Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Vintage Compact Christmas Gifts, And How to Tell the Difference Between Vintage, Antique, and Collectible

By Randi Reed
Something few people know about me is that if I had to choose a different profession, I could be almost content as antiques* and collectibles dealer. (My mother was into antiques, but my own interest probably springs from needing a respite from having to know and predict current trends for my day job.)

So, I was very happy to receive some vintage compacts as Christmas gifts.

Once upon a time, compacts were designed by fine jewelers and watchmakers and were given as gifts on special occasions. Even Revlon,which was then a higher-end brand, had compacts designed by Van Cleef & Arpels. Max Factor had compacts and lipstick cases adorned with mother of pearl.

If my newly-gifted vintage compacts could talk, they’d probably have great stories to tell:

1950's Revlon goldtone basketweave compact with rhinestones (Photo: Randi Reed/Cosme-Haul).

A 1950’s Revlon goldtone basketweave compact with rhinestones. The rhinestones are intact and the contents are still inside (“Love Pat” in Cream Beige). The puff is still there.

Vintage Swiss-made Elizabeth Arden goldtone basketweave compact. (Photo:Randi Reed/Cosme-Haul.)

A vintage Swiss-made Elizabeth Arden goldtone basketweave compact. At first glance it looks ‘50’s, but its details are different from other ‘50’s and ‘60’s Elizabeth Arden compacts I’ve seen in this design, so I’m still researching it. It still has a powder pan and puff inside. More details on this compact in an upcoming post.

Vintage art deco goldtone compact, maker unknown. (Photo: Randi Reed/Cosme-Haul).

A vintage art deco goldtone compact by an unknown maker. If this was another type of household item, I'd say was from the transition period between streamline and girly-flowery '40's, between 1937-42. Beauty items tended to have more conservative designs than other household items, though, so I'm still working on it. This one is empty and has no puff.

I also received add-on to a collection: a vintage sewing kit. I took a photo, but it's not uploading properly, so I'll have to leave that one for another time.

More photos and info in upcoming posts.

*Clicking around on Ebay shows how varied use of the word “antique” is in the US. Here's the terminology I use because it's what my mom taught me as we went around to shops, but others may disagree:

Antique = 100 years old or more.

= 50 years old or older. Heirloom sometimes refers to an inherited item, but it doesn’t have to be. (Plants are another thing. Some scientists saying heirloom seeds should be 100 years old. I’d call that antique.)

= I use the word “vintage” for items that are 25 years or older, because the fragile nature of textiles make it a common date for vintage clothing. (Some clothing dealers say 20 years old.) Many serious antiques dealers insist items be 50 years old to be called vintage. Because the word "vintage" has many different meanings, always ask a dealer the approximate age of the item.

= A generic term for anything people like to collect. Can be any age, but most often refers to vintage items or items from the era of a collector's childhood. 

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©2014 Randi Reed and Cosme-Haul.