And the road goes on forever...

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Those who know me well know I hardly ever buy anything new without first checking thrift stores to see if I can find the item there first. It’s not always about saving the money either—it’s the thrill of the hunt and the fact that more than likely, something made awhile go is of a much better quality than the items available new today. To say nothing of the “cool” factor of the aged patina and looks of something vintage and it’s not being a cookie-cutter cheap imitation of a real thing. My daughter has actually had comments on the Black & Decker steam iron I gave her (which was made in the USA) by those who never knew the company made irons let alone in the U.S. Well, of course not the newer ones—those went overseas then the company was absorbed altogether by another. Ah, but the old ones---LAST. That’s the primary reason I shop thrift first; if it was made in the U.S. even as long as forty or fifty years ago, it is still likely working. Try that with anything new. 

I guess by now I have trained Marc well—a man who had never set foot in a thrift store before meeting me but he has come to realize the treasures that abound and now will go out of his way to find a good one. On his way to N.D. he was driving different highways this trip and saw one that looked like it needed investigating. Inside he found his treasure, a probably 70 or 80 year old Toastmaster with a cloth cord, in all its made in American pride. For $2.99 it was an outright steal since last I have even seen one in person was in the antique store in Bakersfield where they were going for around $100. Marc reports it works like a champ!
I’ve been getting into several crafting things lately that will require some type of wood to be used as a plaque. Yeah, I can go to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby and pay $10-12 for a small piece of newly cut scrap wood but I chose to try and look first at Goodwill for something that could be repurposed. When I’m in Goodwill I hardly ever stop at just what I am searching for; I wander the aisles seeing what speaks to me—kind of the like the Pier 1 ad. 

Goodwill is always good for picture frames; again why pay more for the new thing at Michael’s when you can buy one, even with the artwork included (which is usually of highly questionable taste) for around $2.99 or so. That my friends is a savings of at least 80%. On this day’s trip, I came across four of an obvious set with old frames and fairly old looking art. To my untrained eye they looked like original watercolors. Not really needing art at the moment and noting that the frames weren’t what I was after either, I finally settled on purchasing just one of the four since it was of a paddle wheeler and you know how I love boats! It was marked $4.99.
I actually found what I was looking for in amongst the pictures—a nice wooden plaque with a metal piece listing the Ten Commandments; those who know me well will get a real kick out of that! Once I’ve removed the metal commandments I should be good to go and maybe my project will be blessed! 

Searching through more of the “wooden” area of shelves filled with the detritus of hobbies gone badly, I spied a wooden bowl. It appeared dusty and pretty worn inside but the outside had a routed lip and sweet patina. Plus, the bowl was obviously out of round which gave it a primitive feel. On the bottom was just stamped “Munising”. I had seen a similar bowl in an antique store here I had greatly admired and lusted after; this one seemed a close enough second I thought it was worth the $2.99 they were asking.
Once home with all my treasures I decided to do a little Google investigation. Imagine my surprise when I found out the bowl is quite a collectible and easily goes on EBay (for the nice ones like this) anywhere from $65-145! It was made by the Munising factory in the upper peninsula of Michigan, which produced bowls and other kitchen implements from 1911-1955. The advent of plastic ware brought about the factories demise but a great majority of their bowls were made from hard rock maple out of solid chunks of wood. It’s exquisite in its primitive feel and cleaned up a lot with a little mineral oil so will make a great addition to my new kitchen holding fruit.
Back to the art. Investigation on that led me to believe it would definitely be in my best interest to backtrack to Goodwill the minute it opened today, which I did and was much relieved to see the other three pieces still available and all marked $4.99 each. It seems it was made by a unique stenciling process off master originals by the College Waterfall Group, now better known as Davis Gray Watercolors. It was all done in pochoir, which when done by Gray’s Watercolors was a process deemed very unique in the U.S. and determined by the courts to be a “secret” process which cannot be duplicated by others even though there is technically no patent. Gray’s pchoir process is no longer employed, thus the prints outstanding are the only ones that will exist, especially since their main two artists are now deceased. And in art, death always enhances value. 

Values are hard to ascertain at this point and could vary with the collector, since they were done in sets and anyone needing some to complete their set would of course, pay more. Those I have appear to be from a set of six, all of scenes from Neenah, WI around the turn of the 20th century. They have a very vintage appeal of their own but if I don’t keep them for my own house it’s nice to know that they could bring $100-200 each at auction given they are limited edition. Label on back of each, alluding to investment value:
Thrifting: who knew it could be so much fun and so profitable!