March 19, 2013

December 22, 2009 The Vintage Business

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Fabrics,◦,◦Vintage — sharon @ 3:31 pm

I posted recently a post called Vintage Vintage, about the misuse of the word to designate items that aren’t really older, just inspired by older things or made to an older design. And I’ve probably mentioned before how absurd and difficult it can be to try to make a business of selling things that must be sought out and found individually, and offered for sale in whatever condition their age and experience has given them. How much more simple – and businesslike – it is to be able to order things by the dozen, bright and shiny new, and sell them one after another, never having to change the picture or advertising copy.

How much simpler, yes, but where does the joy come in? And that is the word that makes the difference. For some of us (you know who you are!) it’s all about finding that special vintage item, one with character, color, warmth, the love hand-crafted into it! It’s why we keep going to antique shows, flea markets, estate auctions and yard sales – hoping for that brief moment of elation, our heart skipping a beat on finding something wonderfully special. For instance, this Turkey red tablecloth from the Victorian era sets a festive tone for the holidays that can’t be matched by mass-produced, synthetic goods.
Turkey red tablecloth

Because we are privileged to live in a time of abundance, in an area whose history provides such a wealth of things made and saved, preserved and treasured for generations, we have been able to enjoy this feeling of discovery more frequently than many people, and that enjoyment has accounted for a rather large accumulation of vintage treasure. This is the wealth from which our business was conceived and born, but the joy of the find is still the spark that motivates all that we offer. Hopefully the joy is passed on with many of the special items we’ve been blessed to offer.

One especially tantalizing type of find is that of the unused item, preserved in its original package, still adorned with paper labels or price tags, put away for a rainy day that never came. Again we have been lucky to find many of these, and love having them to offer on our website, like these two tablecloth sets:
Wilendur tableclothPrints Charming tablecloth

Or these aprons:
MWT apronMWT apron

But even lacking like-new condition and original labels, it’s still a thrill to find something old that has somehow avoided the ravages of time, that has become the exception and survived unscathed, or only showing slight traces of the history that used up most of its contemporaries. This is the case with so many of the quilts we find in our area, the ones that were only for nice, and were carefully stored away for generations while the workaday bedding bore the brunt of the wear and tear. So that an item lovingly crafted 150 years ago can still look like this:
Whig rose quilt

So it is that we enjoy our business because we enjoy the beauty of the items, the connection with the past, and the linking of the past with people of today besides ourselves who appreciate the many qualities we nostalgically revere of days gone by.

I suppose it’s naive of me to have assumed that pristine condition in a vintage items is a desirable quality, though I’d be willing to bet that to most collectors, it is. And so in my naivete, I was surprised to recently receive this email:

Hello & Merry Christmas~
I want to start with telling you how much I did enjoy your aprons choices. I would like to interject though that you should take a little more care in your photography of the items you are advertising to sell……

It is quite obvious to me, and probably others that collect aprons that your items are reproductions and not actually VINTAGE APRONS. Look at the photographs- the aprons are pristine, unwashed, unused and have never been worn before! It can be easily deduced by any aficionado that these aprons are copies that had just been sewn probably from either migrant workers or from a foreign country for pennies on the dollar. I suggest that you wash them then partially iron them to give that a slightly worn look before photographing them.

This is just a suggestion…. I did alert a family member that was thinking of ordering from you that these aprons were not authentic vintage aprons. I’m probably not the first person to do so…..

And another immediately following:

I just took a look at your FAQ page- it is SUCH a lie that these are authentic VINTAGE products- you might want to think about changing your wording… it is totally false!!!

So we have come full circle. Apparently wear and tear is a desired commodity; pristine condition an impossibility! If I were to take these missives to heart, I’d have to change my whole philosophy. It’s not that I don’t find joy in things that have been used, on the contrary I have a special place in my heart for items that have been mended and patched, sometimes patched on top of patches, feeling the value that their owners obviously placed on them over the generations.

The Christmas greeting I received above bothers me more because I’ve been so careful to be honest, to represent what I sell as accurately as possible, and despite all of that been taken to task for gross dishonesty – for lying – based on scant and faulty evidence. Heaven knows I don’t think my pictures are all that good, and all too often the aprons are wrinkly or show a spot or something. But why, if I were selling repros, would I only have ONE of EACH?? I’m crazy enough to be in the vintage business, not crazy enough to try to pretend that new is vintage. Oh yes, and though my business is based on recycling at its best – re-use rather than new manufacture, I’ve been accused of abusing slave labor!

We spoke with this lady on the telephone, and wished her a Merry Christmas also. I think I overcame her skepticism and convinced her that we’re just a couple of people trying to make a living and preserve the best of earlier times, not to hoodwink anyone into buying shoddy merchandise produced in labor camps.

The vintage business. It is crazy, labor intensive, more a hobby than a business really. I’ve been told before that one or another of my items was new, not vintage, and had to point out that the maker whose label adorned the product had not been in business for decades. I’ve also been taken to task for having too great a markup, since the item I was selling for $30 had the tag still on showing that I had paid only $1.29. That tag was also from a store that was out of business before I was in.

Christmas hankyI won’t be changing my business model. It’s all right there and plainly visible to an unbiased view. I have often wondered about people who find deception in everything they read or hear. I have no problem with common sense, value it highly in fact, and am the last one to accept everything at face value. But if you look, really look, you can see the difference, can’t you?

Wishing all my readers the most joyous of Christmases, or happiest of whatever holidays you may celebrate!

1 Comment »

  1. 1.As a consumer of vintage and retro items, I want to
    say thank you for your hard work in locating these treasures. I have not
    had the opportunity, yet, of buying from you but consider you an “old friend”
    that I haven’t met in person yet because your blog enables me to learn about
    you. I am horrified by people’s lack of knowledge and the accusations they
    have sent your way.

    Thank you for not changing your business model. We need more people like
    you in the “vintage business.”

    Comment by DrJulieAnn — December 23, 2009 @ 2:46 am

    2.Thanks for your wonderful message. I sometimes think I was born in the
    wrong era because of my love for all things vintage too. Possibly
    your emailer was burned by some purchase not being was it was
    promised to be, and decided to take it out on you by accusing you
    unjustly. I know it takes all kinds to make a world, but it always
    suprises me when folks show their “ugly” side, especially at this time
    of year! Keep up your wonderful preservation of vintage items, it’s
    appreciated and enjoyed by most of us! Merry Christmas & Happy “hunting”
    in the New Year!

    Comment by Pam — December 23, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

    3.Thank you for this post. I love unused vintage! More than half of my aprons were sewn and put away, never to be used. Keep on doing what you`re doing. You`re the BEST!

    Comment by Catherine — December 23, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

    4.Amen * that’s all I’ve gotta say Christmas wishes & blessings to you & yours, Sharon

    Comment by Patrice — December 24, 2009 @ 7:20 am

    5.I love your site (having been an avid customer and always pleased with my purchases) and know that your term ‘vintage’ represents true older items. There is nothing like the excitement of getting into a chest full of “saved for good” textiles and bringing them to light for the first time in years. I once bought a chest full of quilt tops, absolutely mint and still crisp from starch and they were all 1870-1900 pieces. The paper name tags (who was supposed to get what) were written in a scrawling brown ink and with an unsteady hand. There’s still wonderful thing out there and we’re depending on you to find them. Christmas blessings.
    Pepper Cory

    Comment by Pepper Cory — December 24, 2009 @ 11:37 am

    6.One of the dangers of being in business is dealing with those not so
    Happy Holidays and thanks for all the inspiration and treasures you share
    with us!

    Comment by mickie — December 25, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

    7.This is one exciting blog….I am glad I stopped by….by the way… I mentioned you in one of my blogs this past week…Dianne

    Comment by C. Dianne Zweig — December 27, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

    8.Wow, I’m just speechless. It doesn’t happen often but I’ve found aprons (and other linens) with their original tags and crispy with the original sizing. People do store things away and they remain as new as the day they were purchased. Like you said, why would you have just one of something reproduction.

    Comment by janet — December 28, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

    9.Kudos to you for keeping your business model intact and not be bullied by
    someone who was just looking at some pictures.

    Used vintage in great condition is a wonderful. Unused vintage in pristine
    condition is FANTASTIC!

    Good luck to you in the new year and please keep doing what you are doing.

    Comment by donkee — January 3, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

    10.I totally get you. Pleasing the public was never easy in a good economy let alone a bad one. I miss the vintage and love just looking at your stuff, even if I can’t really afford it. It provides a smile if nothing else. And passing on what you know about things is a service even if it doesn’t pay the bills, Bill. Keep it up. I get a kick out of anything from the Reading area, too.

    Comment by nanette — January 4, 2010 @ 7:23 pm

    11.From One Vintage Seller to another! Amen Sista! You said it ALL for me!

    Comment by Annette — April 8, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    12.I have just recently found your site. This is due to the fact the my 89 yr
    old grandmother just moved to an apartment from her home of 43 yrs. I found
    tablecloths, hankies, napkins,aprons galore that look like they have never
    been used or very little. So out of curiosity I started looking for vintage
    fabric and found you first. I love your site and I was very insulted by the
    letter insinuating that your items are reproductions!!! I know for a fact
    the things I have are authentic I have seen them around all my life at
    Grandma’s house! I would love to make some collector happy with my finds
    but I have to get past the “sentimental” issues first LOL! I may even
    become a collector as I have fallen in love with this stuff. Anyway,don’t
    pay attention to the “know it all” mentality of people who feel the need
    to attack you I think you guys have a great little “niche” in the world
    and I wanted to wish you all the luck with your business. God bless you!

    Comment by Cindy — November 2, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

    Comment by sharon — March 19, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

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