Friday, September 30, 2011

Mackinac Bridge Dedication Postcard

Old postcards are some of the "other stuff" I collect. This one features the Mackinac Bridge, the beautiful, five mile long engineering marvel that connects Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas, spanning the deep, cold, and dangerous waters of the Mackinac Straits. It marks the division between two of the five Great Lakes, Michigan and Huron.
The bridge opened to traffic on November 1, 1957 after decades of planning, three years of construction, and the tragic deaths of five crewmen, including a diver, welders, and iron workers.

Although the bridge opened in November (a notoriously unpredictable weather month in northern Michigan), the official dedication ceremony didn't take place until June 25 of the following summer. Bernice and Larry Kopp of Royal Oak, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, attended and cleverly mailed themselves this souvenir postcard. "Here for the dedication of the big Mac, June 26-27-28," Bernice wrote, before addressing the card to their own home on 1503 Mohawk.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Old Minnie Mouse Figurine

Beneath all this wear is a 1930s Minnie Mouse lead figurine, just 2 1/2 inches tall. She's clearly been through a lot, but is still smiling.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carnival Chalkware Prize

This carnival chalkware prize is Bimbo, Betty Boop's doggie boyfriend. Bimbo starred in his own cartoons, with the first appearing in 1930. As Betty's star surpassed his own, he was relegated to boyfriend/sidekick status before disappearing altogether, allegedly due to concerns about the interspecies nature of their relationship...

7 inches tall, circa the 1950s.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Antique Show Find: Mentor Game

Found this far out game at a summer antique show: Mentor, the Electronic Wizard, made by Hasbro in 1960. The giant bronze plastic head is Mentor. He looks like something out of Metropolis, an Art Deco robot with a mind of his own. To play, you select one of the cardboard game tracks, and insert it into the board. You and Mentor then take turns moving the pawn (a giant finger) along the track. Mentor tells you how many spaces he wants to move by flashing the lightbulbs on the base. First one to the finish wins, and it's usually Mentor.

Mentor, in a characteristically thoughtful mood.

Mentor game boards.

 The moving finger, wired up to Mentor.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Antique Show Find: Mr. Potato Head Knock Off

Mr. Potato Head and I have a longstanding love affair, but occasionally I succumb to the charms of one his imitators. This "Funny Face Kit" was made in Hong Kong in the early 1960s, a low grade knock-off of the original. The whole set is just 5 1/4 inches tall, made of cheap plastic attached to a thin card. Potato Head experts have discovered these originally came in cellophane bags, and were distributed via dime stores or as carnival prizes. Visit, source of my arcane knowledge, to see more fun fakes.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tiny Treasures: Vintage Gumball Machine Prizes

As a kid, I adored the gumball machines full of tiny toys in the entrance of the grocery store. I would save my change for weeks and then, like a casino slots addict, feed coin after coin after coin into my favored machine, never giving up my belief that if I put in just one more dime, I'd finally get whatever must-have item had obsessed me.

Once I grew up, I was delighted to discover that private citizens can buy their own gumball machines, and I now have 5 vintage venders full of fantastic treasures in my dining room. Still, I'm always on the lookout for cool gumball prizes when I'm antiquing (and actually, still at the grocery store too.) I found this lot at a show this summer, and it had some really great pieces, mostly from the 1960s-70s.

This may look like a pile of cheap plastic, and it is, 
but it's also full of tiny treasures.

My favorite piece was this little pink guy with a really big nose.

The oldest item was this Barney Google charm: 

Monster charms are always a good find; these are from the '60s.

Oh joy of joys: a bunch of Funny Froot rings! I lusted after these as a child, but sadly, only ever got the Avocado Man (second from right).

Keeping with the anthropomorphic theme: a smiling radish guy pin:

An itty bitty parachute toy, barely an inch long, and never opened:

And last but not least: tiny fish and clamshell charms. I can remember seeing these as a kid, too, and being profoundly disappointed when, several dollars worth of dimes later, all I had gotten were lame stickers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Antique Show Find: Vintage Spacemen

Vintage space toys are some of my favorites, and I'm always on the lookout for them at antique shows. Recently I found these 3 fabulous space guys. At 3 1/4 inches tall, they're smaller than the famed Archer Space Men, but they have their own great style.

Marching into the future, circa the 1950s.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Antique Show Find: Lithographed Toy Blocks

I found the most beautiful set of toy blocks at an antique show this summer, and I've never seen another like them. Made of lithographed paper over wood, they are most likely from the McLaughlin Bros. company, and date circa 1890.

Each block is 4 inches tall, and each side is different, making the blocks many toys instead of one. One broad side has Fairy Land Railroad cars while the other has a Punch and Judy show, and the narrow edges have either numbers or soldiers. The alphabet runs along one side too, like a frame.

We'll start with a few of the Fairy Land R. R. cars, which depict characters from famous fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and classic children's stories. Turned horizontally, they can be lined up to make a train.

There's even a mail car, and a candy hauler:

The character sneaking a peek into the candy car is Mr. Punch, the famous maniacal puppet. By turning the blocks around and standing them vertically, they make a complete Punch and Judy show.

Oh no: Mr. Punch shakes the baby!

Then, he and Judy smack each other with sticks.

Punch is in serious trouble...

  ...but somehow he gets out of it.
(I'm missing a block here, 
so I'm not sure how he managed it.)

Finally, turning the blocks sideways gives you a little army all your own, complete with a drummer:

What a fantastically versatile toy: can't you just picture a little Victorian child playing with this by the hour on the floor of the nursery?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Antique Show Find: Teddy Bear Characters

I found these three crazy character bears in the booth of one of my favorite dealers at an antique show this past summer. It was love at first sight: I couldn't leave any of them behind. From left to right: American, 13 inches, circa 1904; English, 10 inches, circa 1930s; and German, 16 inches, circa 1920s.

The ancient American bear is really unusual, with a broad, melon shaped head and a funny expression. Even with his extreme wear, there was just something really charming about him.

This is a face that has seen a lot of living.

The chubby little English ted has (the remains of) long golden blonde mohair with contrasting shaggy brown ears (original) and a cute face with a tiny pink tongue. 

 I just love this nose.

The German bear is one of the tallest and skinniest teddies I've ever seen, with long, long legs and a serious expression. He came wearing a vintage sweater with an old Audubon Society badge; apparently he's into bird-watching.

 He is exceptionally alert looking, this one.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Antique Show Finds

I only made it to one big outdoor antique show this summer, but it was a good one. Finds included, in descending order of expensiveness:

-3 antique teddy bears, great characters all
-a set of beautiful antique lithographed wooden blocks
-some vintage plastic space guys
-a bag full of vintage gumball machine charms, rings, and tiny toys
-a vintage Mr. Potato Head fake
-a 1960s Mentor board game
-and a vintage Weeble

Coming soon!