Find and display your favorite things with tips on collecting, from one lover of found treasures to another.
These terms are often used interchangeably to describe items made in the past. Their usage is somewhat fluid, but each has a distinct meaning. An "antique" is an item made at least 100 years ago. (Objects from ancient cultures are further categorized as "antiquities.") "Vintage" applies to objects that are neither contemporary nor antique, such as a 1950s Edward Wormley sofa or 1960s Vera Neumann linens. "Collectible" describes items coveted by enough people to create a market for them. These pieces may have been made at any time by hand or machine.
It's wise to keep an inventory of your dishware. For each pattern, start an entry with the pattern's name. Include a picture of the back and front of one plate. Then, list how many you have of each piece. Keep your inventory in a binder or on your computer. If you know your collection is valuable, have it professionally appraised. Cataloging is a part of this service and considered by insurance companies to be legal and binding.
Not sure whether your collection is valuable? You can search online sources such as liveauctioneers.com to find out what pieces similar to yours have sold for. (Note that these prices are the highest amount paid for an item, not what it's likely to fetch in the local market.) In addition, how many items you have also affects the value. Six or more of a type of dishware still used today are generally worth more. Large serving pieces also hold their value.
These linen cloths are most likely buttonhole, or button-down, napkins, the spiffier cousin of the napkin tucked into one's shirt. This style attached to the top button of a shirt and drapes across the chest. Thought to be an American invention dating from the latter part of the 19th century, the detachable cloth fits in with the post-Civil War period, when sewing machines had come into common use and finishing buttonholes became a fairly quick task. The napkins fell out of fashion during the early 20th century, but resurfaced briefly during the heyday of commercial jet aviation, when airlines included them in their meal service.
If the vase is antique -- 100-plus years old -- it will be difficult to find a replacement that matches it exactly. A century ago, few crystal makers marked their pieces with the company name, so your best bet is to show a photograph of the vase (or the largest broken pieces) to an antiques dealer who specializes in crystal. If the vase is vintage but not antique (20 to 80 years old), tracking down a replacement will be a little easier, as by that time many companies used a manufacturer's mark. Look through guides for 20th-century glassware, and then ask a china and crystal maker or antiques dealer for your piece. China matchers on the Internet, such as replacements.com, are also a great resource.
Glass and ceramics can be destroyed by even minor tremors, including vibrations from footsteps or a slammed door. If you have the pieces on open shelving, install a lip made from decorative molding at the front of the shelf to prevent items from "walking" off the edge. If your collection is in a china cabinet or cupboard, make sure the doors shut with strong latches that won't swing open during an earthquake. The pieces may still fall over in the cabinet, but that's preferable to having them hit the floor. To keep pieces from moving at all, try Quake Wax (available at conservation-supply stores), a nontoxic wax that won't harm wood, glass, or ceramics. Form a few small dots, stick them to the bottom of the object, and put it in place. The wax's hold is secure -- you can dust the pieces without worrying -- but when you want to pick up the items, all you have to do is twist.