October 31, 2010

The Great American Tchotchke Debate

A Bunch of Tchotchkes
*Also known as a Bunch of Crap
*Except for the Banana Mouse, All of American Origin
Jack Ass Tchotchke
*Possibly Made in America
I recently came out of the closet and confessed on I Antique Online that I was a Tchotchkaholic. I had no idea that there were other like-minded people like me. It was a relief to finally stand up and be accounted for because I am a Tchotchkologist and have been one all my life. I even left my gainful employment in the corporate world (okay, so I was downsized three times) to ply my love of Tchotchkes as a full time business, although my brick and mortar shop is also my home and a front for my writing. But then I began surfing the Internet and found that entire world of late is capitalizing on the word Tchotchke.

Bobble Head Tchotchke
*Can be Purchased in Washington, D.C.
First the American government has been referred to as "The Tchotchke Economy" perhaps because people everywhere are getting in on the Tchotchke band wagon and making money off of President Obama and other political figure souvenirs.  Contrary to Urban legend - a Tchotchke is not a piece of worthless crap, nor is it simply a knick knack, trinket, toy, gimmick, or promotional item, which serves little or no purpose such as bobble-heads or the giveaways at trade shows. I for one am tired of the word being bandied about and it is time to set the world straight on the true meaning of a Tchotchke.

Bull Tchotchke
*Possibly Made in America
Some resources claim the word Tchotchkes only invaded our culture since the 1960s.  In reality, Tchotchkes  have been around since the beginning of time.  For instance archeologists make a living out of studying artifacts left behind by the first people on earth and still are not quite certain as to the true meaning as to why small pieces of bone, shells, made into beads and other small items were carefully laid in patterns inside caves or burial tombs. Fact is these were the very first Tchotchkes, are universal and found everywhere. Michael Quinion from the website World Wide Words offers that a Tchotchke, "It’s one of those delightful Yiddishisms that do so much to enliven American prose." Wikipedia further claims otherwise that this is a derivative of tzatzke and that "the term could be construed as a more dismissive synonym for bimbo" meaning a slut.  

Gator Eating Bull Tchotchke
*American Made late 1960s
I beg to differ with Mr. Quinion, wikipedia, and others who are self-proclaimed experts because my mother's family was not Yiddish but of Slavic and Russian decent. My Great aunt, Tante who came from Russia to live with my family when I was a child and who did not speak English, called me her 'Tchotchkeleh.' My mother said it meant that I was an adorable little girl and would  grow up into an attractive, unconventional woman, which I did so this should eliminate any reference to a Tchotchke being a toy or excuse me, a piece of crap.

October 29, 2010

Why Tickets are Hot New Collectibles in Ephemera

Rare ticket from the Steamship Independence
which burnt at sea in Spring of 1853.
Over 120 passengers lost their lives.
Once upon a time, long, long, long ago, one needed a piece of material which he or she paid cold hard cash (or paper money) for and then in turn handed the material over to a stern faced person who was guarding an entry of sorts, (which, by the way, in turn gave rise to the term bouncer). He or she was then allowed to proceed and enter. The problem arose if the event or happening that the person was attending, was disappointing, he or she felt cheated. Rarely did one get money back which may be why some tickets survived. Then again it may be why the rise in counterfeiters who expanded their industry because next to money, a "ticket" or "invitation" to enter was as "good as gold."
Love-Feast Invitation from
Salem Home
Moravian Church 1869

Although "ticket" printing was being done long before 1870, trade cards entered the scene and the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia set off a new craze of collecting. People wanted souvenirs - something to bring home with them even though later, they may have tossed the item away or stuck it in a soon forgotten place. More tickets and stubs are surfacing from these long ago eras.

It wasn't until 1917 when Reuben Harry Helsel of New York invented a ticketing machine, a device he continued to improve upon until 1962. Today tickets are no longer necessary for many venues and ticketing can easily be completed online - a barcode easily identifies the purchaser though in time this too might become counterfeited. Unfortunately though, speeding tickets are done the ancient way except for filling in the blanks (umm - wonder what celebrities do with their indiscretion papers?)  

October 27, 2010

The real Scoop on Collecting Vintage Paper

Memorabilia and Ephemera Scrap Book
P.T. Rider 19th C

If you are into collecting vintage paper, advertising, memorabilia and ephemera blame it on the Greeks, who coined the word ephemera, meaning something that was transitory or lasting no more then a day. In fact any material that was written or printed was intended to be thrown away, as we do today with junk mail. However, enterprising and industrious people found other uses paper material rather than throwing the product away. Still, it wasn't until an Englishman named John Johnson who was born in 1882, changed the way the world viewed printed material.
            Johnson studied at Oxford and after his studies joined the Egyptian Civil Service, became interested in Arabic and fell in love with papyrus. A forerunner of parchment, papyrus was much easier to use then clay tablets or steal and could be rolled up for ease of use. Although paper is derived from papyrus, the first paper making is attributed to the Chinese in the 2nd century AD. It wasn't until 1844 that a machine for milling paper out of pulped wood was invented that paper products became more available and affordable. Even after the field of Library and Information Science was established in 1887, libraries described the term ephemera as "the class of published single-sheet or single page documents which are meant to be thrown away after one use."
            Thankfully, John Johnson changed this way of thinking. After discovering a 900-year-old papyrus by Theocritus, and became a papyrologist - the forerunner of a paperologist (which may have other meanings then to those of us who collect paper material). When WWI broke out, Johnson left Egypt and returned to Oxford where he was given a job at the Oxford University Press, becoming Printer to the University from 1925 to 1946. Johnson began collecting printed ephemera or the "ephemera of printing" immediately and defined printed ephemera as: "Everything which would ordinarily go into the waste paper basket after use, everything printed which is not actually a book …"
            When Johnson died in 1956, his collection was massive and was acquired by the Bodleian Library in Oxford. So impressive was Johnson's ephemera collection, that the material inspired John Lewis and his seminal work, Printed Ephemera. The Changing Uses of Types and Letterforms in English and American Printing and was published in 1961. This book literally set the design industry on its heels because even those who studied graphic design did not have access to 19th century examples primarily because most printers were localized and not national. The book gave further rise to legitimizing paper hoarders across the globe and convinced these collectors to come out of the closet thus proving the Greeks in their ever philosophical musings wrong; Ephemera may have meant transitory and lasting no more then a day, but "Viva La difference" becaus one man's trash is indeed another man's treasure (okay more specifically - a woman's treasure).

October 23, 2010

I Antique Online

Last year I stumbled upon this great web site even though its been around for several years called I Antique Online. I didn't visit it very often until a few months ago and found that it had grown by leaps and bounds. The site is sort of a conglomeration of antique shops, dealers, collectors, experts, newbies and everything and anything you could imagine that has to do with world of antiques and collectibles. There are numerous groups that you can join within the site itself and one of my favorite and most addicting is  Debsgreatfinds's group Guess what this is . I was really floored by some of the items that had been posted such as this unusual object from my new friend Dempsey Collectibles  in Webster, Florida. The object is called Ant Art - made by ants, at least the mold and then brass was poured to make the object itself - pretty cool!   The editor and webmistress for the site is C. Dianne Zweig and she is the author on several great books on collecting.  So pop in and visit and find why it is so easy to get hooked on I Antique Online!

October 15, 2010

Waiting for my Real Life to Begin

I felt invincible
I burned my bra
I broke glass ceilings
I swam in oceans of salt
I dove the depth of seas
I danced until the sun rose
I felt the pain of childbirth
I felt pain of a broken limb
I climbed a corporate ladder
I made love all through the night
I felt cold and ice touch my body
I felt that I knew the meaning of life
I felt the wind ripple through my hair
I felt rain and snow caress my bare neck
I felt a baby’s heartbeat beneath my chest
I told men what I wanted and they heeded
I held a young man in my arms as he lay dying
I learned that life was fragile and let my real life begin.