Derek Dahlsad, the hubby half of Fair Oaks Antiques / We Have Your Collectibles, was just featured in today’s Fargo Forum — on the front page, no less!

The article features Derek’s Dakota Death Trip blog. The site was inspired by and named after Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip, one of my favorite books (and films) of all times! Don’t let the name fool you, history buffs & collectors of photographs and ephemera will love it. (Original copies of the book are in high demand too.)

Here’s a link to the article: Fargo man chronicles life and death on the Northern Plains in ‘Dakota Death Trip’.

derek dahlsad fargo forum

UPDATE: Since Inforum doesn’t keep articles viewable very long, here’s a screenshot. Click to enlarge and read.

FireShot Screen Capture #259 - 'Fargo man chronicles life and death on the Northern Plains in 'Dakota Death Trip' I INFORUM I Fargo, ND' - www_inforum_com_event_article_id_431628

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Along with our booth space at Exit 55 Antiques we have a shelf in one of the cases near the wrap desk. For the holiday, we filled it with vintage valentines, antique candy boxes, vintage cameras, and a few other bits and bobs…

vintage cameras and valentines for sale

antique valentines candy boxes fair oaks antiques

Here are two of the antique mechanical valentines in action!

We also have some old valentines for sale in our Etsy shop.

You can look at, and learn more about, these and other antique and vintage Valentines we’ve shared here, here, here, and here.

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A few weeks ago, we changed our window display at Antiques On Broadway (from the back to school theme) to reflect the seasonal changes. Now the window features items to create a vintage and nostalgic holiday season, with a heavy emphasis on the kitchen, cooking, and baking. (Because no matter which holidays you celebrate, food is a part of it!)

vintage kitchen window fair oaks antiques

Our case there also received a holiday touch, including the holiday centerpiece made from an old wooden drawer.

rustic holiday centerpiece

At Exit 55 Antiques, we’ve brought in a lot of vintage holiday Christmas ornaments. Some decorate the little tree in our booth space; lots more can be found in our case display too. (Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more as well!)

vintage ornaments from fair oaks antiques

In other news…

We continue to update at Inherited Values and Deanna’s been writing about “odd” collectibles (Part One, Part Two) for Collector Perspectives.

We no longer have a permanent Milwaukee location; so watch for lots of mid-century modern to hit our Etsy shop!

vintage and retro christmas ornaments on tree

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I’ve been busy with articles again this month, including Collecting Halloween: The history of Halloween postcards and costumes at Collector Perspectives. UPDATE: Article is now here. I’ve also written a four-part series on Sewing Pattern History: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four. Meeting in the middle, there’s also a brief note on antique costume pattern auction news.

I also write regularly for the Dolls By Diane newsletter. UPDATE: Business was sold; article now posted here! This month it was all about wax dolls — from their history to some spook-tacular antique wax dolls, including 17th century wax anatomical models (like those by Anna Morandi Manzolini) and effigy dolls:

Some of you may have heard of the many Victorian mourning practices, or mourning memori, such as postmortem photography and mourning hair art. These may seem morbid, but they were deeply valued traditions involving keepsakes to remember lost loved ones by. Another common practice in mourning at the turn of that last century was that of the effigy or burial doll.

GRAVE DOLL WAX EFFIGY 1860 WITH BOOK

When a child had passed away, it was traditional for families who could afford it to have a lifesize wax effigy of the child made for the funeral. The wax doll would be dressed in the infant or child’s own clothing. Most often the deceased child’s own hair would be used to make the doll even more realistic. These wax dolls usually show the deceased in repose, eyes closed, as if sleeping. The backsides of the heads were made flat so that the doll would lay nicely when laid out to rest.

The effigy doll would be put on display at the wake. Often the doll would then be left by the gravesite. But we do know, from the effigy dolls which still exist today, that in some cases these wax effigy dolls were kept. Wax effigies of infants would be placed in a crib, their clothes would be changed, and otherwise treated like a real baby. The bodies of these wax dolls would be cloth, weighted with sand to give it a more realistic feel when being held. Othertimes, the effigy itself would be framed. For older children, just the head and shoulders were created in wax effigy, also with the flat backsides, so that they could be placed in a picture frame. They were the ultimate way to attempt to reject the finality of death of a loved little one.

If you’d like to read the entire article, go here.

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Sometimes I fall in love with things — to the point of obsession, or, as the hubby would say, to the point of stupidity. *wink* Today’s example is an old preserves jar.

vintage old manse preserves bottle jar

I knew that whatever was in this old glass jar was not a “good thing,” but somehow the metallic silver tone still sparkled and beckoned from behind the decorative molded glass. Look how the caramel-colored whatever-it-is seemed to flow along the inside of the smooth art deco lines! And who doesn’t love the dear Old Manse paper label on the front?! So I snapped it up.

old manse jar bottle before

But as soon as we got it to the van — and I do mean that it literally began after I bought it and brought it to the van — something really funky happened…

There was a strong odor — like that of gasoline. And there was some icky-sticky stuff beginning to bubble and ooze from a tiny rotted puncture in the jar’s lid…

leaking lid on vintage preserves bottle

Hubby once again admonished the purchase, saying we should toss it out in the garbage. As if! I was too smitten.

So I took the old glass jar home and proceeded to clean it out.

First, I tried to remove the lid. But it was firmly adhered to the red rubber seal — and the red rubber seal to the glass. So I proceeded to gently but firmly tear along the rotting edge of the jar’s lid with an old house key. Just a bit a first, so I could pour out the stinking liquid. It didn’t drain this old bottle as much as I’d thought. Thinking the more solid pieces were preventing proper drainage, I went back to continuing to tear at the old lid. It was pretty soft with the rot, but when I hit an area which was too tough I did enlist the husband’s help to finish prying the lid top all the way off. Eventually we effectively scalped it, leaving the red rubber seal and rim of the lid intact. This fully released the Kraken of smell. Ugh.

removing the stuck lid on the preserves jar

pried zinc lid off old jar

There still was not a lot of liquid to pour out. In fact, most of the whateveritwas was as stubborn and stuck to the glass as the seal and lid.

Given the approximate 2 and 1/2 inch opening of the jar, I had to be careful working with the ripped-off lid and what remained of the rough, sharp edges. We used a pliers to peel off sections of the old zinc lid and rubber seal.

Next, I had to try several different things to try to dislodge the gunk. I tried a pair of tongs, but whatever was in the center was as strong as a human tongue — and had roughly the same texture. Only it, and the entire jar, was covered in that metallic silver stuff too. Silver stuff that just didn’t scrape off. Not even with the business end of a steak knife.

I stabbed a few holes and slits in the center “tongue” and filled the jar with a mixture of bleach & water and let it sit. Several hours later, no change; so I repeated filling the jar with bleach water and let it sit over night.

Still nothing budged.

While hubby and I had initially thought that was that this was just a bottle of rotting preserves, the silver stuff a result of some sort of rotting chemical reaction with the old zinc jar lid; but after a few attempts to dislodge the stuff it became clear this was unlike anything I (or you!) could imagine.

I turned to the Internet.

Eventually, I came across the BLM/SHA Historic Glass Bottle ID & Information Website. I figured that among all the archaeologists and collectors of old glass bottles someone must have run into whatever it was I was stuck with. There were no articles or advice to be found on the subject of cleaning old bottles; so I sent an email, crossed my fingers, and waited. I didn’t have to wait long for a response. Bill Lindsey was quick to reply. Unfortunately, Lindsey had “no ideas at all” on how to clean this Old Manse jar. “Sorry,” he wrote, “I’m into the bottles and their history, not the contents very much.”

Well, I too was not so much interested in the smelly gunk as I was the old glass bottle. But, unfortunately, this was a mess I had to deal with — if I wanted to salvage the bottle. And I did!

Over the next few days, I continued to literally chip & tear away at the physical problem.

What makes this vintage glass jar or bottle so beautiful is exactly what makes it so hard to clean! The art deco lines, the rounded shoulders, the way the glass bottle narrows to the bottom — these were all difficult to clean. I sat for hours, wedging my hand into the mouth of the jar, carefully chipping, scraping, tearing, and cutting at the stuff inside. I used steak knives, tongs, and an old bread knife. (The bread knife, while it unable to cut anything anymore, had a long, slightly curved blade with a wide, rounded, blunt end which could reach areas of the molded class that other things could not). I alternated between the “tools” and using the “tools” to employ the power of Chore Boy scrubbers by leveraging the scrubbing pads into the glass. And, boy, were my hands sore from all the unusual dexterity! I had a very small space to work in, to apply pressure in, while my other hand held the bottle securely. In between scraping sessions, there were soaking sessions too. I made progress. But it was far from clean.

At this point, hubby was convinced that what was in this old glass bottle was old model paint. That would explain the large quantities of metallic silver, if not the hard waxy stuff. So I began to apply mineral spirits. It helped. But it sure was not the quick fix one hoped for, not even after I had manged to tear-out, chunk by chunk, that thing I called “the tongue”.

removed clumps of the tounge of junk in jar

I continued to alternate scraping with soaks and rinses. Not only using the mineral spirits, but with other cleaning products (including dish soap, standard kitchen spray cleaners, and CLR), and, of course, lots of hot water. Often I would fill the bottle about half-way with my fluid of choice and, with my hand over the mouth of the bottle, swish and swirl the liquid around. Sometimes I left the Chore Boy in for a bit more help. I hoped. It may surprise you, but that swishing actually did break off some of the stuff that lay at the bottom of the jar (in the crease where the bottom joined the sides of the jar was especially hard to fiddle any “tool” into).

cleaning old preserves jar bottle

stuff in bottom of old glass bottle jar

Oelerich & Berry Co Chicago bottle

All the chemicals aggravated my skin, of course; but I didn’t trust gloves to hold the glass securely. And there was no way I was going to break this jar! Not after all of this! Plus, I had to do all this while trying to preserve the old paper label.

When I took much-needed breaks, I corresponded with Lindsey about my thoughts on dating the glass preserves jar. (Details of that are here.)

Eventually, bit by stinking bit, I did get the jar clean. Probably not clean enough to preserve any food in, mind you; but good enough to meet collector standards. And without any chips to the glass itself, and minimal wear on that beautiful label. Isn’t she a beauty?! I just knew she would be!

vintage Oelerich & Berry Co Old Manse bottle

Now, the only question hubby has for me is, am I going to sell it? UPDATE: I am selling it here.

old preserves bottle before after

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While hubby and I thrill to go pickin’ for antiques in barns, there’s more than a little work involved in dealing with the not-so-nice side of “farm fresh”.

“Farm fresh” really is an oxymoron; for the reality is that these items are typically covered in all sort of “ick” — like bird and animal droppings, spider webs, and other things that make the layer (or two) of good old-fashioned dirt seem heavenly. *wink* Since I’ve just spent the past two days restoring some “farm fresh” finds (and rather spectacular ones at that — antique wooden school desk sets!), I thought it would be a good time to talk about just how to properly clean, care for, and restore antique wooden pieces.

It is important to note that when I say “restore”, I don’t mean “refinishing” these pieces. Like most collectors, we prefer to bring pieces back to life — while maintaining the patina and other signs of their former lives. Whether your antique and vintage furniture and other wooden items are covered in “farm fresh” filth or just need a little clean-up, here’s how you can gently take care of them.

As you can see, these old children’s school desk sets looked like they came out of a barn.

farm fresh dirty antique school desks

To remove the first layer of “crud”, you’ll want to “power wash” with the lawn hose. Stand a few feet away, and let the water spray away the cobwebs, leaves, dirt, clumps of bird poo, etc. Turn the piece over, so that you can get beneath it. This will remove a lot of the surface dirt, as well as stuff that’s hiding in nooks, crannies, and crevices.

antique wooden school desks

Unfortunately, that’s the easiest part. There’s lots more to do yet. And there’s nothing left to do but do it! *wink*

While the piece is still wet, fill a bucket with warm water, add some Murphy’s Oil Soap, and scrub with a rag. While the manufacturer does not recommend using Murphy’s Oil Soap on unfinished or unsealed wood (and with these old pieces, lots of the original finishes have been stripped or have just plain worn away), we’ve never had any problems. As with anything, test a small area first — especially if you have a painted piece of furniture, or one with decals.

At this point, you’ve probably got a bucket full of mud — and furniture that still isn’t clean. So you’ll need another bucket full of clean warm water and Murphy Oil Soap. Only this time, you’ll want to use one of those cleaning sponges with a non-scratching scrubby-side. (For projects like these, we recycle all the sponges which have been spent cleaning around the house.) Use the sponge to scrub off more stubborn dirt, going with the grain of the wood.

Now, you’ll want to let the pieces dry to be better able to evaluate them. (Plus, your arms will want the rest!)

Once completely dried, we discovered that these desks had been used as tables for painting projects — or at least to hold one of the paint cans, for there was a giant ring of paint and several large splashes of paint too. (Likely lead-based too.) So we had to make a choice and we opted to lightly sand away the offensive paint stains. Then it was one more wash with another bucket of diluted Murphy’s Oil Soap; this time using the soft side of the sponge to go with the wood grain.

After the desks and chairs had completely dried again, we were left with what nearly looked like bone-dry, but spotted, wood that had been left in the desert. Once again, we had to make a choice. While we do adore the charms of worn wood, this was too-worn looking; so we opted to liven it up a bit. But just a bit. While oil can darken or even blacken stained wood, we felt oil was better than wax in this particular case. (With finer pieces, you’ll probably want to use a paste wax. And if you have a lot of different types of antiques you want to treat, Renaissance Wax Polish can be used on lots of other surfaces. And, again, always test in a small, inconspicuous area first.) In the case of these antique school desks, we applied Old English Lemon Oil. Twice. The first coat was rubbed in, left overnight, then another coat was rubbed in the next day. This was the final result:

oiled antique school desks chairs

I think they turned-out quite lovely; even if I do say so myself!

I just love the patina on the one desk with the fancier (older) iron legs — complete with whatever remains of the green stain used and, most charming of all, the old carvings former students had made in the desk top.

names carved into antique wooden school desk

And this is how they look in the “back to school” window display at Antiques On Broadway, here in Fargo:

antique wooden school desks window fargo antiques on broadway

Now let’s talk about taking care of your antique furniture.

Beware the orange oil cleaners, especially for every day use. We can tell you from painful personal experience that those cleaners stripped the finish clear off an antique five-leg table in less than a year. For every day cleaning, use a damp towel with a mild soap — and, with a soft clean cloth, buff dry thoroughly. Wax or oil only when the shine has really left, which is likely once or twice a year.

 

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buy sell antiques fargo moorheadWith all the work we do in antiques and collectibles, we are often asked about appraisals. Here’s what we know, and what we do.

First of all, it is important to note that there is no such thing as a licensed appraiser in the United States of America. Unlike real estate appraisers, antiques appraisers (also called personal property appraisers) are not regulated at either the state or Federal level. Therefore, there are no state or “U.S. certified” antiques appraisers. There are, however, various appraiser societies such as the Appraisers Association of America (AAA), American Society of Appraisers (ASA), and International Society of Appraisers (ISA) which provide certification to their accredited members. These members have paid for such training and certification and they (rightfully) expect to profit from it. However, as such an investment in certification may not be a financially viable option for professionals in smaller towns, rural areas, and other less populated areas, you may not have access to such an appraiser locally.

If you’re looking to sell an item yourself, or are just curious about the value of something, we recommend reading this article (by moi) and/or paying for a service like PriceMiner. If you don’t have the time, or are too overwhelmed for such condition comparisons and investigations, we offer research & appraisal services which will help you get a “snapshot” perspective of the market as it is now, and, should you have a very valuable item or collection, we can refer you to the contacts we have at Cowan’s Auctions, Heritage Auctions, and/or Ivey-Selkirk. If you are rather certain that what you have has great monetary value, these auction houses will perform “verbal” or non-official appraisals to provide estimated auction values — even if you do not consign your item with them.

It is important to note that these services are not the same as appraisals for insurance, contractual, or other official purposes. (Heck, sometimes even your local pawn shop may require an official written appraisal in order to give you a more realistic value on a piece of fine jewelry.) In these cases, you will want someone who can properly complete the necessary paperwork to satisfy the requirements of your insurance company, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), etc. In those cases, you’ll need to pay for the professional services of an appraiser. (Yes, jewelry stores charge for these sorts of appraisals too.) If you are unsure of where to start your search for a reputable appraiser, you should know that the aforementioned auctioneers and other auction houses such as Sotheby’s will provide acceptable official written appraisals for insurance, estate, tax, or other legal purposes — for a fee. These companies may reduce the appraisal fee if you opt to use their auction services.

In the end, the type of appraisal help you need for your antique or collectible item is actually dependent upon one thing: your need of the appraisal. Are you curious? Hoping to make a few bucks? Or do you have a legal or contractual obligation for the appraisal?

Lastly, remember that the antiques and collectibles market, like any other, changes. That means appraisals, no matter who does them, ought to be performed every two to three years.

PS The photo (which you can click on to see a larger version) is of our recent display (of mostly Mid-Century Modern items) in the window space we have at Antiques On Broadway, in Fargo.

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We’ve been so busy this summer with selling at flea markets and increasing our booth space at Exit 55, that we’ve barely mentioned our writing here — but believe us, we’ve still been writing! We’ll try to do at least a weekly round-up of what and where we’ve been writing about antiques and collectibles. Here’s just some of what we’ve done in the past few days:

Derek wrote about the collectibles you can find in your very own pockets at flea markets and sales.

My most recent Collectors Quest column was about primitives and I received a question about one of the items in the photographs. Here is my response about the history of a small-to-medium sized antique keg or barrel.

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If you’re a collector of items or advertising from Minnesota companies, check out the vintage glass bottle of Gold Cross liquid “concentrated beverage base” in “imitation strawberry” flavoring currently in our case at Exit 55 Antiques. The syrup was made by Brechet & Richter Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota; here’s the article I wrote about the company and the bottle.

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