Monday, February 27, 2012

COUNTRY AUCTION - PART 3 - There are no such things as "friends" at an auction!

They say there is no such thing as a "friend" at an auction. We all know what we will bid, what we want to pay, what we need to pay, the values, retail, wholesale, whatever.

However, that said, sometimes it is a good idea to make sure that if there are people at the sale you know well and are good friends, you may want to sit near enough to them to chat a bit.

A buddy and picker friend of mine just started back into the picking game after a bit of a hiatus.  He's hitting the road, auctions, yard sales, flea markets, cold calls, etc, and hitting them fairly hard, hoping to make it a full time living. He has picked for years prior to his hiatus, as a collector who was tired of not being able to find very many objects of his desire at antique shops and shows.  Apparently, my shop was one of the few stores where he always seemed to find something fresh for his collection.

I was always adding fresh picks to my  inventory, and my tastes were in line with his, where as many of the traditional, older dealers inventory tended to grow stagnant and/or was overflowing with glass, china, and what was then "traditional" fare.

Anyway, we have reconnected after several years, and he's back at it, and hoping to make it a living.  He is a guy with an advantage over most of the "newbies", as he is not "new" to picking....but he is new to making a living in the junk biz.  I hope it works out for him, I really do.  His horizons are expanding, the blinders are now almost off, and his focus has broadened, interests are widening in scope, and his brain is absorbing all it can.

Being in  Manitoba, it is not going to be easy, which I think he is well aware of. He's seen all sorts of folks come and go in this biz, and only a handful who are still at it after many years.  I guess my pickin' life could be one of those inspirations, tho my career could be a cautionary take on this, too!

 If you never make mistakes you are not learning a damn thing, in my opinion.  He may (and will) make some of the same mistakes I have made, and some uniquely his own. Being a friend, I am doing my best to steer him clear of many of the ones I made. Someone else might as well benefit!

Anyway, one mistake I made at the auction was sitting where my wife wanted to sit.

She likes the front row. I prefer the middle, back or standing at the sides, wandering around if I get bored, or need to get out of the line of sight of those folks who decide that just because a (knowledgeable) dealer is bidding, that they should bid, too.  If you are one of those folks, a word of caution...that really is a bad idea...which I've discussed in one of my previous posts.

Anyway, I sat with her, but did get that wandering itch, and did cruise around the hall a bit, re-examining things, looking deeper, taking a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th look at items I had only casually examined initially.

Bidding was strong, prices were going far higher than normal.  Thus, buying items that weren't quite what they appeared to be, were damaged, missing pieces, repaired, faked, etc, could have a negative effect on my finances that I'd regret.

Had I sat near my buddy, we'd both have saved some money.

One of the lots of note was 2 1950s prints....bad, bad, bad 1950s prints.  Both were those textured cardboard prints popular in the 50s,60s,70s, 80s, and even to date, of famous master's works. It is the sort of stuff that is sold for "cheap" prices to the masses by stores of the Woolworth's/Woolco/K-Mart/Wal-Mart  ilk.

The one I was after was a copy of one of a series of Van Gogh's Sunflowers.

Why the heck would I want one of those???

I know, you are thinking: "Surely it HAD to be temporary insanity!"


A sharp eye, knowledge and experience made me want it.

Or, rather, what was HIDDEN in it!

You see, when I flipped it over, I could see a surface tear on the cardboard backing.

In the shape of the mark that an "easel back" piece had been fastened.

And I could see that the cardboard had some writing on the other side, via a spot where I could lift it ever so slightly.  But, if I got looking TOO close, or even yanking out some of the fasteners, and pulling it right out of the frame would make my observation and discovery too obvious....and potentially incur the wrath of a consignor, auctioneer, etc.

 Plus, old cardboard can be less than flexible...sometimes even so brittle it will crumble upon being lifted with any sort of strain on it.

So, I had to decide if I was going to gamble on it.

For $2 or $4, it is what I call a "lottery ticket"....a "sort of" a gamble....though, the odds are better due to the knowledge I have of its potential contents.  About all I could make out was some blue lettering, and what I recognized right away as the winged boot logo Goodyear uses.

I also had a strong feeling it had been trimmed, however, which will make the value plummet, if not eliminate it from being any more than a chunk of worthless cardboard. Upon close inspection, I recognized that one edge was not 100% straight, and had a few stray strands of cardboard on its edge, like small tails...tell-tale tails...of a not 100% steady hand, with a razor knife in it.

But, these sorts of pictures sell for next to nothing at auctions...shouldn't have to pay more than $5, TOPS.

The auctioneer, well aware of the fact they sell for little, put two pictures together as a lot. Both were as worthless as the other for what they were. One had a fancy "carved" frame that was semi-attractive, in an old, faux antique-ish sort of way.

Bidding started at $2...and ended with me owning them at $20.00.

Hmmm.....Seems that I lost control of my mind...maybe it WAS temporary insanity.

 Well,  not really...I let my curiosity overtake intelligence, knowledge, experience and gut. A rookie mistake, but one which long time vets will still make from time to time. Usually 4 beats 1, but curiosity is powerful.

Frankly, when it is under control, it is a good thing when picking...but sometimes it can be a bad thing at auctions.

Only one other bidder was bidding.....and I quickly figured out it may have been my buddy sitting in the back with his family.


I couldn't figure out why he would bid...the odds were against it 1000 to 1....

I went right over with the 2 pieces, and as it turned out his wife wanted the Van Gogh print. What she wants she will get, which, being married, also, I understand. Good to keep the wife happy, especially after sitting in a hall of people, partly bored, and with a small baby to tend for. If she isn't kept happy, odds are he won't be attending many more auctions, with or without her!

Twenty bucks is a small price to pay for that....but I outbid him....unfortunately.

We made a deal to split the cost, and I would keep the cardboard backing of the Van Gogh and the other picture, which I really did not want. He'd get the Van Gogh and his wife would be happy.

I took it apart there, and he gained some knowledge that may serve him well in the future.

I gained a cut, and thus worthless, chunk of 1950s cardboard, that used to be a collectible, vintage sign. I gifted it back to him on the spot, as it was worth more as backing for that picture. It saved him the hassle of cutting a new piece.

I  took my other ugly, cheap print and tossed it on my pile of purchases, only having lost $10 for my curiosity getting out of control.

Let that be a lesson to you......actually, TWO lessons!  One will save you money the other will make you money.

Plus, I am going to toss in a THIRD lesson...but you will have to read the next post for that one.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Country Auction - Part DEUX.

I thought I better finish telling you about the auction, as some of you are expecting a grand finale...but this is not it. This is only part deux.....I mean, TWO.

Usually, if there is some decent stuff in the auction, and nothing else to drag me away to greener pastures, I will stick around until the very last item is sold.

This was the case with this sale.  I stuck around only because it was the first sale of the year I had attended, and there were some interesting bits I wanted to get, or at least chase.

The sale was jammed with tables and tables of smalls, maybe 40, 8 foot long banquet tables....and there was a fair bit under many of the tables as well.

Usually that means a LONG day with these particular auctioneers, and some fantastic bargains to be had in the last hour of the sale.  Crowd will start really thinning out, prices will drop, groups of items being offered by the auctioneer will be made much larger, hammer comes down faster, etc. The scenario of getting a whole table of items for a dollar, including many you would have bought individually for double and triple digit figures, becomes very feasible.

Today was not to be one of those sale, however.

Spring and late winter sales in this neck of the woods, especially when accompanied by clear, sunny weather, and good driving conditions, tend to do quite well.  Winter on the Canadian prairies tends to narrow down the number of country auctions being held to maybe a couple a month.. I have seen  many winters with zero sales being held on some months, especially December, January, and February.

Those are the months that I used to suffer with the shakes... from auction withdrawal!  When I lived in the city, the 3 permanent flea markets and thrift stores, house calls and the occasional country picking trip, had to suffice in slaking my thirst for that "score".

Sale prices were high overall, with lots that would normally sell for a couple bucks hitting $10, $20, $30 and even a few topping out at $65+. A pre-teen girl locked her eyes and emptied her pocket book of $65+ for two home ceramics class figurines, one being a moose (or was it a bison?) that she was going to own no matter what.  Apparently it was her first foray into the bidding world.  The determination in her eyes was cool to see, but I shuddered to think that she paid that much for what I considered near valueless items....but, she was happy, and that is all that counts, I guess. She will hopefully enjoy the pieces...maybe a new collector has been born!  Or, perhaps she knew something no one else in the crowd did.

Frankly, that is how I get my bargains at these sorts of sales.

Just because prices are going high on many things, does not mean EVERY good item you see will go high.

Why? Well, because the good items YOU see are not necessarily the same "good" items everyone else sees.

I bought a nice piece at that sale, and when another bidder started bidding, I expected I would not get it at all. Amazingly, I did buy it....and it is pictured below.

Measures over a foot high, and stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the jumble of more "man-ish" type stuff that it was surrounded, boxes of hardware, that sort of stuff.

I had looked it over fairly casually, and had not noted any chips or cracks.  Plus, there were no makers marks or stickers, either.

I had overvalued it in my mind, though hadn't planned to bid more than $40 - $50, despite my feeling it was a $200 - $250 piece. I stray away from heavily chasing some breakable items when cash is false move and your investment is GONE.

SO, bidding started..and, oddly, started quite low, at the $10 mark, I think.  I let the auctioneer drop to $2 before putting my bid in.

Then another bidder upped it to a whole $4.00....and in the tone of the rest of the sale, watching pretty much every previous lot starting at a $2 bid turn into double and triple digits, I thought:

 "Damn, this is going to get chased up to way past what I wanted to pay."

But I was not surprised, so I went with the bidding, might as well make the other bidder pay something for it.

And at $2 increments it went...$4....$6....$8...

and at that it oddly stalled....I was positive a more knowledgeable bidder would jump in...

In a couple seconds, to my surprise, it was mine.

The thought of :"I MUST have missed seeing/hearing a huge crack in it....or it is a repro I had never heard to be something wrong with it......" went through my head.

Got it, checked it close, and it was still intact, no cracks, no chips. I can;t call it mint, as it had wear on the bottom....but that is a GOOD thing...honest wear on the bottom of a glass piece means the odds are very high that it certainly been around for quite some time.

After research at home, I discovered my on-site valuation was high. Made by Consolidated Lamp & Glass, the value was actually bout $125.  I have it tagged it at $110, with room for negotiation.

Not bad. It is those "scores" that make up for the things you paid dear for, too much for, or should not have bought in the first place...which I managed to do at the same sale...but those are later blog postings.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"The Wild Factor" of a Local Country Auction

Attended a local country auction this past Sunday.

 First auction sale I have been to this year.  In the winter months, auctions tend to be scarce in this province, especially in more rural locales.

Winnipeg, Manitoba's capital, tend to have a couple auction houses in /around that have regular weekly sales. But, as for country auctioneers, well, most are relegated to renting community halls, and other larger, heated venues.

Once in a blue moon there might be a liquidation/bankruptcy/estate auction that HAD to be held ASAP, and there might be a major outside component to the sale, but that is quite rare.

In this neck of the woods, no one wants to stand around in -40C windchill to bid on much of anything. For those of you who think in Fahrenheit, that is -49 degrees.  No, our winters are not always that cold, but Murphy's Law says that the very day and outdoor, winter auction is scheduled, it will be one of the colder and windier days of the year!

So, the few sales that are held are located in rented community halls of small towns, or similar venues. There are more being held monthly now in the winter than in past years. Not sure why, though. I remember not so long ago that December, January and February sometimes held no auctions, save for livestock sales, and charity fundraisers.

Perhaps the baby boomer bulge nosing into retirement age is part of the cause....and I suspect auctioneers' general need for more income is likely also part of it.

Yesterday there was 2 auctions, one local, within a 5 minute drive, advertised as a estate, consignment and "Warehouse Liens Storage Auction." The other was a put together antiques & Collectibles auction, and considering I attended a couple of this auctioneer's "collectibles" sales,  I knew prices would be high...and would cost me $50 in fuel to drive to, at least.  Also, some of his consignors have a nasty habit of bidding on their own consigned items. Yes,  it is technically illegal, and constitutes fraud....but is rampant at some auctioneer's sales, who openly allow it, or turn a blind eye to it, and feign  ignorance.

I opted for the nearest one.  I could easily go home or even do some local picking if it was really bad....and I knew it was unlikely consignors would be bidding their stuff up, at least not obviously, nor with the auctioneers knowledge.

I drove up, 15 minutes after the doors opened for preview. Normally, at this site, I tend to be one of the first half dozen people in the door, so I was relaxed....then I drove up and saw this:

At least 15 vehicles.....maybe 4 could be for auction staff....but usually I drive up at this time and see 5 vehicles at most.

I parked, walked up to the tools and junk that were outside,. With these indoor auctions, having box lots and tools can/usually means there is too much inside for them to bring all the stuff ALL in.  Too much stuff can be good for a bargain hunter/reseller who has patience. Too much stuff can mean some real bargains may be had, for various reasons.

I went inside, and saw that there were cerainly already roughly 20 folks there.

Hmmm...I had suspected the mention of "Warehouse Storage Liens" might create a larger crowd, guess you can call it the Storage Wars Effect. (See: - Glendon Cameron - a Storage Auction guru...)

I was there for not more than 10 minutes, and overheard a guy commenting to his friend, who was looking at some of the offerings on the other side of the row of banquet tables.

He uttered:  "If I hit The Wild Factor, I'll split it with ya."

I resisted allowing my eyes to roll....though I may have audibly let out a sigh. 
For those of you who are now looking confused, the slogan "That's The Wild Factor, baby!" is a favorite in Darryl Sheet's vocabulary on Storage Wars (the original show)

The "Junk TV" Reality TV shows that have been flashed onto viewers screen have gotten viewers out of their recliners, off their couches, and up and attending auctions, garage sales, etc. Some are driven only by curiosity. However, some I am sure figure they are going to hit it rich, ignoring all the evidence to the contrary...wearing blinders to the information on the reality of the junk business that is available. I am seeing a larger crowd, and a younger crowd attending sales of all kinds. It is fine with me, I know what I am buying, though I now am very aware I may have to pay more for some things.    Along with that comes a better market for the things I want to GET RID OF...Maybe auction would be the best way.......


Hmmm....oh well...

Back to the auction preview...

This was beginning of what was to be a long day.

At least there seemed to be plenty of home made pies being unpacked at the lunch counter... Hmmm..and I didn't have a huge breakfast.

I already knew where my first $2.00 will be spent...


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Treasure Hunters All - (Teremity Magazine Article)

This is a copy of an article I did for Teremity Magazine - published Feb - 2012

__ Treasure Hunters All__

Yes, I am a real picker.

I have been in the antiques biz, as my primary (and usually only) source of income, for half my life…20 years. Add to that the fact I have been “into” "treasure hunting" of one sort of another for as I can remember!

I briefly owned a metal detector, but it was pretty much the cheapest one on the market....I could see metal objects it had passed over, barely settled in the grass, which the unit could not seem to locate no matter how many times I carefully moved the head over the spot! 

Why did I buy such a crappy detector? Dreams of a kid, and one I wanted to fulfill as soon as was possible. My parents worked hard for every dollar, and had little to spare, aside from the 25 to 50 cents allowance I acquired every Saturday. Thus I worked hard for pretty much every cent I ever had, also.

That crappy metal detector was paid for with hard earned nickels and dimes. The dollars were painstakingly accumulated, 5 and 10 cents at a time. I searched for soda and beer bottles high and low on weekends, holidays, and after school. I dug them out of clumps of winter killed weeds on boulevards and rescued them from their precarious perches amongst thorn spiked hedge branches. On family camping trips I scavenged them from cigarette butt strewn campsites. I popped them up out of the sun baked mud of roadside ditches, snagged them from their hiding spots in waist high grass, all the while shivering, soaked to the skin, the result of early morning dew wicking off the switch grass into the denim of my jeans and shirt sleeves. I even tolerated the stench of the clumps of rotting cigarette butts, insects and mouse corpses, some of which stubbornly stuck to the insides of their glass walled coffins. I am all too familiar with the stench these mini-greenhouses can create out of the mish-mash of debris that may end up in them. The goo sometimes lost its battle with centrifugal force, mid-swing. I can vaguely recall moments when a piece of chunky slime would shoot out of the bottle neck, then, to my horror, took an unintended, but oddly graceful acrobatic arc, seemingly in slow motion! Sometimes I dodged the wad of rot, the ground being its final destination. Other times my shoes, jeans or shirt became the landing sites.

On my return home from such an outing, there may have been the disposal of a pair of favorite-one-sole worn-through-running-shoes. They were given a proper burial in the outside trash can. Sometimes a pair of knee patched jeans or shirt followed them.

If it was clothing I was fond of, or I knew I'd catch heck for throwing out, the article would become part of an existing laundry pile, usually in my bedroom closet. Sometimes they shared their odorous prize with the rest of the clothing until washday, on the occasions that I forgot to make mention of them to my mother.
(Sorry, Mom!)

I had found & cashed in literally hundreds of “deposit” bottles to pay for that detector.

I guess the word “found” is not actually correct. The term really should be "picked."

Hmmm, come to think of it,  I have been honing my "picker's eyes"  for a LONG time....since I was 6 years old!

That is the thing with picking, you rely on your eyes quite a bit.  However, a really good picker uses all his/her other senses, also. Yes, every sense we have, we use.

While walking on trash/debris strewn wooden floors of old buildings, I have learned to be highly aware of what is underfoot, not just being aware of things in my line of sight.  You never know, you could be
far closer to a real treasure than your eyes can see, or even your arms can reach. But, of course, safety is very important, too. I want to be able to go out picking for a long, long time.

I can be walking along, stepping gingerly, feeling the floor's boards give slightly, listening for the structure underneath the planks creak just a little more than in an average old building. I strain for that initial sharp splinter of wood fibers, groups of them simultaneously letting go of their 100+ year grip they had on their neighbors...sort of a timber's own  nearly-too-late-warning-scream of  "OH CRAP!"

Or, it could be the barely audible squish of waterlogged, sponge-like, rotten wood fiber, ready to imitate that trap door on a stage, and in a blink of an eye, recreating that classic magical illusion of "now you see him, now you don't!"

So, all the while I am walking, I listen carefully, feeling each step, making sure I am not about to fall through a floor to my demise, or in impale my foot on yet another rusty nail.  With the next step, the feel and sound of that footfall is noticeably different than the previous. The general "feel", combined with the tone, echo (etc) of the sound differed dramatically from my previous footfalls. It is likely not something anyone else who has tread on the same spot has taken any notice of in the room's 75 years of human traffic.

I realize there is metal beneath that foot's resting spot! No electronic metal detector required. Moving aside, still aware, but with some anticipation clouding my usual careful steps, I brush the debris aside.  What is revealed is a sheet of metal. Brushing away all the debris past the surface's edges reveals a streaked mix of smooth, streaked glassy, but grunge smeared surface. With a slight shift of my eyes, they follow the flashlight beam tracing the outer edge of the whitish smeared chunk of steel. Visible upon careful inspection, almost obscured by an oily floor wax/dirt residue, are holes at the corners and middle edges. Most people would not have even not noticed them, but the smears of green, indicative of verdigris growing on the brass grommets the holes sport, are obvious to me. 

The odds very high that it is an old enamel sign covering some hole! Maybe even a very VALUABLE sign!

Experienced 'digger's are familiar with these sorts of feelings, I am sure. The detector sounds, you bend or crouch down to the spot, and get out your equipment. With the first push of "whatever preferred excavation tool you use" into the ground, you hear/feel the pebbles, rocks, rotten wood, tree roots, and anything else it rubs against, or hits, including the target your detector sounded when it skimmed over the ground's surface.

Odds are you even have a pretty good idea of what it is, or at least it's composition. You may even know the object's shape and size, just from the feel of that little vibration.

These skills are the things we develop. We fine tune of our senses; hone them for, and by the pursuit of, our specific treasure hunting interests.  We really think little about them, until they are pointed out to us.  I am referring to observations by that friend/relative who tagged along with you. They come along with you on a hunt, maybe invited, sometimes out of curiosity, or maybe from pure avoidance of chores they needed to get done around the house.

Besides, it is a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Over the afternoon's hunt, you have calmly ignored their rolling eyes and their bored  yawns. It is mid-afternoon, and over the past 2 hours you have politely answered their moronic or/and annoying questions, which are getting close to being  akin to a five year old's whining queries of "why?"

As you bend down, and excavate the target your detector sounded on, you audibly mutter that you think the item is only a 1950s quarter.

After you excavate the prize, and show your companion for the afternoon, their eyes widen and with an amazed and almost incredulous tone say:

"How did you know it was going to be a quarter and not another bottle cap? And how the heck did you know it was from the 1950s????"

Yes, it is like that for me, as a long time picker, also.  I don't know how many times people have said things like:

"I can not believe I walked by that thing pretty much every day, for 40 years, and had no idea it was there!!!"



We are all part of a worldwide treasure hunting fraternity. The treasuring hunting experience is something that unites us in more ways than we realize.


Friday, February 10, 2012

LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD - Recycling, Upcycling, Repurposing

One of the things I have been doing for years is "up-cycling" vintage items.

To save space in this blog, and help me to stave off carpal tunnel, check out Wikipedia's definition of the word HERE.

I come across all kinds of cool junk....and to most people, it is just that...junk.

And, frankly., it is that to me, also...BUT, it the operative word is COOL.  It is junk with obvious POTENTIAL!

Pretty much 99% of the junk around has potential in my eyes.....which can be a problem....think HOARDER.

No, no, I am not a hoarder by definition (a pack rat, maybe), though I am sure those who do not know me (and some that do!) believe I am. The thing is, I can get rid of items without remorse. It is all for sale, or can be disposed of if needed to be...even (HORROR OF HORRORS) dumped in the trash.

Experiences in my past, stressful, soap opera-esque and as unimaginable to some as they may have been, have hardened me to getting rid of things when required.

But, this blog is not about that. For the curious, yes, you shall get a chance to hear/read about some of those experiences...some day. You might have to buy my/one of (future) book(s) to read about them, but they likely will be revealed at some point.

So, that junk you got with the good stuff in that auction lot, that estate clean-out, that scrap pick up....yes, it is all TREASURE..and salable merchandise, if you know how to go about making it such!

I will offer you some of my unique takes on this sort of thing in videos and future blog postings.

Imagination & creativity are important to survive in this need to maximize your profits. You can't always afford to donate the rest of that "box lot" to the thrift store.  Word of caution to those getting into the junk biz, if you don't have an imagination, nor are creative AND inflexible in your thinking, well, forget the "junk business" in its entirely and go work at a Rotten Ronnies....otherwise you are on a road to going broke.

Things I used to view as junk are now valuable. Not because I can upcycle them, but because my knowledge had increased AND times have changed.  As an example of times changing, those mass made/marketed tacky 1960s, 70s, and 80s stuff is now collectible and desired by certain segments of the market. My stepdaughter has fallen in love with 1970s love seats and couches...and I don't mean those ones with funky, nigh end designer patterns......I mean GRANDMA'S/AUNT MAUDE's couch.... with the not-really-paisley, shiny green fabric, with copper or gold thread, stiff button tufted upholstered things...the bad Victorian-esque copies of every 1970s/early 1980s household.

I can see the appeal, but that is because I have learned to observe those younger buyers, and what they would have seen at Grandma's & Grandpa's...the fondness I think may well grow from that exposure. We gravitate to things that have been imprinted on us early early we have no or little recall of the time or place. You likely messed your diaper while lying on one of those couches...

Early thought "ahhh...of that feels good...such relief, and is so warm....."

It is probably a good thing idea we don't remember the exact thoughts and moments that drive some of our  interests....shrinks out there would have a field day and get wealthy off of the books of comedy they could write. Besides, it is already a bizarre world....we really don't need it to be any more bizarre.

When looking around, and thinking about it, my upcycling past reveals valuable things I have destroyed.

I have made lamps from vintage parts for years.  I take apart lamps of all kinds, and re-envision them.  I have disassembled an uncountable number of 1950s/60s/70s floor and table lamps.

Before you start screaming BLASPHEMY, BLASPHEMY, BLASPHEMY, hear me out...

Many were rough, incomplete, plain or damaged anyway, though some were repairable, but not salable, even when in mint condition. There was simply no market for them. All they were was an old, out of fashion, cheap, second-hand lamp.....and the parts in them were of more value than the $2 (or less) that I might have been able to get out of them. The sockets in some of them were worth more to me as repair parts for my 1920s/30s/40s designer 1950s lamps I restored. Lamp parts have not changed all that much in 100 years, by the way. I have seen 1970s parts used in the 1980s...take this chrome 1970s "Ball" lamp, as an example:

I have seen identical steel balls to the one used on this goose neck....but on 1980s lamps & light fixtures. They are the IDENTICAL part, some being plated or painted a different color.  Then, in the 1990s they popped up in other lamps, and even right now are being used to make "repros" of those same 1970s "Mod" chrome ball lamps and light fixtures, as well as assorted "retro" lamps and light being incorporated into "brand new" and "ultra modern" styles of lighting. Just look closely in the lighting sections of various big box stores, and specialty lighting stores. Take notice of these things, it will help when you are are picking!

Take this cool piece as another example:

The 1950s "atomic era" floor LAMP what I am referring to....not the flamed motorcycle helmet, mannequin, out of print VHS movies or other stuff in the photo!

Congrats if you did spot that stuff...ya got a picker's eye!

If you were to take this lamp apart, pretty much most of the identical parts in it have been used in lamps 30 years it's senior, some even older.  Even the identical shape of glass shade has been made before. Change the colors, angles, styles, use of the parts, etc, and VOILA you have the "latest thing" the "modern" lamp....again, and again, and again.

There really is nothing that is a brand new, a never-thought-of-idea...not in its entirety, anyway.  If you pick most things apart, do some digging into the past, you will find that those things are copies of forgotten old, reintroduced, revised, reinvented, recycled ideas, plans, designs...rehashed, reassembled, combined with other ideas, etc.

Many parts in the lamp manufacturing industry 50 years ago are still being used (and newly manufactured) right now....they might have a different color plating, a revised use, etc, but they are essentially the same part...some lamp companies produced so many or one part that they are still using up parts that were made up to 40 years ago!

Read up on  CHASE Copper And Brass, who essentially maximized the potential of this concept, and used it to survive in the 1930s. They used old plumbing parts and other "dead stock" they already had in inventory to create lines of Art Deco decor items, kitchen items, etc. The retail/manufacturing industry did not ignore Chase's and similar firms' successes with the idea....and it was not a new idea to begin with.

Here is a lamp I made years of my favorites I kept for myself.

I realize it looks old. For all intents and purposes it IS varies in age.....the parts ARE all old...but they vary in vintage. I'll go over the parts in another blog posting. Let's see if you can figure out what valuable piece I scavenged some of the parts from. (HINT: Think EAMES ERA designer!)

Other dealers, pickers, artistic/creative types do/have done this sort of thing. One fellow in Winnipeg (Manitoba) who dabbled in this business, made some similar sorts of lighting. His lamps are wonderful in design, fantastic even.  They tend to emulate the 1880 - 1920 eras of lighting. This fact is in part because of, but not solely due to, the use of vintage parts. However, 99% of the population would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a legit, factory assembled, circa 1900 piece and many of his "made-up" lamps.  He didn't mark them in anyway, and many were done 20, even 30 years ago (or more?), so have now acquired a bit of patina even, making it tougher to nail down their origins.  He was just that sort of fellow; maybe thinking along the lines of purposely passing them off as old, or perhaps just didn't care, figuring this is a "buyer beware" sort of business.

It is really too bad he didn't sign all of his creations. My thoughts on that are not actually so much a concern with them being mistaken as "real" old lamps or even as restored originals. Personally, I look at this "re-creating" things as a real art, as it does take talent, and a natural instinct for design. It is not easy for "Joe Blow" to source the parts, and put them together to make a piece look "right" and pleasing to the eye. His "art" will likely never, ever be recognized of acknowledged now. His pieces may even end up attributed to some designer/artist who died 50 years prior to him. He will not receive due recognition as the true artisan who actually created the piece.

 I signed, and usually dated, all the pieces I created and/or modified heavily. I usually marked them as being "RE-DESIGNED" or "RE-CREATED." This one is from will see it has already acquired a bit of a patina already....I hand polished them, as I like a softer tone to the brass, and didn't clear-coat them, so they would age naturally, and evenly. You could say their natural aging is part of my artistic vision.

I am still creating cool lamps and "functional art" as my time permits. I've always leaned toward an industrial look, and now industrial is "in", so I will be leaning harder that way. I like keep my pieces refined, not crude, but still industrial...sort of a "Steampunk" look at times. Most of the sculpture/projects are in piles of pieces, waiting for that certain "perfect" component to pop up to make them complete, or bring them one step closer to completion.

"Spare time" is a scarce commodity in a hardcore picker's life!

I'll post some pictures of the creations as they are done, in this blog, for your enjoyment!