Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Good Nose for a Deal

One of my favorite book characters is an antiques dealer named Lovejoy, described as a “divvy”, someone who can tell instinctively when an antique is real. He gets a kind of vibe about a piece and has been known to sniff out a real Chippendale in a barn full of broken junk and fleamarket trash, fierce in his pursuit of those treasures lovingly crafted by masters of old.

I am an inveterate antiques hunter and committed fleamarket hound. My experience has been that many a treasure can be had by those willing to wade through boxes and bags on someone's front lawn or prowl through the back room of a dusty barn. I found my first Jenny Lind bed (also known as a spool bed) leaning against a stack of old doors in the farthest dim recesses of a Vermont shed. The owner couldn't believe that I would pay him $75 for it! But refinished and primly dressed in my finest handmade quilt, that little frame was a beauty-- so charmingly authentic. I may not be an actual divvy but I do have a nose for what might be hiding in the most unlikely place. I've sprinkled this narrative with some winners from past hunting.

One of the casualties of this so-called summer, caused by frequent deluges of biblical proportions, have been weekend outdoor fleamarkets and yard sales. Spurred by reports of fabulous finds by other blogger friends, when Sunday's weather predicted only the possibility of a thunderstorm, we hopped in the van and sped off to Waterbury, VT to a large outdoor venue. I've both bought and sold there and I usually discover at least one wonderful find special enough to make my visit worthwhile. But the place was practically deserted! Woe! The weather was finally hot and sunny and should have been teeming with buyers and fleas but except for one table of so-so vintage costume jewelry, it was mostly used cassette tapes, tools and limp produce. But something told me to take another look at the costume jewelry.

My persistence was rewarded with a funky little copper and bronze bracelet. It looked handcrafted and had a nice patina. The emblems were soldered but the rest was cold-connected. I got it for $7. The vendor told me it was a signed piece and sure enough, in a little oval on the back was “MB SF”.

Copper and Bronze Marjorie Baer bracelet

When I got home I found out that “MB” stood for Marjorie Baer, a San Francisco designer who has been making jewelry since the early 60s. Her work is very collectable and I found many examples of it on Ebay, going for lots more than I paid! So I'm very happy with my one find of the summer (so far).

I may not be a true divvy but I do have a good nose for a deal.


  1. Oh Christine! Can I come and play with you? I wish that I knew someone like you who would enjoy that sort of thing and could not only steer me in the right direction but would have fun on the journey. My own family would think I was nuts! We have two little antique-y stores but I think I would have more luck at a flea market. Those are all fabulous finds. I bought a pin from an antique store for $8 once. I knew it was signed, in great condition. I looked it up and although I couldn't find the exact pattern, very similar ones were selling at auction for $80! I used it as a striking focal/clasp in a piece that was published in Bead Trends in January. But I made it so I would be able to remove the pin for the client if so desired. It has yet to sell, but your story gives me hope! Great inspiration today! Enjoy the day! Erin

  2. You got some cool stuff! Love the keys!

  3. Christine,
    I've been eager to read this post...aw, you DID find something incredible even though you were a bit disappointed! That bracelet seems so much like you..the design and patina. I hope the flea markets pick up around you..it's always fun hunting for a good treasure. That metal car in your top photo would be well loved around here. The boys are always digging in those boxes of cars hoping we'll say they can pick one. I also loved the bunch of old keys, all in a row. :-)

  4. Thanks for visiting and for your comment. Glad you found me - we seem to be sisters in spirit as far as flea markets are concerned!! I love your finds (that metal bug is just soooo cute)! And I love your Apocalypto beads - love what Deryn did with them!
    I'm looking forward to visiting often. Have a great day!

  5. Christine: I really enjoyed your post. I love to flea market, too, but it's hard to find them where they aren't inundated with imports from China! But there's an auction on the Eastern Shore of Maryland called 'Dixon's' but many people just call it 'Crumpton' (because that's the name of the town). It has a building for "smalls," but there are two huge outdoor fields where the auctioneers travel between the rows with a golf cart. I need to get back there. You don't happen to be interested in doilies are you?! LOL

  6. Excellent finds! You're good....