A toothpick you say?

Bird book Dec 2013 025Why collect toothpick holders?  I’ve always been fascinated by these diminutive objects.  My interest may stem from early childhood influences.  My father, to my mother’s frequent dismay, was often found with a toothpick dangling from his lips.

As a collectible, there is infinite variety in the design, material of making, and functionality of toothpick holders.  They are easily found in thrift & consignment stores, antique shops, and gift shops.  Held in the palm of the hand, the holders are easily scrutinized and enjoyed.  Their small size makes it easy to store and display your collection.

My collection consists mainly of glass and ceramic objects. The figural toothpick holder pictured here is a new addition to my collection, a recent Christmas gift, and my first holder made of metal with a functional design.  Depressing the bird’s head will impale a toothpick with the sharply-pointed double-prong protruding from the bird’s beak; the spring-loaded mechanism draws the toothpick out of the tree-trunk shaped receptacle.

Molded inside the tree trunk is the inscription “PAT NO D-151773,” a U.S Patent Office “First Design Number” which can be traced to 1948.

An eBay search will reveal a wide variety of woodpecker toothpick holders of various designs and manufacture.

To learn more about toothpick holders:  National Toothpick Holder Collectors’ Society

Or try:  The Woodpecker Toothpick Dispenser

Past Objects

The majority of modern man-made artifacts have no intrinsic value.  Mostly mass-produced, ultimately discarded by their owners, they quickly disappeared from sight and memory.  And yet these objects were often imbued with significant meaning: first by those who designed and manufactured them; then by those who used them.  It’s the romance of these objects’ stories that entrance me so; their making and their use, and what such usage tells us about their history.

Scott Jordan is a man who understands well the power of the object.  I recently came across his book Past Objects and recognized in the author a kindred soul.

“In the space between archaeology and history stand men like Scott Jordan, a New Yorker who has been digging around the city’s soil for the better part of four decades. What began as a childhood hobby searching for treasure evolved into a way of life that has resulted in Jordan haunting building sites throughout the five boroughs, attempting to recover history before it is forever paved over. Using shovels, mesh sieves, canvas rucksacks, ingenuity and an incredible amount of determination, Jordan has amassed a staggering collection of antique bottles, china, toys, shoes and other items that creates a patchwork historical narrative of New York City and its earliest settlers.”—From the publisher.

Jordan is a collector, detective, preservationist, historian, author and artist.  He’s spent decades of his life devoted to the object and its meaning, digging around New York City to uncover and preserve a past buried underground.  Once unearthed, Jordan is a cultural interpreter who provides a voice for the voiceless, who forges intellectual and emotional connections between the object and the viewer.

It comes as no surprise that Jordan is also an artist who creates collages from his found objects, a method by which the collector pays homage to his collection.  Moreover, collage enables the artist to gather together objects and present metaphors, create symbolic associations, expose emotions, and convey messages for which there are no words.  According to Jordan:

My goal in making these artifact art collages is to allow the holder or observer to not only make a connection with the independent beauty of the historic objects but also to make a tangible connection to the history of New York.


Scott Jordan’s website

Scott Jordan’s Collage Art

Mark Batty Publisher of Past Objects

Searching for..the Lincoln cent

2009-lincoln-centAs a youth I enjoyed riding my bike to the bank on a Saturday morning, eager to purchase rolls of coins.  Pennies, nickels, dimes & quarters, I would break each roll open, searching for that rare Wheatie, silver dime or quarter, steel penny, and WWII nickels with the large mint mark above Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello dome.  In those days I always carried an Eisenhower Dollar in my pocket.  How I regretted the day when those silver coins switched to a clad composition of cupronickel.  Since then new issues just haven’t inspired me, not the Susan B. Anthony dollar, nor the golden Sacagawea, nor the 50 State Quarters® Program.

linc_headerI’ve been waiting patiently since February 2009 to obtain examples of the newly designed Lincoln cent with nary a penny to be found. What a coup to send a handful to Japan!  The teller at the savings bank didn’t even know what I was talking about (“What new penny?”)…

Ken Hall writes in The Journal of Antiques & Collectibles that the new coins (634.8 million of the log cabin design were minted by the U.S. Mint) are languishing in the vaults of the Federal Reserve, waiting for banks to order them.  Victims of the slow economy and a lower demand for coins for business transactions.

Their scarcity means that some people are selling 50-cent rolls on eBay for as much as $50.  Makes more “cents” to purchase a Lincoln Cent Two-Roll Set directly from the U.S. Mint for $8.95.


We want a new Lincoln penny!  MadSilence readers, should you possess a real world example (not a virtual copy as pictured above), email us immediately. We’ll respond with our U.S. mailing address.  The reader whose penny we receive first in the mail will receive a suitable gift via return snail mail.  So check those pockets!

Learn more about the 2009 Lincoln Cent Designs.

United States coin images from the United States Mint.


Six Tips to Preserve Your Election Collectibles

faireyobamaposter1Across the nation, Americans are saving newspapers, posters, buttons, and bumper stickers to commemorate the historic election and inauguration of Barack Obama, America’s first African American president. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), encourages citizen-collectors to make sure that their presidential inauguration collections will be preserved long into the future.

“The election day newspaper – cared for properly — will still be there years from now to remind us and future generations of this singular moment in American history,” Radice said. “This is a great time to raise awareness of the need to protect election and inauguration-related items from common threats such as high temperature, humidity, and light exposure.”

Follow these simple preventive steps to keep your treasures safe and sound for the next generation…

Via ResourceShelf

To learn more about election collectibles and political campaign memorabilia, go here.

For more advice on managing your collections and preserving your collectibles, including Books, Ceramics & Glass, Paintings, and Paper and Ephemera, go  here

Myartspace Blog offers an interesting discussion of copyright issues surrounding Shepard Fairey’s image of President Barack Obama titled ’Hope’ (above)  at:  Shepard Fairey: Obey Copyright.


From the Fortress of the Gods

The Kingdom of Bhutan, located in the Himalayan Mountains between China and India, has some of the world’s most unusual and highly collectible postage stamps.  As a stamp collector in the 1970s I recall first learning about the Himalayan kingdom and Fortress of the Gods after discovering their “talking stamp.”  Since then Bhutan and other world countries created postage stamps that appealed to the world collector’s market while bringing in needed revenues from stamps sales.  It would take 20 years before the U.S. Postal Service would begin purposely creating stamps designed to stimulate collector interest.


The world’s first “talking stamp” (above) was released in April 1973.  It’s a tiny vinyl record, that when played at 78 rpm, included the Bhutanese national anthem and a brief history of the country.

Silk stamp (above) from Bhutan


Scented stamps (above)

Now Bhutan has released “the world’s first CD-ROM stamps“.  According to Time Magazine:

Now come the world’s first CD-ROM stamps. Self-adhesive wrappers contain documentaries marking the 100th anniversary of Bhutan’s monarchy and its shift toward parliamentary democracy. And at nearly 4 sq. in. (26 sq cm), these stamps aren’t just pushing the envelope.  


Want your own a stamp from Bhutan?  Visit here.

Related links:

Bhutan: Fortress of the Gods
Bhutan – Mountain Fortress of the Gods displayed more than 500 objects in order to provide a comprehensive insight into the history and culture of this country.

Postage From The Edge: Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan Ranks High in Philatelic Firsts
By Gabe Oppenheim, Washington Post Staff Writer

~MadSilence the Senior

Action figure fun

Lunch Lady Action Figure. Image source: Stupid.com

Just in time for the return to school we have the Lunch Lady Action Figure. As a public high school graduate I well remember the stern demeanor and terrifying glare of the lunch room ladies. A tough job as I learned from my wife’s cousin’s husband’s mother who, unknown to me, worked as a lunch lady in my school cafeteria for many years.

The 5-1/4″ tall, hard vinyl figure comes with a scoop, a food tray, a serving station and a sticker sheet featuring images of delicious hot entrées. Available as a professional development fundraiser via the New York School Nutrition Association.

Now let’s raise the level of our action figure cultural discourse with the Librarian Action Figure. With Amazing push-button Shushing Action!

Librarian Action Figure via Stupid.com

Actions figures have been part of American culture for decades. I played reenacted military battles with my G.I. Joe dolls action figures for hundreds of hours in my youth.

1960s Action Soldier via Wikipedia

To raise the cultural level of this post even more Shakespeare’s Den gives us Van Gogh and Da Vinci as:

Artist Action Figures & Dolls

Exceptional gifts for the art lovers in your life. But check first to see if the Van Gogh action figure comes with a miniature severed ear.



The art of the miniature book

Image source: An exhibition of a private collection displayed at the Library of Castilla in Toledo, via the Miniature Book Society

Miniature books, most of which are less than three inches tall and some of which are smaller than a penny, have delighted readers for centuries.  Popular because they are easily carried or concealed, these delightful books range from Shakespeare’s classics to tiny Holy Bibles, politics to presidents, illustrated children’s books and more…

Image source: 4000 Years of Miniature Books, online exhibition, Indiana University

What Is a Miniature Book?
According to the Miniature Book Society, Inc., in the United States, a miniature book is usually considered to be one which is no more than three inches in size–height, width or thickness. Some collectors do occasionally acquire slightly larger books. Outside of the United States, books up to four inches are collected as miniature books. Miniature books continue to be published and collected today. Go here for a Gallery of Books from Modern and Contemporary Presses.

Books the size of a playing card, a postage stamp or your thumbnail have beguiled Julian Edison since his college days. Today he has a library of many thousands of these remarkable miniatures spanning 4,000 years, almost all 3 inches high or smaller, which fill bookshelves in his library. Some might be hard to see: His smallest book is less than 1 millimeter high, printed by the Tokyo-based Toppan Printing Company in 2000. “Miniature books have been produced for reasons of practicality, curiosity and aesthetics,” he says. “Many people think of these as novelties which can’t be read, and for the most part nothing could be further from the truth. Most of them don’t require a magnifying glass to be read. The type size and the size of the book don’t necessarily correspond.” Harvard’s Houghton Library held an exhibition of highlights from the collection in 2005. In 2007, the Grolier Club in New York held an exhibition of highlights from it, to coincide with the publication of Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures (Harry N. Abrams Inc.), which Edison co-edited with Boston rare book dealer Anne C. Bromer.

L’amour et les belles, Paris 1818. Le petit chansonnier, Paris 1842. Plaisir et gaîté, Paris 1824. Miniature books from the collection of Julian I. Edison.


A stroll down the blogroll: April 2008

There’s so much out there to share… here are ten more sites to enjoy.   Comments please.  ~MadSilence

pruned.png  Pruned
“Alexander Trevi is a landscape architect working and living in Chicago.  On landscape architecture and related fields.”  And so much more.  MS
URL:  http://pruned.blogspot.com/


newarttv-logo.gif  New Art TVis an online TV station dedicated to showing video clips of exhibitions, artist interviews and studio visits with a focus on new or contemporary art.  According to the New Art TV website: “Newarttv.com is produced by NewArtTV, Inc. a media and production company based in New York City with a focus on producing premium video content on contemporary art. The creator of NewArtTV is Robert Knafo, art critic/independent curator and the producer of studiovisit.net.”  A delightful new find via The Art Market Blog.
URL:  http://www.newarttv.com/


Mapping the Marvellous
“Itineraries of curious objects and collections.  Books, articles, quotes, images, concepts, theories and thoughts related to research on collecting, taxonomy, classification, cabinets of curiosities, the history of natural history and surrealism. Created by a PhD student in Art History & Visual Studies at the University of Manchester, England.”
URL:  http://mappingthemarvellous.wordpress.com/



Two Coats of Paint
“Maintained by Sharon L. Butler, Two Coats of Paint is a digest of reviews, commentary, and background information about painting and related subjects.”
URL:  http://twocoatsofpaint.blogspot.com/


Art Bloggers @
“Providing an opportunity for bloggers to step away from the computer.  Art Bloggers @, founded by Sharon L. Butler and Joanne Mattera, organizes events for art bloggers at art fairs and festivals.  Sharon L. Butler, a painter and writer, maintains the art blog Two Coats of Paint.”
URL:  http://artbloggersat.blogspot.com/


flowerblog.gif   art for housewives
And to learn more of eco-artware, including art made from unusable grocery store trolleys, rejected pots and pans, plastic bags, try art for housewives.
URL:  http://www.housewife.splinder.com/


On Paper Wings
“This is a collection of things that I, Doug Wilson, find interesting spanning Graphic Design, Photography, Travel, and many other things in between.”  And what a collection it is.  MS
URL:  http://blog.onpaperwings.com/


Your Source of Visual Intoxication


“ArtMagick is a virtual gallery dedicated to the continual quest of seeking out obscure 19th century artists and long-forgotten paintings showing a ‘magic world of romance and pictured poetry’. The majority of the content in the archive covers the Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist movements.”  Intoxicating it is!  MS 


cover.gif  cynthia korzekwa invites you to… make art, not trash
“Think before throwing! In a world with an ever-growing population and an excessive consumption of natural materials, trash has a new dimension. We have more trash than we know what to do with. So why throw away materials that can be re-used.”  See also: art for housewives
URL:  http://www.makeartnottrash.com/


Just A Modern Guy
Vintage Style for Modern Living    jamgdotcom_header.jpg

“The online blog from the owners of The Purple Moon- West Virginia’s only gallery focusing exclusively on mid-20th Century design, furnishings, accessories and art.  In this blog we will discuss aspects of learning about, collecting and enjoying the fabulous designs and art which came to be at the beginning of the Atomic Age.” 
URLs:  http://justamodernguy.com/ 

Related MadSilence post:  A stroll down the blogroll: September 2007

What’s hot and what’s not


A recent visit to an antique and collectible market gives insights into what’s hot in collecting and what’s not.  The Long Island Depression Glass Society’s February 2008 sale offered a large selection of collectibles, including glass, ceramics, some furniture, prints and paper ephemera, kitchen ware, advertising, and a variety of smalls and decorative objects.

What appeals first to my collector’s heart is glass: Depression glass, elegant glassware, glass from the 1950s and 60s, and contemporary glassware.  What was most obvious: the market for Depression glass has cooled considerably.  Suffering from a plethora of reproductions and waning interest, sales have stagnated and prices plateaued.  One dealer told me, “Veteran collector’s are only looking for those few rare pieces missing from their collections, while there are fewer and fewer new collectors.”


The demand for art pottery is also cooling.  Vintage pottery by McCoy, Roseville, and Hall was plentiful, but suffering from slow sales. 

From what I was told, World War II era memorabilia and military collectibles seem to be holding their own.   Dealers selling vintage advertising and vintage prints of known artists reported good sales.

Two dealers reported the globalization of collecting and their expansion into international markets.  Apparently Korean and Japanese buyers are keen to purchase American glassware from the 1950s and 60s, and elegant American glassware.  Container loads of Anchor Hocking Fire King glassware, including decorated mugs, are being shipped to Asian buyers.  The Japanese market is particularly strong with Japanese buyers insisting on mint quality items for which they pay a premium.

Antique American phonographs are also selling to international buyers.  One dealer who refurbishes vintage phonographs demonstrated an early Edison wax cylinder phonograph from around 1900, as well as early record players with decorative horns.  Shipments of a dozen machines are regularly sent to eager overseas buyers.       

The show was distinguished by the absence of young buyers: the average age of customers appeared to be around 50.  Harry Rinker of Rinker Enterprises, Inc.is a prolific antiques and collectibles writer who postulates that people collect their childhoods.  Rinker reports that many younger collectors have discovered the post-1945 period.  While the primary focus is on post-1945 modernist ceramics, furniture, glass, and metals, a growing number of collectors are discovering movie, music, and television collectibles.  Which may explain why a sale sponsored by a depression glass collector’s group didn’t draw young people.   


As for me, my sole purchase was a 1940s vintage candy container in the shape of a Miniature Wartank.  Made in glass by the Victory Glass Co. of Jeanette, Pa. 



Virtual Thriftathon – the haul from Japan and the USA!

Japanese people have a strange aversion to used items (Liza Dalby mentions it in her book “Kimono“). Some people see used clothing and personal items as having retained some of the previous owners spirit, or so that’s how I’ve heard it explained. Charity thrift stores like the Open Door Mission or others really don’t exist in Japan! However, the needs of a large population on a small island with very little garbage space has led to a multitude of business that go by the name of Hard-Off (electronics), Kimono-Off, or Book-Off. They are the antithesis of the thrift store because the items they take in are in very good condition, carefully gone over, and are only barely discounted from new-item price.
This having been said, you can often find nice bargains in some stores, especially when you’re a n00b gaijin trying to furnish an apartment on a budget. One of my favorites is called Second Street. It’s a great place to find discounted clothes and housewares. So that’s where I went to get my Thriftathon item!
And here he is! I’ve written about tanuki before… they’re basically like gnomes you put on your lawn, bringing good fortune to your family. I’ve wanted one for my own house for ages, but they tend to run around Y6000 (~$58) for a small one. This one I unearthed at Second Street for a mere Y2000 (~$18)! This one is currently living in my living room, hopefully attracting lots of good luck for the new year.
Thanks to Cindy is Crafty for such a nifty event!
Thanks to CAB we have the haul from Japan.
Here’s what MadSilence found in the good old U.S.A.
Thanks to the Salvation Army and Goodwill thrift stores, we have two ceramic figurines, both marked “Made in Occupied Japan,” and the top of a milk glass covered hen dish (Westmoreland?).  Total price for the three pieces: $4.50.  
But wait… there’s more!
For a $10 purchase price we have this beautiful landscape painting:
Hand-painted and nicely done. It’s a shame that someone felt it necessary to donate this painting to Goodwill. At least it will have a good home.
Thanks again to Cindy.

Previous Older Entries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 97 other followers