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When shopping at antiques stores, flea markets and garage sales, collectors should be aware of the dangers that older items can pose. Old firearms, war souvenirs like hand grenades, cannon balls or boxes of bullets, and old tools are obvious dangers. But some innocent-looking antiques are dangerous.

1.  Old medicine bottles with contents containing drugs. Even fumes in closed spaces can pose a risk. The active ingredients of some old medicines may be changed over time. Antique “Oil of Vitriol” can have sulfuric acid and “Aqua Fortis,” nitric acid. Even lots of bitters have heroin or morphine or other pain killers. Look for a product name on a bottle with medicine—or household cleaning products or poisons—before opening. Ask a pharmacist if there are questions. Empty the bottles if there is any chance a child could find it. (The medicine bottle pictured, Dr. Taylor’s Chrono-Thermal Balsam of Liverwort, is from 1840-1860 and claims to cure consumption (tuberculosis) and asthma. It sold for $550 at a Glass Works auction.)

2.  Jarts. Old toys can be tempting and fun. Jarts, a lawn game popular in the 1980s, had four large darts with weighted metal tips, and two ring targets placed on the ground. The darts are thrown at the target. The game was banned in the U.S. because of thousands of children were injured. There were even four deaths. Consumer warnings were printed on the packaging, but the sale of Jarts was finally banned in 1988.


3.  Toys with tiny pieces children can swallow. In the late 1970s, Mattel launched a line of toys based on the sci-fi TV series Battlestar Galactica. Kids loved the Viper, the Cyclon Raider, the Scarab and the Stellar Probe. But a child died after choking on a tiny spring-loaded missile, and Mattel recalled the toys and suspended production. Another dangerous toy is Buckyballs, a set of small, powerful magnetic balls that could be molded into different shapes, sold as an adult “stress reliever” desk toy in 2009. Some small, shiny pieces were swallowed by kids. The balls attract each other inside the body and they can cause serious intestinal injury. Warnings on the packaging were deemed ineffective and the toy was recalled in 2012 and banned in 2014. But the ban was lifted in court in 2016 and Buckyballs are now being sold again.


4.  Things with mercury. Antique clocks, thermometers, barometers, lamps and even mirrors may contain mercury. Dangerous exposure may result from breakage. In some states, antiques with mercury are prohibited from sale.


5.  Old cribs, playpens and high chairs. An old crib may be adorable but too dangerous to use. Cribs and playpens were made with slats spaced too far apart, allowing a baby’s body, but not head, to get through. Plus, modern mattresses or padding may not be an exact fit, leaving dangerous gaps. In 1974, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) established standards for slat spacing and crib dimensions to ensure safety, and stopped sales of old cribs. The wooden high chair with a smaller footprint may be folksy but tip easily. Decorative cutouts may also pose a risk. Old wooden furniture from 1900 to the 1970s may be decorated with lead paint, poisonous if swallowed.








#12 RE: What Not to Collect: 5 Potentially Dangerous CollectiblesGeneMan1 2018-05-22 10:43
Still have not seen an answer from Mrs. Kovel, on comment #7? Why tell people to "wash out" old dangerous medicines. Yet our water authorities tell us NOT to put old medicines and pills down the drain, as they just end up in our public water treatment systems, recycled back to our drinking water faucets! Please clarify?
#11 RE: What Not to Collect: 5 Potentially Dangerous Collectibleslforsberg 2018-05-21 21:42
Hollyscoin--I had one of those grenades too. It probably contained carbon tetrachloride-- you can't tell without breaking it. Fortunately I knew a group was organizing an effort to build a museum of firefighting, so I donated it to them.
#10 RE: What Not to Collect: 5 Potentially Dangerous CollectiblesRessie 2018-05-21 19:42
Many of us grew up with these items in one fashion or another and we are still alive.

Guess what, if NOT used with COMMON SENSE folks, most things are dangerous.
#9 what not to collectAlixzzz 2018-05-18 09:31
OK OK I get it. We all know that some things can be dangerous. However, I have never figured out how those of us pushing 70 ever survived growing up with all of those "horrible" things around us. Oh, I remember now, my parents were watchful, careful, and often said "NO". A foreign concept in the present world.
#8 RE: What Not to Collect: 5 Potentially Dangerous Collectiblesdesertdigger 2018-05-17 09:26
It's perfectly fine to use antique baby furniture for other purposes.
High chairs can be re-used as plant stands or for dolls and teddy bears. Cribs can be used in antique themed bedrooms for pillows and blankets or in older children's rooms for stuffed toys.
You're right, the bottles may be collectable, before you dispose of them check with a collector or online.
#7 RE: What Not to Collect: 5 Potentially Dangerous CollectiblesGeneMan1 2018-05-16 21:24
You say to "wash out" old medicine bottles which may have poison contents. Yet you neglect to say they should not be washed out into the kitchen drain or toilet, which goes into city water supply to be ingested by everyone in 'cleaned' water. Seems like if they are that bad, the contents should be disposed of at a hazardous waste pickup day? please clarify?
#6 JartsJan712 2018-05-16 19:28
I recently purchased a vintage set of Jarts at a Goodwill, not realizing they were banned, with the thought of reselling them. Is it illegal for me to resell them? Is there a market for certain parts of the game besides the darts themselves? Thanks
#5 RE: What Not to Collect: 5 Potentially Dangerous Collectiblessuetue 2018-05-16 19:04
Ms. — cynthiarussak,
Doll collectors will purchase items like those cribs, high chairs and beds. The crib in the photo is from the 1860s or 70s. It would be a crime to "get rid of it."

All scare tactics aside, mirrors aren't going to hurt you unless you're into scraping the backing off and licking it. Don't lick it. Don't eat it and don't bury it in your garden. Yes, I'm kidding. I knew you weren't going to do that. The thermometers and barometers with those on that still work aren't a hazard unless they're smashed. If it is smashed, it's not that much of a bigger deal than other household disasters. It's not as bad as a bug infestation, ie.

Here's what you have to do if you accidentally smash one:
I don't quite get how you're going to accidentally smash one with a metal or wooden backing, though. I think you'd almost have to do it deliberately.
#4 dangerous collectibleslishareading 2018-05-16 18:39
Although there is a need to be careful, children's safety is a parent's responsibility, not the market's.
We all have access to newspapers, magazines, computers or cell phones with internet capabilities and rather than play games, research what is safe for children today. Let's start, medicine bottles: clean well before displaying, jarts: I grew up with 7 siblings using them, not one injury, but then my parents happened to be present whenever we did tiny pieces: never should be within a child's reach, mercury: should never be within a child's reach, then if an accident occurs, adult can remove the child and clean up thoroughly, old cribs, etc: only people with no young children should buy these because parents should know better, therefore they should be available to those who like as decor. People's personal rights vs. parent's resonsibility
#3 What not to collectwannawinner 2018-05-16 18:04
Also, be aware of lead paint decorated drinking glasses from Libby, 1950, 60's. And, homespun vernonware dinnerware from the 1950's are glazed with lead paints. If unsure if yours is effected, test with inexpensive lead test swab.

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