Thursday, February 28, 2013
Vintage Thursday: What Not to Buy
The other day I mentioned sorting things for the consignment auction--things that we got in box lots and didn't want, and things I should never have bought in the first place. Here's the rest of the story, although these things, for the most part, turned out to not be mistakes.
First, this pretty set of Culver shot glasses in a carrying rack is pretty, isn't it? I thought so and bought it even though one of the glasses was missing. I figured it would be simple enough to find a replacement and knew Culver is hot right now (did you know that? It is.) This is the Valencia pattern, gold with little touches of green in the diamond shapes.
Finding the replacement glass was NOT simple. I looked on eBay for months, checked local shops, etsy, Google...no luck, except for one glass on Replacements.com. Now if you've ever been on the Replacements website you know their prices aren't cheap. And rightly so--their service is to provide that missing, hard-to-find replacement for the tea cup that was part of your great-grandmother's tea set and a prized family heirloom. I finally gave in, and with shipping, paid $23 for the shot glass. A shot glass! But now the set (that I'd bought for $5) was complete. Whoopie, right?
The story has a happy ending, however. I listed the set on eBay and it sold in less than 12 hours for $65.00. In this case, buying the incomplete set worked out in my favor, but that doesn't always happen. Lesson to self, think first buy later.
Then there is this gorgeous jar. Made around 1906, it still looked new and gorgeous in the auction box lot. It was full of stuck-together red candies and jammed into the box with some other pretty nice items. I checked the lid to be sure it wasn't cracked or the rim chipped (so often the case with glass jars) and all looked good. I won the bid and was thrilled to get this beauty along with another lovely cranberry-flashed, etched and footed jar and some other oddments.
When I got it home and got the candy out, look what I discovered:
Yeah, a great big enormous crack going almost halfway around the jar. There's no fix for that. I was so sad. What did I do with the jar? You see it, in the first photo--it's on my end table where I can admire its sparkle (it really does sparkle beautifully) and remind myself to check more carefully before bidding. I will come out alright on this if and when the cranberry jar sells, so please go to eBay and buy it. Just kidding. Not really. Right.
So, on to the next "what was I thinking" item:
Punch bowls are so hard to sell. Everyone pretty much has one and who needs two? In my defense, I didn't really buy this one; it was added to another box lot I was buying. That lot has actually been a treasure trove as I continue to sell from the huge amount of good stuff the auctioneer threw into the mix. Two punch bowl sets were part of the additions. This one, in the Wexford pattern by Anchor Hocking, was made in the 50's-60's. It's huge and has a dozen cups with it. What it was missing was the base. (The other set went back to the auction.)
Now it would be perfectly useful without the base stand, but would it sell? Maybe, but probably for about half of what it might fetch with the stand. Once again I was on the hunt. I looked. And looked. And looked. And finally found one on eBay, that source of all strange and wonderful things. I paid $20 including shipping for just the base. Gulp.
I have this thing for buying single glasses because I know the pattern is collectible or I recognize it as something old. But the amount of effort in selling one glass is the same as selling a whole set of glasses, and the profit is a lot less. So why do I keep doing it? I ask myself that every time I come home from the thrift stores with yet another glass. This one, in the Capri Dot color and pattern by Hazel Atlas, is one of those "hot" patterns these days. Every piece I get sells quickly on eBay so naturally when I see I, I head right for it. But one juice glass? Why bother? Someone please whisper in my ear next time you see me with a single glass in my hand that is not full of wine or juice!
There are times when buying a single glass is worth the effort. Peanut butter glasses and others with the fired-on flowers, words, etc from the 50's and 60's are very popular these days and people hunt for the ones they need to complete a collection. Other glassware such as crystal wineglasses might also be worth the effort but in the long run, buying sets is a better bet.
What other things should be on the do-not-buy list?
1. Stained or damaged linens. Unless you are an expert at repair and at removing stains, don't bother. They won't sell and you'll have a lot of effort in trying to clean them up. There can be big rewards for the person who is willing to tackle a stained vintage cloth and is able to restore it to perfection, but if you're not willing to do the work, leave them alone. I have a basket full of such items. I guess I have a learning curve ahead of me as I try to make these sale-able. There is an excellent website that gives many hints for removing stains called Vintage Tablecloth Club and I expect to be a regular visitor there when the weather warms and I can hang out laundry again. Thrift stores and flea marketers might be able to sell these because their prices are generally lower than an antique mall or store, and buyers in such places are looking for bargains--at least I do! But for the person selling antique and vintage items in a mall or on eBay and looking for more than a dollar or two, stained and damaged linens are best left alone. I'll have a hard time remembering that next time I see a vintage tablecloth with just one little hole and an odd brown stain that I will convince myself I can remove.
2. Chipped, cracked, broken glassware and pottery. There are exceptions, but for the most part, people are looking for perfect pieces for their collections or for decorating purposes. The pretty vase or bowl may sell, but it will be worth much less than a perfect piece. Do I buy such items? Why yes I do--for my own use because I don't really care if a mixing bowl has a little chip in it. Around here, with my hubby doing dishes, it's going to get one sooner or later, guaranteed. But for reselling purposes, I have learned the hard way to stay away, no matter how pretty the item is.
The exceptions: old crocks and bowls with a primitive look to them will still sell, chipped or even cracked. Perhaps not for the best price but they do sell. Early American pattern glass (EAPG), like the piece pictured below, might also sell with a few defects because of its rarity and age. The celery vase below is in a pattern called Grasshopper. It's rare. This one was in a box lot at last week's auction. I'd bought the spooner that matched it (in perfect condition too) and was happy to have this vase until I saw that one of the grasshoppers on the side was missing its lower wings. That reduced that value of this piece from $85 or more to $15, if that.
That's just a little bit of what I've learned--and I haven't even addressed furniture, books, tools, and so many other collectables. The pitfalls are many, the errors are too, but what an interesting adventure I have stumbled into.
Just don't let me stumble into any more single glasses, missing pieces, or stained linens!
Linking today to Colorado Lady, From my Front Porch to Yours, and Open House Party. Stop by and see what they've been up to.