10 unexpected things people collect
- Next1 of 21Photo by Natasha Lee
- Previous Next2 of 21Photo by Jane Dagmi
- Previous Next3 of 21Photo by Jane Dagmi
- Previous Next4 of 21Photo by Cameron Blaylock
- Previous Next5 of 21Photo by Trey Speegle
- Previous Next6 of 21Photo by Mathew Mead
- Previous Next7 of 21Photo by Mathew Mead
- Previous Next8 of 21Photo by Natasha Lee
- Previous Next9 of 21Photo by Natasha Lee
- Previous Next10 of 21Photo by Cheryl Maeder
- Previous Next11 of 21Courtesy of Cheryl Maeder
- Previous Next12 of 21Photo by Christine Hoffman
- Previous Next13 of 21Photo by Christine Hoffman
- Previous Next14 of 21Photo by Christine Hoffman
- Previous Next15 of 21Photo by Christine Hoffman
- Previous Next16 of 21Photo by Paula Joerling
- Previous Next17 of 21Photo by Paula Joerling
- Previous Next18 of 21Photo by Stacey Bear
- Previous Next19 of 21Photo by Stacey Bear
- Previous Next20 of 21Photo by Deb Haupt
- Previous Next21 of 21Photo by Deb Haupt
Collect Calling1 of 21
By Jane Dagmi
While three like objects may make a collection, the more ardently collector rarely stops at three, or four or 20. As an enthusiastic collector myself, I understand the allure: Collecting can ground you in the present, while giving you a sense of the past. There's also something satisfying about finding that rare piece to add to your growing assortment of Pez dispensers, vintage aprons or antique dolls. Here, 10 collectors (including me) display their wares and reveal the stories behind their collections.
Shore Things2 of 21
When I moved to Florida from New York City, the writer and stylist in me made a promise to tour every thrift shop between Hollywood and Palm Beach for stories and inspiration. From all the discarded treasures I encountered, I found myself drawn to items decorated with seashells and wound up with a collection of shell flowers and boxes, shell pictures and jewelry, and these shell-covered glass vases. Perhaps it was the draw of my new beach location—quite different from the streets of New York.
Life's a Beach3 of 21
I particularly love the variety of my collected shell-covered vases. From precisely patterned to rustically encrusted, they feature the gamut of shells from all-natural colored to candy colored. Pretty to behold but a terrible chore to dust, I love exhibiting the pieces of beach craft on shelves and on top of cabinets—I have even been inspired to try making some of my own!
By the Numbers4 of 21
Trey Speegle, an artist whose own work is inspired by vintage paint-by-number paintings, is also a collector of the vintage originals, from the 1950s and '60s. Speegle inherited his first couple of hundred from his late friend Michael O'Donoghue’s widow. The other 2,500 or so, Speegle amassed on his own. Nudes, Mona Lisa and Queen Elizabeth are some of the subjects coveted by the paint-by-number collecting community, with the Queen fetching over $5,000.
Art Appreciation5 of 21
Though paint-by-numbers are considered kitschy by many, Speegle offers the counter-point that he transforms the vintage artwork by incorporating them into new pieces for a new perspective. When Speegle recently acquired 150 pieces in one fell swoop, he promptly reconfigured the lot to make an 8-by-16-foot mural entitled Look With Wonder at That Which Is Before You.
Glass Act6 of 21
"Collecting a single color can be fun," says style expert and author Matthew Mead, who has a collection of glassware and vases in every color including graduating shades of purple. "I am able to scan tables at flea markets and zero in on pieces quickly. I also enlist my wife and kids in the hunt."
Purple Reign7 of 21
From stemware to vintage medicine bottles, Mead's purple glass collection spans the spectrum from pale lavender to deep eggplant. Mead likes amassing them together on shelves and tiered stands, which allows him and guests to enjoy the varied forms and shades. As the stylist advises, "You can always set a dining table with mismatched stemware but using a single color will bring an impressive unity to the table despite the various shapes and sizes."
Spencer's Dispensers8 of 21
At age 10, Spencer Ward-Bowen received his first Pez. That initial Smurf dispenser inspired a 14-year buying spree resulting in over 1,000 dispensers and a Technicolor gallery at home. "To me they have always represented that 1950s and '60s Americana feel," says Ward-Bowen, who, ironically, doesn't care much for candy.
Shelf Life9 of 21
Ward-Bowen displays his dispenser collection on hanging shelves, purchased from The Pez Museum. "When I get a new case, I feel the need to fill it with dispensers as fast as possible, which leads to the collection growing even bigger," he says. Though it's hard for him to choose a favorite, at the top of the list for Ward-Bowen are the die-cut Mickey Mouse from 1961, the Santa from 1950, and the new U.S. presidents series, first released in 2011.
Fantasy Family10 of 21
Photographer and designer Cheryl Maeder was rummaging through a box of old paintings in an Oakland, Calif., shop when she came across two portraits of people she decided were her long lost (but totally made-up) relatives from Connecticut: Doris (blond hair and fur collar) and George (dapper and Don Draper-ish). Maeder has since collected more buttoned-up "relatives," including Frederick and Adele (top left), and bare-breasted Aunt Tilly—each bought for $25 or less. Shy young William, hidden behind the lamp, was a gift from Stan Williams, aka The Elegant Thrifter.
Family Tree11 of 21
Now all gathered on a living room wall, guests poke their heads through the niches in the wall and get to pose for a family photo as Maeder demonstrates. Maeder says this collection of made-up family members are the antithesis of her real life family, a boisterous bunch from New Jersey.
Domestic Bliss12 of 21
Christine Hoffman started her collection of more than 200 vintage aprons back in the 90s, after seeing many at thrift shops and flea markets. The best part? She found them "at an appealing—as in real cheap—price." Christine Hoffman, who shares style tips, simple DIY projects, and recipes on her website Pies & Aprons, ties one of these icons of domesticity on every day whether cleaning, gardening or while searching for collectible bargains either on the curb or at swap meets.
Tie One On13 of 21
Hoffman doesn't just wear her aprons for work. She likes pairing patchwork-style aprons with skirts and cowboy boots although sometimes she just forgets to take it off. "I often run out to the store still sporting an apron, garnering strange looks or prompting the question from a stranger, 'Do you work here?'" she says.
Flower Girl14 of 21
For Hoffman, aprons aren't her only passion. She also collects vintage enamel floral pins. Grouped on a single board, they make a great color statement and provide easy access for plucking off and accessorizing whatever she is wearing.
Get Pinned15 of 21
"I love to rotate them onto all my jackets and I really love to pin them on the rolled-up cuffs of my jeans," Hoffman says about her vintage floral pins. Purchased for less than a dollar a piece, the initial attraction to the juicy-hued floral pins was sparked by several blooms she found in her mother's jewelry drawer. Now these baubles can fetch up to $30 each.
House Hunters16 of 21
Artists Paula Joerling and Tom Haney's starter house was the most expensive they've purchased. At $125, the couple deliberated for an hour before buying an architect's model home at an antiques shop in Hendersonville, N.C. "We like collecting these houses and buildings because they are hard to find, so you don't end up with a million," says Joerling. Prices for the pint-size homes can start in the hundreds.
Hidden Treasure17 of 21
This unusual church-as-a-donation-basket was homemade, complete with money slot built into the center of the roof and a lock for safekeeping. Joerling and Haney found it in Lawrenceville, Ind., at an upscale junk shop. It could have cost as much as $175 but it only cost $25. "I was afraid to turn over the price tag. But when I did—I almost squealed," says Paula.
Dolled Up18 of 21
When most people walk into artist Stacey Bear's dining room they are creeped out by the stash of disjointed doll heads filling a dollhouse. Her artist friends, however, get it immediately, she tells us. They understand the visual inspiration and the term of endearment her last name evokes. Bear, a folk artist and painter, has a passion for antique toys—especially ones that are kind of quirky and weird.
Pet Project19 of 21
With respect to dolls, Bear gravitates toward those made from wood, papier maché and china. She collects animals by Steiff, a brand that is over 120 years old and highly sought-after, focusing on animals from the 1920s through the '50s. Her first ten Steiffs, a donation from a family member, were all dogs. A cupboard-full now boasts both domestic and wild animals including skunks, monkeys, camels, bunnies and, of course, bears.
Top Tin20 of 21
Deb Haupt travels the globe looking for treasures for her antique shop, Haupt Antiek Market located in Apple Valley, Minn. On a foray to an antiques store on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, Haupt bought her first tin baking molds in 2009. "I was amazed at how many different shapes and molds there were," says Haupt.
Bake Off21 of 21
While historical information is hard to come by, Haupt believes the molds are from the '40s and '50s, with possibly some dating back even earlier. Smitten by the variation, she tends to go for rustic molds that show use. She scooped up more than 500 at a flea market in Leipzig, Germany, and then some “very cool crusted and browned” square molds in Metz, France. At $1 to $10 a pop, the finds are inexpensive and easy enough to travel with.
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