Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vintage Troll Planter

I stopped by a barn sale last weekend, and was about to leave after disappointedly poking about the rusty tools and old gardening things when I spotted this guy peeking out from behind a flowerpot. Yay: a vintage troll! I'm always on the hunt for those, and they're getting harder and harder to find.

Once I picked him up, it made sense that he was with the gardening things after all, as he is actually a planter. The ceramic troll, about 5 inches tall, is hollow, and was meant to hold a small plant, the foliage of which would eventually form his "hair." Brilliant, really...

Friday, July 29, 2011

1966 Troll Log House

There were many vinyl and plastic houses made for trolls during the height of their popularity in the mid-1960s. One of the rarest and most charming was this small log residence, just 6 inches long, made by Mattel in 1966. It features a clear front window, vacuum-formed interior, and loads of printed detail.

Front of the Troll House.

Back of the Troll House. 

The cozy interior has a molded stump table and chair and 
printed bed, nightstand, shelf, and candleholder.

A vintage troll still lived in the log house when I found it:

Printed trolls peek out the windows on either end of the log.

Shhh...this one is sleeping...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bloo Bear

Meet Lenny, a 7 inch ted made by UK artist Susan Johnson of Bonsall Bears. Lenny caught my eye when I saw a picture of him in a British teddy bear guide. Susan makes Lennys in a variety of colors; check them out at the Bear Garden in Surrey.

I think he may be my new cutest-bear-ever.

Lenny is feeling bloo today...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

1967 Mini-Martians Dolls, House, and Space Ship

The Mini-Martians have landed! I've finally snagged one of the hardest to find and most sought toys on my wish list: the Mini Martians, made in Japan in 1967 by Swedlin as an exclusive for Sears department store.

 1967 Sears catalog ad.

A perfect confluence of the mid-1960s mod, space-race, and small doll fads, the Mini-Martians were 4 1/2 inch tall vinyl figures with moveable arms and heads, dressed in day-glo "Carnaby Comet" fashions. Like so many dolls of this period, the Martians had a vinyl dollhouse with a vacuum-formed, brittle plastic interior. Their scarcest accessory was a blue flying saucer car.  Made for such a short time for a limited marketplace, and from fragile materials, the Martians are rare finds today.

 The Mini-Martians Star House, 15 1/2 inches wide.

Inside the Star House, the Mini-Martians had a sleeping loft, closet with space suits, a space viewer screen, a panoramic window with a lovely view of the galaxy, and a parking terrace for an (attached) jet car. 

The original catalog ad reads:
"Martian Star House. $3.99.
Far beyond earth's bustling pace Mini-Martians dwell at ease. Zooming around in 'outer space,' Mini-Martians live and play. Nestled among the stars and comets...a home so streamlined, all their own. Brightly colored outside and in. Space car parks on terrace platform. Two elevated bunks for sleeping. Video scanner to check on pals...Vinyl house closes for visits to 'other planets.' "

This toy came out a few years before I was around, but if I had been, that dreamy ad copy alone would have sold me. Who wouldn't want to live in a house of her own nestled among the stars and comets?

Inside the Star House.

Sleeping bunks.

Closet with space suits hanging on the wall.

Video scanner. 

 Star Car parked on the terrace.

The Martians themselves are adorable and funky, dressed in brightly colored felt and metallic foil clothing with teeny tiny space boots (often missing). Each Martian came with a name, described in the catalog copy, which introduced them thusly:

"Mini-Martians. $1.49 each.
Futuristic sprites a mere 4 1/2 inches tall. They'll take you to their world above where make-believe is so much fun...Remove boots for barefoot space walks. Dressed in supersonic styles. From Japan. Collect all 6 and have your own Mini-Martian community."

I'm a few short of a community, but was lucky to find 2 in minty condition (with their boots, even!), while the house came with a couple of more-played-with Martians.

 Professor Pook appears to be the villian of the bunch. 
He's got those sinister-looking pointy-down eyebrows...

Marti is the boy Martian, while Bonnie, below, 
in her odd space visor, is one of the girls.

And here is the seldom-seen "Jet Car," 
for jaunts around the universe.

 Blasting off...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Giant Jack Rabbit Postcard

Yet another variation on the "giant produce gag" postcard, this vintage linen example from the Western USA features a giant jackrabbit being ridden by a cowboy. The caption: "Punching Cattle on a Jack Rabbit." Circa the 1940s.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Giant Fish Postcard

A takeoff on the "giant produce gag" postcard, this variation from Port Huron, Michigan features a giant fish eating an angler, with the caption "They're Biting Well Here In Port Huron." Circa the late 1900s.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Giant Potato Postcard

I love old postcards, the kookier and kitschier, the better. There is a whole sub-genre of postcards that can perhaps be classified as "giant gags." These are often souvenir cards from rural areas, featuring gag photos of giant produce, like this one of an enormous potato on a flatbed train car from New Brunswick, Canada. Circa the 1950s-60s.

The caption reads, "We'll grow them bigger when flat cars are made longer! Famous New Brunswick Potatoes."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Swift's Space Guide Advertising Premium

This 1950s space guide is one of the coolest advertising premiums I've come across recently. Released by a meat products company called Swift's, the 5 1/4 inch space guide has a turning wheel and die cut windows that reveal all sorts of interesting astronomical trivia. Need to know the surface temperature of Mars? Just turn the wheel and find out.

If you find yourself wondering, as I did, what meat products have to do with outer space, the connection is revealed on the back of the guide:

I believe this is the same Swift's Premium Company that distributed this ham shaped charm or watch fob in the 1920s (seen here in the kitchen of an old dollhouse).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Antiquing Trip to England: Day 9, Faversham

On our way back to London the day before we left England, we stopped at one last town, Faversham. This area was inhabited in prehistoric times, and was home to a Roman settlement before becoming a thriving medieval market town.

One of Faversham's most famous landmarks is its Guildhall, first built in 1574! On the day we visited, it was hosting a plant and flower sale.

 Faversham Guildhall.

Buildings in Faversham were rich in architectural detail. Particularly eye-catching was this gargoyle, adorning the front of a stationery shop housed in an 18th century edifice.

For such an old town, Faversham was rather lacking in antique stores. Fortunately tour leaders Terry and Doris came to my rescue again and led me to a lovely one, which had an equally lovely old bear sitting in a child's wicker chair in the window. (He's not visible in the photo below, as I had already snatched him up. At lightning speed.)

 See the empty chair on the left in the window? 
That's where my latest bear had been sitting,
moments before this photo was taken.

This was a beautiful antique shop, with a wonderful, huge, old fireplace inside, and lovely soft lighting.

And here's the bear, as found, about to be wrapped 
up for the journey home:

With his purchase, I completed my teddy tour of England by finding a bear in every town. (Sometimes more than one bear!) This one was very special, though. Purchased by the shopkeepers from the original owner, he had belonged to a little girl born in 1930, who received him the year of her birth. He went through the war with her, was much loved, and it shows. He is a very characterful bear, and one of my favorites of the whole trip. Doris kindly gave me some hand knit bear sweaters she found in a charity shop, and once he had put one on, he looked much more comfortable.

 His button with its WWII slogan gives us all 
good advice for difficult times: 
keep calm and carry on! 

Today, we tried something different from our usual scones: Brown Derby, a very odd dessert comprised of a plain brown donut, refried, and served while still hot with a heap of vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and peanuts on top. It was good!

If you look very closely, you can just see the donut on the bottom.

Finally it was time to head home, after a fabulous 10 days in England on the trip of a lifetime. My suitcases were full of great finds, while my checking account was (almost!) empty.

My carry-on bag.

A group photo at home.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Antiquing Trip to England: Day 8, Rochester

The city of Rochester was built on the site of earlier Neolithic, Celtic, and Roman settlements along the river Medway. Needless to say, it is rich in history. England's second-oldest cathedral is here, founded in 604 AD, right alongside an atmospheric ruin, a Norman castle dating to 1127.

Rochester Cathedral

This cathedral was filled with particularly beautiful and interesting doors. Here is a sampling:

An intriguing passageway in the Cathedral.

Rochester Castle, like its cousin in Lewes, suddenly pops up between two buildings in the shopping district:

 Rochester Castle

Unlike Dover Castle, which is in good repair and was used militarily until recent times, Rochester Castle is a spooky ruin, open to the elements:
A tea break with more scones was followed by a visit to a dollhouse miniatures shop, where I got a tiny tea cake stand filled with itty bitty pastries, the perfect thing to bring home to my dollhouse residents.

Real tea cakes.

Don't they both look delicious?

Not real tea cakes.

A second-hand bookshop had a wonderful surprise inside. In one corner, shelves, cabinets, and cases were filled with small items dug up from local river banks, Victorian outhouse sites and rubbish dumps, and old cellars, the places where people disposed of things in the days before trash pickup services. (The centuries-old clay pipes mentioned in an earlier post came from this riverside.) The shop had shelves and shelves full of dug up old stoneware beer bottles, Victorian quack medicine containers, and even poison bottles! I got a handful of miniature china doll heads and a dollhouse chamber pot here, all locally excavated.

Everything seen here was dug up locally. 
Note the "Poison Bottle" sign on the top middle shelf, 
and "Victorian Quack Cures" below.

Dug up dollies, all miniatures.

 A dug up dollhouse doll head and chamber pot.

Rochester had a number of antique shops, and this one turned up two wonderful vintage teddy bears well-spotted by tour leaders Terry and Doris, who pointed me to the store. (Thank you Terry and Doris!)

 I got this 1950s Chad Valley ted with lovely curly mohair,

and a characteristically goofy-looking 
Pedigree, made in Ireland.

Coming up next: Day 9, Faversham (our last day in England.)