Archive for the ‘toy’ Category

Toy dog with replaced coat, c.1920

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

This humble little fellow, who stands just 3.75 inches high, lost his fur coat long ago. He has tiny glass eyes and was made in China in the 1920s from papier mache covered in flannel. Thanks to an enterprising individual, our canine friend can keep warm again, and be in the height of fashion, with his new snappy coat made from layered pieces of cloth tape.

Thank you Cousin Carol for this fine gift, a welcomed addition to my collection!

Chinese dollhouse snuff bottle, c.1700

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

I seem to have a thing for miniatures. I marvel at the craftsmanship of creating tiny versions of larger pieces, which requires more time and skill, as well as good eyesight and nimble fingers. When I was at a street market in Egypt many years ago, I saw hundreds of lanterns made of tin and painted glass. One vendor had minuscule working lanterns, no more than 3 inches, which held tiny birthday cake candles. Even though they were a fraction of the size of the other lanterns, they were the same price and took just as long to make, if not longer.

So you can imagine how I was doubly thrilled when I found this miniature porcelain dollhouse snuff bottle with an inventive repair. It was made in China during the Kangxi period (1662-1722), has blue underglaze decoration of figures, and measures 2.75 inches tall. But there’s more to the story, as this bottle started its life as a vase. Well over 150 years ago, after its neck broke off, a silversmith added a silver collar with etched decoration, cork, and a top attached to a spoon, transforming the broken vase into a functional snuff bottle. It has a sword shaped Dutch hallmark dating the repair to the mid-1800s.

I now have five tiny Chinese dollhouse miniatures in my collection and try not to inhale too deeply around them.

img_8168-version-2

img_8170

img_8172

img_8176

This pair of miniature vases with similar form and decoration show what the original neck on my vase looked like before it was transformed into a snuff bottle.

90

Photo courtesy of Santos

Broken Toys

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Last night I ran into an old friend, Andrea Lippke, who wrote a wonderful article, “In Make-Do Objects, Collectors Find Beauty Beyond Repair,” about my collection in The New York Times a few years back. She couldn’t wait to share with me a YouTube video she and her young daughter had been enjoying: Walt Disney’s Broken Toys, a Silly Symphony short film from 1935.

The film begins with garbage being tossed into a heap of discarded items with a NO DUMPING sign looming in the foreground. A sailor doll with a broken leg befriends a jack-in-the-box with a broken spring, a doll missing her eyes, a rag doll that lost its stuffing, and toy soldiers with missing body parts. I cringe to mention that also included are shocking racial stereotypes, including a black mammy doll missing her seat and a black dancing marionette with broken strings. It amazes and saddens me that these images were accepted by our culture in the not too distant past.

With help from the sailor doll, each toy gets a make-do repair, including my favorite, a toy solider flautist with a thimble replacement hat and a pencil standing in for a missing leg. In the background throughout the film are dozens of chipped and cracked ceramics, each screaming out for an inventive repair.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-55-11-am

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-9-06-13-am

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-56-58-am

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-8-02-40-am

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-8-01-13-am

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-59-20-am

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-8-01-29-am

Here are some of my own broken toys, each an ultimate survivor that could easily have ended up in the same garbage dump depicted in the film. My heartfelt thanks to the unsung heroes who brought these toys back to life.

IMG_1865

img_8562-version-3

img_1989

img_3638

img_5447-version-2

img_1163

img_7051

Bisque doll with wooden legs, c.1890

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

This small doll made of tinted bisque (unglazed porcelain) was made in Germany in the late 1800s and measures 5 inches long. It was owned by my cousin-in-law Carol, who got it from her mother, a doll collector with an impressive collection. Carol believes that her mother made the hand crocheted outfit and that her great-grandfather made wood replacement legs after the original ones shattered.

Not surprisingly, there seems to be a large number of broken vintage toys with inventive repairs out there. China and bisque were the predominant materials used for making children’s tea sets, dolls, and other fragile toys, so naturally they would end up chipped, cracked and broken.

I think Carol’s great-grandfather did a fine job whittling and painting this sturdy pair of wood legs to replace the broken originals.

This is what the original bisque legs on Carol’s doll might have looked like before Geppetto whittled a new pair.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 11.04.57 AM

Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Wishing you all the best during the holiday season and for a healthy and Happy New Year!

IMG_1872

IMG_1721

IMG_1859_2

IMG_3818

IMG_2180

IMG_6950

IMG_3638

IMG_3699

IMG_5678

IMG_3146

Large toy cannon, c.1890

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

This is the last and largest of the three cannons I purchased as a lot last November. It measures 12-1/4″ long, 4-3/4″ tall and I believe it was made in America in the late 1800s. When a young boy played a bit too rough and broke the toy cannon one Fourth of July in the early 1900s, I imagine his handy dad or grandfather carved a wood base to replace the broken cast iron original, adding embellishments such as paper stars and the letters “U S” to its sides. The barrel, with remains of the original black surface, sits on a metal plate and is fastened to the wood trolley using metal straps. The carved wood wheels are connected to a wood axel with metal pins and a strip of tin edging is attached to the back tail using numerous nail heads. I love the original dark green painted surface with gold trim and alligator finish, consistent on all three of the cannons, suggesting that they were repaired by the same person or at least in the same household. Please take a look at these other two posts, including a small and a medium-sized cannon, which make up the remainder of this terrific trio.

IMG_5440

IMG_5441

IMG_5444

IMG_5445

IMG_5447

This intact bronze cannon with fanciful trolly shows where the inspiration came from for the carved wood base on mine.

bronze cannon

Photo courtesy of Live Auctioneers

Pierrette clothespin doll, c.1920

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

This unmarked porcelain novelty was most likely produced in Germany around 1920 and measures 5-3/4″ long. Also known as half dolls, they were typically attached to tops of pincushions, boxes and small clothes brushes and displayed on vanity and dresser tops. This one graduated from half doll to full doll, with the aid of a wooden clothespin attached at the waist. I imagine that after the piece broke, a handy dad whittled the lower extremities to form makeshift prosthetic legs. In an attempt to create a respectable outfit for this coquettish lass, the clothespin legs were covered in now faded pink cloth tape, the duct tape of its day. Wouldn’t it be great if this immobile doll ended up in a doll house, filled with inventively repaired miniature furnishings and inhabitants, including a make-do Pierrot?

IMG_7051

IMG_7056

IMG_7052

IMG_7059

IMG_7055

This lovely lady sits atop a powder box and still has her original porcelain legs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo courtesy of LiveJournal

Medium-sized toy cannon, c.1880

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

There seems to be a multitude of original toy cannon barrels married to wood replacement bases, as I have encountered numerous examples since I started collecting antiques with inventive repairs. This fine toy was most likely made in America in the last quarter of the 19th century and is made of brass with a replaced wood base, freely carved from a block of what appears to be pine. It measures 7-1/2″ long, stands 2-3/4″ tall and the barrel alone is 3-1/2″ long. The remains of the original barrel are firmly nailed to the replacement base using a leather strap. The original green painted surface reveals much wear from years of imaginative playing. Two sets of nail holes on one side suggest perhaps a length of chain was once attached. I purchased this in the same lot as two other toy cannons, all with the same green painted surface and graduating in size. Please take a look at the smallest one, previously posted, and stay tuned for the largest example, which I will post sometime in the near future.

IMG_5452

IMG_5450

IMG_5451

IMG_5454

IMG_5455

This toy cannon, also made of brass, is in its original form and shows what mine may have looked like before the barrel was strapped on to its wood replacement base. Though not up to military code, I still prefer mine!

il_fullxfull.223920768

Photo courtesy of Esty

**UPDATE 4/23**

An astute  subscriber and former gun collector has informed me that this cute li’l toy cannon is actually made from the barrel of a REAL GUN! Please read his amusing and telling comments below, which shed some light on this toys former life on the streets, defending helpless women. And this is what the European ladies percussion muff pistol looked like when it was still intact and used as a deadly weapon, c.1840:

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 9.41.57 PM

Photo courtesy of Sailor in Saddle

 

Small toy cannon, c.1880

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

I hit the jackpot this past November while visiting friends in southern Vermont for the Thanksgiving holiday. On “Black Friday”, my dear friend Hilary and I ventured out to visit a few local antiques shops when I stumbled upon a set of three toy cannons, graduating in size, and each with a unique inventive repair.

This little gem, the smallest of the three, measures 3-1/2″ long and is 1-1/2″ tall. The tiny cast brass barrel, with its lovely green patina, is set in to the simple, yet effective, replacement base carved from a small block of wood, and held in place by two metal loops.

I particularly like the the three steps in the back and how the top of the wooden base was carved out in the exact shape of the cannon’s barrel so it would fit snugly in place. The dark greenish-brown painted surface remains mostly intact but shows some wear due, no doubt, to endless hours of battles played out in the safe confines of a patriotic young boy’s back yard. These toy cannons might have been manufactured in 1876, to help commemorate America’s centennial.

I will be posting the other two cannons from the same lot in the coming months, so be on the lookout. And please take a look at another small toy cannon, with a much cruder home-made repair, previously posted in these pages.

IMG_5457

IMG_5459

IMG_5460

IMG_5458

 

This toy cast iron ship’s signal cannon from the early 1800s shows what the original base on my cannon might have looked like.

IRONCANNLFTSIDVW027

 

Photo courtesy of Land and Sea Collection

Toys for the holidays

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Well, the votes are in and the absolute favorite item featured in The New York Times article from last week was the Cold painted cast lead dog figure, c.1930. I received numerous comments and emails on this piece, including “The dog is my favorite, it is almost impossibly poignant”, “I especially liked the little dog with the ‘prosthetic’ leg” and “That little dog you have is so much better than any mint-in-the-box action figure or something like that”.

With that in mind and with this being the holiday season, I am including some other toys with inventive repairs that I hope you will enjoy seeing again. Please click on the title to see the original post with information and additional photos.

Cast iron horse drawn ladder wagon, c.1900

German doll head pen wiper, c.1900

Toy cast iron cannon, c.1880

Googly doll door stop, c.1930

Staffordshire child’s mug, c.1840

Happy Holidays and I look forward to sharing more examples from my collection with you in 2011!