One of the fun things we do as “everyday tourists” is to visit second-hand stores (both when we are away and at home) hunting for buried treasures (yes, they are often buried under or behind the other junk). It might be an artwork, vintage home décor item or even clothes. Sometimes we keep them, but most times we display and enjoy them for awhile and then sell them on kijiji.
Brenda loves to find hidden gems, sometimes things look interesting but she is clueless as to what they are. She then can spend hours looking for them and then hours researching them - half the fun is in the research! Often it leads to fun travel back in time. There is an “eureka moment” when she finds out what they are and their history.
But the fun doesn’t end there. We both love the people we meet (even if for a just a few minutes at the door) and the stories they share with us about why they are purchasing the piece which often involves some more time travel.
Just this week I wandered into Brenda’s kijiji headquarters and on the floor was a vintage-looking licence plate. Turns out that same day she was in a Calgary Salvation Army store and spotted an unusual looking license plate in the cart full of things a staff member was just putting out.
Side story: Brenda is like a sniper when it comes to spotting treasures in the rough. She loves second-hand stores that are full of junk where you really have to hunt. Who doesn’t like a challenge?
In this case, she found a clean, mint condition, authentic, aluminum license plate from the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. A little research uncovered the fact that Red Lake rejects state jurisdiction, so they issue their own license plates to tribal members without (like the several other Minnesota tribes that have special plates) having to go through the state licensing. Who knew?
She also learned that the numbering (0000) on her plate reflects the fact it was a sample license plate. The two, large blue “blobs” in the design represent the reservation’s two, large, linked lakes.
If we ever get to Minnesota, we will be sure to check out Red Lake!
TRIP TO LAPLAND?
A few weeks back I get an email with a photo saying “Look what I found, with the sticker still on it!” It was a nice enough looking glass pitcher but I didn’t give it much thought. When I got home, Brenda was quick to “fill me in.”
Turns out is was a“Iittala Ultima Thule Ice Lip Pitcher.” Inspired by the melting ice in Lapland and with its uncompromising and timeless design, this distinctive, mid-century modern piece is claimed to be responsible for company Iittala’s international breakthrough. Again, who knew!
Designed in Finland in the late 1960s, to this day it continues to be made in Finland and be the company’s signature piece. Note: “Ultima Thule” makes reference to the furthest possible place in the world – and a product line name of Iittala’s. She bought it for $4, it retails for $200 and she listed it for $125.
The profit won’t get us to Lapland, but it will buy us a nice dinner on our next trip.
Note: This piece sold quickly for $100 to a young woman who bought it because it reminded her of her grandmother who had one and when she passed away her aunt got the grandmother's pitcher. She had been looking on kijiji for one for awhile. More often than not, the treasures go to a good home.
BACK TO FLORENCE
I have gotten into the habit of wandering into her room on almost daily to see what she has found or taken out of “inventory”. Last week I noticed a decorative gold tray and had to ask, “Where did you get that?”
Turns out it is a vintage Italian Florentine Gilt Gold Wood Tray she picked up in Winnipeg two weeks back. It was ironic as we were in Florence exactly two years ago, it brought back fond memories.
Back story: During the Renaissance, Florence was renowned throughout Europe as a centre of fine art, particularly in painting, gold gilding, bronze work, and furnishings inlaid with intricate designs in marble or rare wood. The fine craft traditions associated with some of these arts never entirely died out. A museum of decorative arts, opened in 1865, was pivotal in helping boost Florence's economy by promoting its crafts to tourists. That tradition continues today with many such items as trays being a collector’s item today. Too bad today’s souvenir tourist economy involves tacky throwaway items and not meaningful local craftwork.
This gem was posted on Kijiji as a 1940 slightly raised scalloped-edged tray (12”by 18”) that “would look beautiful for a touch of shabby chic to any space - on a coffee table, on a sideboard, on a vanity.”
She bought it for $3 and hopes to get $20. It will be interesting to see who buys it and why?
Speaking of Winnipeg, I knew she had lucked out in the Salvation Army on Sherbrook Street when she came up to me with a big smile and carrying a vintage cardboard suitcase. Again, she had picked it up just as it was being taken out of the back room (timing is everything).
She couldn’t wait to get some history on it - turns out it is probably from the 1930s or 1940s. Now listed on kijiji, it is described as a two-tone brown cardboard suitcase with its silver-coloured metal accents (i.e. rivets, clasps and corners - with "Cheney" (of England) engraved on clasps), brown vinyl reinforced outer corners and brown plastic/metal handle, and lined with paper – in a fun, brown checked plaid pattern. A nice piece of shabby vintage chic for display purposes – and/or storage. Dimensions are: 22” x 11” x 7”. Clean (no smells), closes/opens well – in very good vintage condition (just some minor wear and scratches on the outer corners and interior paper lining). No key.”
She hopes to turn her $3 find into a $40 sale, which should pay for lunch on our next trip.
BACK TO MINNESOTA
Something tells me we are meant to go to Minnesota as another of her October finds is a signed handmade pottery vase 7” high x 4¼” diameter. Its maker is experienced and long time, American potter Chad Briggs of Minnesota.
I don’t understand why anyone would settle for mass produced when you can have one-of-a-kind piece? Bought for $2 in Okotoks and sold for $15 – that’s coffee and dessert somewhere in the future.
PINK PYREX IS HOT, HOT, HOT....
Brenda didn’t realize what a great find she had when she brought home (again from Winnipeg) a Pink Daisy Casserole Dish w/Cover Lid a few weeks back. In the late 50s, this oblong“Space Saver” baking dish was promoted as being great for “storing leftovers in space-challenged kitchens and fridges” – not unlike how a marketer might promote it today to those living in small condos or apartments!
Her Kijiji ad read, “It comes complete with matching clear glass cover/lid. The white stylized daisies on the pretty pink background are oh-so-charming.” And bonus... not only is this a rather rare piece, but it is clean and in excellent condition (no chips, cracks, faded colour/pattern)... ready to display in your kitchen or be put to good use!”
This sold in 20 minutes (by a repeat customer) with a profit of $35, which should buy a nice bottle of wine on our next trip (probably to Minnesota). She had dozens of inquires a few hours of listing. Lesson learned: pink P Pyrex is hot.
We are hardly going to get rich buying and selling these artifacts, but it is a revenue neutral hobby that fits nicely into our love of travel, research and people. And the stories, laughs, tears (of joy) and even gifts (yes, was even given a gift from a particularly grateful customer) are well, simple priceless.