Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Perfectly Practical #66 - Know Quality When You See It


'Tis the season to go garage/estate sale-ing but I often have people tell me they don't know if what they are looking at is worth what it costs.  First of all, only you can judge whether it is worth the cost or not to you.  A Madame Alexander doll for $5 may be a steal to someone, but for me, it's not worth it because I don't collect dolls.  Conversely, I would snatch up an unopened box of jars for $5 no problem whereas someone else would walk right by it.  One man's trash and all that jazz...

What I would say though is to know quality when you see it.

Remember my champagne purse on a beer budget?  I think this bag qualifies for that title as well, except this time, I found the purse at a garage sale and not a department store. 

Above is a vintage Dooney & Bourke bag.  If I bought a brand new one in a similar style (they don't make this style anymore) it would cost about $245.00  I paid $2.  That's a savings of 99%!

When I'm at a garage or an estate sale I flip over, look closely, touch, or smell everything to check for quality.  I am not a connoisseur of many things but of the items I collect, I kind of know what I am doing.  Kinda.  :)

I tell people I'm like a magpie, I am drawn to shiny things.  When I look at shiny things (or potentially shiny things such as tarnished silver) I flip them over.  Jewelry is the same.  I look for 10k, 14k, or 18k markings if something is gold and "sterling", 800, or 925 if it is silver.  If their is a real stone involved then the back of the setting will be open so the stone can "breathe."

For fur, silk, or leather items, I feel them and look at stitching and the lining for signs of good quality.  Also, the fur, leather, and suede items will have that wonderful distinct tanned hide smell. 

For antiques, I look for dove-tailed joints, cracks in the wood or marble, previously repaired areas, and the kind of wood used.  It is favorable to have a maker's mark label on it.  Also, how the piece has been worn over the years.  Normal wear and tear gives it character in my opinion. 

Milk glass is a little harder to identify.  Since I am not a true collector in the sense that I could rattle off makers and their marks, only a collector who likes the pretty slightly iridescent translucent white glass, I am not sure how to tell you how to proceed.  I can only tell you what I look for and that is a pink shimmer in the item's thinnest points.  Usually you can see that shimmer around the edge of the piece when you hold it to the light.   I have been told that many milk glass manufacturers do not have a shimmer in their glass but as I like the shimmer, that is what I look for.

So back to the purse.  How do I know this handbag is not a knock-off D&B?  Well, I'll tell you:

1.  All metal used on the purse is brass
2.  All rings are in a "D" shape not round or square
3.  The iconic duck logo has a textured background, not smooth
4.  The duck has space between its bill and its back
5.  The inside fabrics are all brown
6.  The hang tag is of the original "DB" logo (newer bags have the duck although there have been some with the retro tag design)
7.  The stitching is a cream color and not yellow
8.  All stitching is similar
9.  The bag is all leather
10.  The trim is all British tan
11.  The solid grommets have the "Dooney Bourke" stamped on the back



So next time you are at a garage or estate sale, pay special attention to the quality of goods.  You might find a gem amongst the rubble.

This is part of We are that family's Works for me Wednesday

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