A Gaggle of Interests, December 27, 2009

In this series, the UAA team will list some of the interesting items that we have found in auctions, antique shops or eBay. We neither own the items or have the capability of examining the items in person in some cases. It mainly serves as an inventory record of what interests us (not necessarily in terms of value or investment opportunities) and possibly how much it fetches (if the result can be obtained). If you are serious about some lots, please contact the auction houses, dealers or eBay sellers directly.

1. Set of Six PRR Highball Glasses

Imagine yourself speeding along an electrified east coast line from New York to Philadelphia sipping a mixed drink from one of these glasses. I don’t imagine you can get a real mixed drink from a dining car these days—I do recall a recent pre-mixed pina colada from a can, and I don’t imagine it will be served in a glass as nice as this. Items from the Pennsylvania Railroad dining cars are quite collectible, and while these seem to be somewhat readily available, the $50 price for a set of six is exceptionally attractive. I wouldn’t put them in the dishwasher. Available at General Heath’s Antiques, Reinholds, PA (717) 484-1300

Dreyfus WE 302 Phone2. Western Electric Model 302 Telephone

This looks to be a Bell Labs model 302 produced by Western Electric sometime between 1941 and 1958. Most of the Model 302 sets came in black, but eight other colors — ivory, bronze, silver, gold, rose, blue, green and red — were added toward the end of the phone’s production run. The cord appears to have been replaced, or else the phone is from a later production run. The WE 302 appeared in many films from the time of its introduction through the 1960s, and was ubiquitous in television shows of its time, such as I Love Lucy. Thus, it is sometimes called the “Lucy phone” by modern collectors. The 302 phone was designed by Henry Dreyfus, who also designed what is perhaps the most known form of the telephone even today, the Western Electric model 500 telephone. As one of the celebrity industrial designers of the 1930s and 1940s, Dreyfuss dramatically improved the look, feel, and usability of dozens of consumer products. As opposed to other contemporaries, Dreyfuss was not a stylist: he applied common sense and a scientific approach to design problems. In 1955 Dreyfuss wrote Designing for People and was the first President of the Industrial Design Society of America. If you were to purchase this phone, it would almost assuredly still work. They were rugged and reliable. You might not want to use the dial—and you can’t enter account numbers and such, but the sound of these phones is much improved over most of the available ring tones on modern phones. Available at an asking price of $48 from Lancaster County Antiques & Collectible Co-op, Adamstown, Pa 717-336-2701

3. Pabst Blue Ribbon Matchbook

I’m not sure what I could do with this, but it is a neat design. The match heads are the beer bottle caps. Taking this photo also lead me to the American Matchcover Collecting Club. According to the club’s web site matches and their convenience date back to 1827. Joshua Pusey, a Philadelphia lawyer and patent attorney, is credited with the first matchbook in 1889. The earliest known commercial advertising on matchbooks was whimsically created in 1895 and distributed with the compliments of the Mendelson Opera Company. Skip forward to the Diamond Matchbook Company and a salesman named Henry C. Traute who approached none other than Pabst Brewery about advertising on matchbooks. The story is longer, but at this point leads us to a display cabinet in Time Matters Antique Mall in Adamstown, Pa (717) 484-1514. Drink Pabst (know known as PBR) and the world drinks with you.

4. Kaminski Auction, Dec 28, 2009. Lot 4270, Antique Chinese Cinnabar covered round box

Lacqureware at Kaminski Auction
Lacqureware at Kaminski Auction

Sometimes when lacquer was applied as a thin layer on top of bamboostrips or woods, the craquelure was formed because of the difference in  the speed of material shrinkage. Such craquelure can be desirable in antiques collecting. In China, it is called “Duan” or break. The natural forms of craquelure usually have different patterns based on the materials. It is in my mind a little bit too absurd to look for the beautiful craquelure on a piece of antique object. and use it as a measure.  Luckily  very often than not, like this one, the age of a lacquerware is hard to tell. Such lacquerware is time-consuming  to make even with state-of-art technology. In early times, two thin layers of lacquer can be applied in each day because of the slow drying process. (You cannot apply thick layers of lacquer at once because the gravity will drag down the material. Similarly if the previous layer is not dried yet, additional layer will only make a thicker layer instead of a new layer.) At minimum, a couple dozens of layers are required to make one object, sometimes hundreds of layers of lacquer were applied before carvers made their touch on the still-soft surface. This one is probably made of lots of layers in order to achieve three dimensionality. The style  is called “Zhi” in Chinese, which means raised relief. (The sunken relief is called “kuan”.) This one has more depths that differentiates foreground, middle ground from background mountains. There is a small damage on the body which discloses the material used for the core. It is something that some cannot live with, But for me, it is a showcase of the making of lacquerware.  Another interesting observation regarding lacquerware is that there are not many great examples in China therefore the lacquerware collecting is more avid in the international market, but Chinese are catching up quickly.

5. Lyon & Turnbull, Jan 13, 2010, Lot 70, Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Although Christmas has passed, the famous book should still demand a lot of attention. In fact, a similar book is on display at the Morgan Library. The book was an immediate success: according to the Wikipedia, the first run of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve and the book continued to sell well into the New Year. This particular lot is the third issue of the first edition.

About UAA Team

Urban Art and Antiques first published in 2007. If you are interested in becoming a contributor, let us know. Email urbanartantiques (at) gmail.com


I’m impressed by your choices for your “gaggle of interests”. You have an eclectic eye and good taste. I always enjoy your posts, and I’m glad I subscribed to your newsletter.

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