It’s not too late to buy holiday gifts for your collector friends. Terry Kovel suggests fun and useful vintage gifts. Collectors like the unusual, the historic, the durable, and like to “think outside the box.”
1) Look for a gift that will create memories. Consider the blue glass Shirley Temple set that was free with a box of Wheaties in the 1930s. Today the set, a mug, pitcher and bowl, sells for $30 to $50. Or look for other inexpensive premiums praising stars like Hopalong Cassidy or the Jetsons.
2) Try finding something antique or repurposed for the garden. If your friends have a vintage cement birdbath in the yard, it can become a garden fountain when you gift them with a new electric water spout that requires no attachments. Just put it in the water. Bird houses are attractive additions to a garden, and birds will move into a vintage house if it is cleaned and put in a safe place. Vintage bird houses are often left in the back yard of a sold house, cost very little, or are free. Need a gift for a friend who collects full-sized cars or even toy examples? How about a damaged car grill from a flea market or an auto repair shop to hang on a fence with antique radiator covers and other decorative metal pieces? Rusty, shiny chrome or repainted examples look great and can stay on the fence year round. Children like fairies and gnomes, and new and old figures from 5 inches to 4 feet tall, old or new, are very popular this year. Iron or cement figures can be painted and used for many years. Iron gnomes were put in gardens in Germany in the mid-1800s for good luck. Cement copies were popular in 1950s gardens. They last for years. New, large cement gnomes sell for about $100. An antique iron gnome is $1,500 or more.
3) Need a collectible gift for a sports fan? Look online for old, used catcher’s mitts. They look like antiques because the modern mitts are smaller and more streamlined. They can be placed on a porch chair to start conversations. Vintage signed baseballs are also good gifts. So are old golf balls and footballs. Autographed examples are usually high priced. Most people don’t realize how much all sporting equipment has changed and improved over the years, so an antique ball or glove is a conversation piece.
4) Would your friends like a magic gift? Old puzzles, especially attractive wooden trinket boxes that have a secret lock, are available. There are even magic auctions where real magicians’ props are sold (with the information on how to make them work given to the buyer in a sealed envelope.) Posters advertising magic shows from the late 1800s and 1900s are selling for $500 and up to be framed as art, but inexpensive copies are also sold online.
5) Is your friend or relative interested in music? It’s easy to find a vintage guitar, piano or accordion, but the least expensive music is from an old harmonica. The harmonica has been neglected, but today some young bands are adding the unfamiliar notes to modern songs using vintage instruments.
6) There is lots more that is antique, moderately priced, but not remembered. Things like the “wedding picture” frame, popular in the 1930s, made to hold the bride’s photograph. It always had a wide back border and was displayed on the family piano. Or an elaborate antique lock and key that could be used on a special door. The American Lock Collectors Association a national lock club that helps members with old locks find keys or the combination to open the lock.
7) Best of all, give the best book of antiques and collectibles prices, the 53rd edition of Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2021. In addition to 11,500 all new and expert reviewed prices and 3,000 photographs, Kovels’ 2021 Price Guide includes record prices, tips on trends, surprises and clever fakes plus a special insert on Collecting Trends: Twentieth-Century Lighting.
P.S. Don’t forget antique jewelry. Pieces from ancient Rome to modern times made of diamonds are all in style and sell for about the same amount as they do in a jewelry store, but are classic and easier to find online.