the atmosphere, a fixture of the culture and place.   Well, for many years,  I had a store cat. Antiquea was her name.  Great name for an antiques store cat.  I'm not sure that she liked it or not. But, she would answer to it.  That is amazing, as any cat owner or cat slave knows.  Everything about this cat was amazing and different.  I saw her for the first time near my back porch, looking for something to eat.  All I said to her was, " Hey kitty cat, what are you doin'?" Evidently, that was translated into cat speak for, "Come here and live and I'll feed you." That's what happened,  she came and I fed her.  All I had was a can of Hormel potted meat and she ate it with delight.  Come to think of it, potted meat and cat food do look a lot alike.  My God, she was thin!  In her healthy days, I fattened her up some, but she never did become a fat cat. It must have been her hard scrap life that kept her thin and agile. She curled up on a towel I had laid out and this became her home for the next 15 odd years. Proper cat bedding and toys quickly followed, but she never much cared for them.  Antiquea preferred to hunker down in the section where I kept large paper bags at the front counter. I worried that she would be cold in winter, until I reached my hand in and found it toasty warm from her own body heat. I however, was often cold, and still am.  

It seems hard to believe that yesterday marked the 6 year anniversary, since Antiquea last left the store. I knew that the time was quickly approaching.  A major holiday, a holiday weekend  and promises of another holiday would prolong her suffering.  I choose this time, so that things would be quiet in the closed store, after the deed was completed. I looked back, a few days ago, at photos of her during her last weeks with me. Shockingly, I found that she had nearly reverted to her former skinney, starved looked.  But I knew that there was one difference, she had been loved, and become a character in the store. Never to be replaced. Though she was independent, she had changed from that of a street cat, a stray feline, to that of a minor Main Street star and legend. 

Antiquea loved to be on the front counter.  It made it easier for folks to pet her. 
What a treasure she was to have in the store. I didn't choose her, she picked me. That little cat was responsible for more sales than you can imagine. I think that, as a thank you to me, she endured years of her eyes being almost poked out. Sometimes by kids, just being kids and more often than not, by adults who, " Didn't think she was real?".  Would you go up to a statue and poke its eyes, even if you knew it was a statue or figurine?   I wouldn't think so.  She was carried, packed, toted, talked to, kissed, loved on and once was placed in a baby stroller with A BABY!  I'll never forget the elegant, older woman, who rolled around on the floor playing with her. Her expensive skirt riding up around her thighs.  She cried real tears, when I wouldn't sell her. Her husband had to almost drag her away. I think that she might have had serious metal issues. People loved to give her treats and cans of her favorite foods.  The servant of said cat, received nothing.  Honestly, I did make sales because of her. So in a way she did pay for her keep.  

There are times that I think I still catch a glimpse of her. You know its funny... I still have her litter box set up and her food dish is under the counter. People still ask about her and more than one sent a sympathy card when she died. I secretly chuckle when folks say that they just saw her last year when they were in town to see Mom and Dad. I guess they don't visit Mom and Dad as much as they should. 

And NO there will not be another store cat in the future. I'm not being cruel or denying myself or another animal joy... I raised her, cared for her, befriended her and had her put to sleep and I'm done with that job. I know that there are other animals out there that need help, care and love, but it won't be from me. I'll be more than happy to give an animal food or donate food to an animal shelter.  But I'm done with my stint as a cat slave.   Dr. Ellis and I were never sure, but we always thought she was about 20 she died. I'll always miss you little girl. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

 That's a Good Question:
Personal Effects Tasha Tudor Books October 2014

Question: Dear Jerry, I love love love Tasha Tudor. I've collected her books, prints and everything I can lay hands. I enjoy her attempts to travel back in time to the 1820's with her clothing and home. I have a couple of her books that are signed. I bought them new and I'm not sure if they have any value aside from whats I paid. I have Tasha Tudor's Heirloom Crafts and The Private World of Tasha Tudor. Both have the dust wrappers, are marked 1st edition and are spotless inside and out. Both are signed but the crafts book is double signed and upside down. Why? Has her death increased their value? Keep the articles coming. I save them. Thanks and kindest regards.

Cover of Tasha's beautiful Heirloom Crafts. 
Answer: I too, enjoy the lifestyle of Tasha Tudor. Though some say that she was living in a bubble of her own fantasy. I think that's harsh. If you can afford to do it, if its what you want and no one is harmed over it, live in the 1820's if you want. However, the world that Tasha created and the one she illustrated are somewhat different from the true life she led. Tasha Tudor was an American author and illustrator. Known for her illustrations of quaint 19th century farm / country life, featuring bonnet topped kids, New England styled homes and long lost customs and traditions. Born as Starling Burgess, in Boston, Massachusetts, in August of 1918. She, while still a child, was re-named Natasha, which was later shortened to Tasha. Following the first of two divorces, she legally adopted her mother's maiden name, Tudor. Tasha and her first husband had four children. Her second marriage was very brief. Tasha died on June 2008, at age 92, in Marlboro,Vermont. The bulk of her two million dollar estate was left to her oldest son Seth and her grandson Winslow. The remaining children were disinherited, due to what was called “their estrangement from their mother.” Though, it was cited that the other children were gifted millions of dollars, in the form of her original art work, during her lifetime. So see it wasn't all tea and cakes and ices.

Tasha Tudor's autograph
Tasha's first book, Pumpkin Moonshine was published in 1938. A mint condition first edition of this title will fetch upwards of $2000.00. More than one hundred other titles, either illustrated or illustrated and written by Tasha culminated her career. Tasha received many awards and honors in her career, including two Caldecott Awards and a Regina Medal. There was several ground breaking exhibits of Tasha's work and collections at such places as The Norman Rockwell Museum,the Henry Ford Museum and Colonial Williamsburg. Her writings, manuscripts and original art work are in collections all over the world.

Tasha is most well known for her children's books and that is where some serious value is. I wish that you'd told me what children's book you have. The two, lets call them “lifestyle books”, that you have are very collectible and beautiful. The addition of signatures is even more desirous. She'll not be signing anymore. The reason for the double upside down signature? Likely, it was during a mob packed book signing and someone just handed her the same book twice, upside down. A double signature does not add nor detract from it's value. I looked online and found that these two titles were being offered for up to $390.00. Realistically, I'd say that in a good book store environment that they would be priced between $75.00 to $100.00 each. You've done pretty well, as you probably paid $25.00 for them when new. Thanks for sharing them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Querulous Quandaries:

Phone rings

(me) J. Sampson Antiques...... How can I help you? 

(woman) Do you sell silver polish?

(me) Yes, I sell Maas and Pine Ola.  Both are really excellent. 

(woman ) Does it take off brown stains?

(me) Brown stains?  What kind of brown stains?

(woman) I don't know?  I've used everything I can lay hands on to clean it. All kinds of silver polish, never dull, semichorme,  I even used some real soft steel wool and comet. I was real careful. 

(woman) Its a real old silver tray. 

(me) How old and what do the brown stains look like?

(woman) Oh, its really old maybe 100 or 200 years old.  You know its funny when I clean it  its a really light pink and then it turns a dark brown in a few days. 

I sighhhh

(me)  Your tray is silver plate and you've scrubbed off the silver plate. You've taken it down to the copper base.  Its copper you see not brown. 

(woman) Really?? That's good isn't it? 

(me) Well, it was but now its ruined. AND you've likely scratched it so much that it couldn't be replated without buffing it down to a nub. 

(woman) THANKS A LOT!  I've ruined my tray.  And I thought I was trying to do something to help it look better. 

(me) Well, you could keep polishing it until it was all copper.

(woman) thanks for talking to me. 

(me) Thanks for calling. 

It likely was a nice older tray not worth much, silver or copper.  Be careful when you clean! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Just the way It Is:

 I just had to share this here. These large fresh and saltwater pearls are going to become more and more rare as our climate changes.  Already the angel skin coral is endangered from the pollution.  This will break records for pearls. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Querulous Quandaries: 

 This happened several years ago but it still makes me laugh. 

I go on a short walk for my lunch hour and I come back.  

(man) How much are these magazines marked $1.00?

(me)  I'd say a dollar.  

(man) Hmmm,

Then he says. 

(man) If I buy three of them will you let me have them for $4.00?

(me)  Yep, I sure will. 

 No, he didn't buy anything. He said as he walked out the door that he just wanted to get some ideas on how to price things for a yard sale. I hope that he does better with the retail aspect than he did with the wholesale.

 I should have kept walking this afternoon. lol.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Just the Way It Is:

As I call Atmos Energy to have my gas turned back on, after the furnaces have had their warm weather slumber. I have to think of the different ways that people perceive winter.  Remember, as a kid you begged, pleaded and prayed for snow?  As an adult you begged, pleaded and prayed NOT to have snow.  I fall into the latter group.  My days of being a kid have long since passed. It does not excite me anymore. Some people are manic about Christmas and all the details it involves. I love the reason and rarely the season.  Some people will actually say that they love snow and bad weather and like to get out in it.  I think those people will lie about other things too.  Here's the rub.  Winter, for about 95% of the antique and collectibles sellers out there, sucks. There are just fewer, much fewer, people out and they have other things on their minds.

Those that are out there are, and are perhaps, playing in it, are buying groceries or other essential things.  They are not looking to add to their book or antiques collections.  An old book, tea pot or pyrex bowl is not always at the top of the list.  I know, I know. When I first went into business I had visions of large comfortable chairs scattered in front of a fireplace, Pendleton throws tossed about,  stacks of books and men with beards and pipes and women with rosy cheeks and sexy boots, gathered around discussing art, Kentucky history and obscure cultural titles of little known books. While I, in my dapper plaid tie, wrap their parcels with brown paper and string. Hot chocolate is poured from various kettles and the music was jazzy and sultry.  As you can imagine, snow circled around outside and piled up in the windows. A good snowy day in the book and antiques trade.

Christmas window at the store from 2008
WRONG!  That scene doesn't not exist. I guess it would if you were independently wealthy or had a wealthy spouse. Maybe, if you lived in a warmer clime and your winter was really your summer. In reality, winter is usually hard and long.  The threat of  high gas bills looms large. The worry of property taxes is burdensome.  And some days, you have just a few customers, and they mistakenly come in looking for candles or plastic Easter rabbits to decorate their tables with. No, they are not interested in your German  paper mache rabbit candy containers. Mainly because they are $200.00 each and they can buy the rabbit they want at Marshalls for $12.00. They tell you this, as they stand holding the door open, as if you're Macy's.

Christmas isn't the same, in this trade, as it is in others.  People will come from Target and say to me, "Boy, they were wild!  I'll bet you're hopping all over the place."  Hopping yes, to jump over the water puddles that sneak in with the ice dam on the roof.  Lets face it, people want electronics and gift cards for electronics.  Not the stuff I sell. Now, I do have a loyal clutch of folks that buy antique gifts for the holidays.  But they're buying them for OTHERS that want that kind of thing. Can you imagine the horror of a twelve year old getting a set of the Leather Stocking Tales for Christmas? Hmmm I think I would have liked that gift myself.

Now, its not all doom and gloom, there are bright spots
.  I've survived twenty two winters, though I'm surprised when spring comes.  There are still some people that manage to come in. Perhaps, I should dig out one of my plaid ties. They might be looking for, hoping for, the very dream scene I described earlier. My tie and some brown paper is the least I can do.