Guts and Gumption: Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Wore Their Hearts on Their Helmets

Like the soldiers who fought in World War II, most of the men and women who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War in the ’60s and ’70s were remarkably young, between the ages of 18 and 25. Those who volunteered to man the primary aircraft of the war, the helicopter, put their lives at a risk every day they were on tour. As a … (continue reading)

Where Have the Carousel Animals Gone? Antique Merry-Go-Rounds Fight Extinction

Try to call up a childhood memory of riding the merry-go-round: the lights, the mirrors, the band organ playing circus tunes. Do you remember what the horse you rode looked like, how well its musculature was delineated, or what was carved behind the saddle? Can you visualize the art on the structure itself, such as gargoyles and paintings of landscapes?

“The carousel carvers really let their chisels … (continue reading)

Murder and Mayhem in Miniature: The Lurid Side of Staffordshire Figurines

For most of us, ceramic figurines conjure sentimental images straight out of children’s books, tame kitsch at its worst. But once upon a time, these little sculptures had an edge. The subjects that graced Staffordshire pottery more than 200 years ago weren’t for the fainthearted: Imagine giving grandma a figurine that mocked discriminatory marriage laws or portrayed a gruesome series of animal attacks. Welcome to the world of … (continue reading)

Collectors on a Mission: When Americans Saw the World Through Evangelists’ Eyes

At the World Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the three shrunken heads from the Jivaro tribes in Peru and Ecuador—with their shriveled, leathery skin, and sometimes threads strewn from their mouths—were the showstoppers. While the museum held life-size sculptures of headhunters, Thai orchestra instruments, several paintings by Gustave Doré, giant elephant tusks, and artifacts from ancient Chinese dynasties, it was the shrunken-head display that drew crowds. Adults and schoolchildren … (continue reading)

World’s Smallest Museum Finds the Wonder in Everyday Objects

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Flying the ‘Freak’ Flag: Documentary Will Reveal Why You Should Care About Stamps

Chicago-based documentary filmmaker Mark Cwiakala grew up surrounded by stamps, yet, he never felt compelled to become a collector himself. However, eight years ago, he teamed with executive producer Jonathan Singer to go on a globetrotting journey to find out what exactly made stamps so irresistible to his grandfather and father, both well-respected philatelists. The younger Cwiakala and Singer, who head the film and … (continue reading)

Gloriously Grotesque 19th-Century Pipes

The meerschaum pipes carved in Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century are among the most bizarre and improbable concoctions in decorative art. Some feature bowls made from the heads of historical figures like Napoleon while others sport the likenesses of literary characters such as Sir Dagonet, King Arthur’s much-abused jester (above). There are pipes based on nursery rhymes, others depicting … (continue reading)

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 was 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)