Coveting The Craziest Cat-People Collectibles

The memes are endless—Grumpy Cat, Nyan Cat, Keyboard Cat, Maru, and all the Lolcats. Last year even witnessed the first ever Internet Cat Video Festival at the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis, with more than 10,000 people in attendance. Maybe it’s the culmination of living with domesticated kittens for thousands of years, or perhaps it’s due to an insidious epidemic of feline-hosted Toxoplasmosis. Regardless, we’re having a … (continue reading)

John Lennon’s Oddly Patronizing Letter to Eric Clapton Up For Auction

On December 18, 2012, almost 300 historic documents will be auctioned by Profiles in History in Calabasas Hills, just outside of Los Angeles. Almost buried amid the piles of letters penned by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Vincent Van Gogh, and Albert Einstein is an eight-page note written in 1971 by John Lennon to Eric Clapton, in which the former Beatle invites the former Cream guitarist … (continue reading)

WWII War Paint: How Bomber-Jacket Art Emboldened Our Boys

As we reflect on Pearl Harbor Day, here’s something to keep in mind: The “men” who fought and died for the United States in World War II, were just barely out of adolescence, as young as 18 years old—the same age as guys obsessed with “Maxim” and Grand Theft Auto today. The WWII flight jackets painted with provocative pin-up girls, favorite comic characters, or lucky charms are a reminder of just … (continue reading)

Priceless Tiffany Collection Flees One Earthquake Zone, Lands in Another

How would a priceless collection of Tiffany glass survive a catastrophic earthquake? Takeo Horiuchi didn’t want to find out. As one of the world’s most respected and passionate collectors of Louis Comfort Tiffany glass, lamps, and other decorative objects, Horiuchi learned last year that the new museum he was planning to build for his incomparable collection of fragile masterpieces was located in a highly active earthquake zone.
Fearful that almost 20 … (continue reading)

How Collecting Opium Antiques Turned Me Into an Opium Addict

You really have to work hard to get hooked on smoking opium. The Victorian-era form of the drug, known as chandu, is rare, and the people who know how to use it aren’t exactly forthcoming. But leave it to an obsessive antiques collector to figure out how to get to addicted to a 19th-century drug.
Recently, Steven Martin—no relation to the actor—came by the Collectors Weekly office and … (continue reading)

The High Price of a Degree in LSD

When the bidding closed on September 16, 2012, 7:21pm, a torn and tattered piece of paper from 1966, measuring 8½ by 11 inches, sold for $24,255 at the Heart of Rock and Roll Poster Auction. Obviously, this is no ordinary piece of paper. In fact, it’s one of the most important documents of the psychedelic ’60s—Mountain Girl’s Acid Test graduation diploma.
In case that … (continue reading)

Forget TV Pickers, Meet the Real Mavericks of the Antiques World

Long before Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz swaggered into the spotlight with “American Pickers,” writer Maureen Stanton became fascinated with another rugged Alpha Male of the antiques world. But unlike Wolfe and Fritz, the handsome, brash 40-something man she calls by the pseudonym “Curt Avery” tends to avoid the spotlight.

“Brimfield is like a big outdoor museum where you can touch stuff.”
Avery, with his muscular arms and … (continue reading)

How Your Grandpa Got His LOLs

It’s all about the toilets—thousands and thousands of tiny toilets. Ever since I first encountered Mardi and Stan Timm, the foremost collectors of novelties produced by H. Fishlove and Co., they’d tell me about gag boxes. But I just didn’t get it. I was more interested in other Fishlove innovations—chattering teeth, beer glasses with naked pinups inside, and, of course, fake rubber vomit. … (continue reading)

Playing With Matches: Sexy, Silly 1930s Ads That Went Up in Smoke

Smoking is growing more taboo in the United States now, but back in the 1930s, cigarettes were sexy. And where there was smoke, there were matches. At one point, nearly every business in the country, whether it was a national chain or a local Mom ‘n’ Pop, produced logoed matchbooks to help their customers fuel their nicotine habit—now known to be a deadly addiction.
“You’d go to get medicine, … (continue reading)

The Hottest Thing at the Olympics?

On July 27, 2012, the final relay runner delivered the flame of Olympia to Olympic Stadium in London, inaugurating the 2012 Summer Games Opening Ceremony. The 8,000-plus golden metal torches used during the relay—each has 8,000 holes, representing the 8,000 torchbearers who carried the flame 8,000 miles over 70 days—have become instant collectibles.

In fact, Olympic relay torches are among the rarest and most desirable of all Olympics … (continue reading)

Garbage Pile Kids: Five Young Collectors Who Dig Rust, Dust, and Old Tobacco

Some kids like to dig in the dirt. They’ll dig up railroad spikes, old soda or beer bottles, or mysterious pieces of metal. These grimy, worn pieces of the past, discarded and buried, are treasures to an adventuring child. Someone else’s junk can light up an imagination or launch a lifelong process of discovery.
“Anytime my family goes on a road trip, we’ll all be focused on looking … (continue reading)

Who Killed American Kitsch?

For home-front America, World War II was a time of shared sacrifice, when people gave up simple pleasures to support those fighting overseas in the greatest struggle the civilized world had ever known. After the war, though, society breathed a collective sigh of relief and went out looking for a bit of fun.
One of the easiest things to do was to … (continue reading)

Reformed Gambling Swindle Becomes a Punch Board of Love

When Bay Area artist Lea Redmond, known for running the “World’s Smallest Post Service,” stumbled across Parlor Coo Coo on eBay, she knew she’d found something special. Sure enough, handheld punch-board parlor games, like Coo Coo and its companion The Fortune-Teller in Rhymes, were the icebreakers du jour at cocktail parties of the 1920s and ’30s…. (continue reading)

During the Civil War, Some People Got Rich Quick By Minting Their Own Money

When coins were withdrawn from circulation in the northern states during the Civil War, opportunists began minting private pennies that became de facto legal tender throughout the Union. The coinage of a few cents may seem like small change, but in 1863 alone, almost 9,000 different token designs, depicting everything from patriotic flags to beer barrels, were struck. Some so closely resembled … (continue reading)

At Home with the Maharajas

If you collect or admire Indian art and antiques, you owe it to yourself to see “Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts,” now through April 8, 2012, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the almost 200-piece exhibition features fashions and furniture, paintings and fine jewelry, and plenty of weaponry, … (continue reading)