p4A Antiques Reference Newsletters 

The p4A Antiques Reference monthly newsletter provides the opportunity to learn about the range of objects covered in the database and updates on database developments.  

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April 2012

What can I say? Librarians rule!
-Regis Philbin
Whew! Busy, busy, busy!  PLA has opened the floodgates and I've been setting up new accounts and scheduling webinars and sending emails and just generally running around trying to make the most of the great opportunities we got in Philadelphia!  I hope you're all settled back at the reference desk, but I also hope you were able to load up on some of the inspiration I always find at conferences and come home with renewed enthusiasm for just how cool this profession is.  The first time I was able to go to PLA, my supervisor had us all attend an administrative meeting after the fact and just talk for a moment or two about what we took away from the conference.  I kind of got choked up, because I learned about making more effective connections during readers' advisory and how to navigate the variety of medical resources and what to recommend to someone who loves Harry Potter, but the biggest impression, the biggest gift I got from being sent to PLA, was just of being proud to be among a group of such smart, passionate people, to realize that while it seems like a grind sometimes at the reference desk, what librarians do, not only for the patron standing in front of them but for their communities, is just huge.  And now I'm getting choked up again, but I hope you all know what I mean and that you came home with some of that good will too! (Because heaven knows it is necessary to have good will in order to get through tax season....)

And I'd like to welcome our new readers!  We've had lots of trials and have added subscribers literally from coast to coast with new libraries in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington.  We're glad to have you and if there's anything I can do to be of assistance, if you're looking for promotional ideas or support, if you'd like a webinar for staff members, or if you just have a patron with an object that you can't even begin to identify, let me know - I love hearing from you all!      
A Titanic Debate: Relics vs. Respect

Unless you've been at the bottom of the ocean yourself, you probably know that this month marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  In the wee hours of April 15, the floundering ship sank, just two hours and forty minutes after striking an iceberg, taking with her more than 1,500 people, mostly steerage passengers and men of all classes.  Even before James Cameron's blockbuster movie (and its props), the tragedy has held the world in thrall and from the very beginning, objects from or related to the Titanic have been sought for collections. The event made a huge impact on American popular culture, filling headlines and movie theaters across the country.  (The first film version of the events, one of at least eight, appeared a mere 29 days after the sinking and starred Dorothy Gibson, a silent film star who was actually one of the survivors.)  Steiff, the toy manufacturer, even allegedly manufactured black "mourning bears" for a time in deference to the tragedy.  And, of course, all the early promotional material for the ship, the postcards and fliers and posters, suddenly took on huge significance as well.  The anniversary of the sinking and all the activities surrounding it stir up an interesting and complex ongoing debate about where to draw the lines between preserving history and preserving the sanctity of what is also essentially a large burial site.  This is an issue the antiques business is familiar with.  For instance, there are auction houses that will not sell "relics" - arrowheads, spear points, etc., because the belief is that many of them are either dug or that the sale of them will encourage digging in places like the variety of mounds that dot the Ohio River Valley.  While there is no clear solution, it's an important discussion incorporating our attitudes towards ourselves and our history, one that deserves frequent revisiting.  

Keep Your Hat On: Collecting Antique Hatpins
One of the things that I like about history is that it puts the ridiculousness of the modern world in perspective.  I've been reading The Grapes of Wrath lately (I don't know how it took me this long either...) and wow, Steinbeck is almost prophetic in his discussions about unions and economy and our fate after being disconnected from the land.  When I feel like the world can't possibly go on in this crazy fashion for long without imploding, it comforts me to read about things like McCarthyism and Hoovervilles and hatpins.  That's right, hatpins.  You think the world is crazy now?  In 1908, legislation was actually passed at the state level - in multiple states! - regarding the length of women's hatpins.  (You could have a hatpin that exceeded the legal permissible length; you just needed to apply for a permit first.)  Why the sudden concern with the lowly, unobtrusive hatpin?  Because those crazy suffragettes might use them as a weapon!  I'm completely serious - I couldn't make this stuff up. It's kind of hard to imagine the kind of woman who would wear a "Puss in Boots" hatpin using it to put someone's eye out.  I think you'd probably want to be much warier of someone with a griffin or a bear.  (And, of course, a woman who could afford the Tiffany examples pictured above could pay someone else to poke your eyes out....)  Regardless, hatpins offer a variety of beautiful display opportunities today, and they're popular with collectors.  Because women at virtually all levels of society wore them, you can find them at virtually all price points (although it's likely that as hats declined in fashion that many hatpins were either cut down or reworked into other pieces of jewelry for every-day wear) and in a range from simple to elaborate.  So keep an eye out (wrong expression maybe...) because valuable ones frequently end up unidentified and mixed in with miscellaneous boxes of jewelry!
p4A Highlights
This month's featured item is featured not because of what it is, but because of what it is not!  The model locomotive pictured here was sold just a few weeks ago.  Within a few days of the auction, several similar examples currently being offered on eBay and at another auction house were brought to the selling auction house's attention.  They are/were exactly the same and are clearly fakes, probably coming from China as many fakes in the antiques market currently are.  The auction house behaved as any reputable establishment would in this case, immediately contacting the buyer and rescinding the sale.  And we did what makes us special too - we went back and annotated the record, opting not to delete it but rather to leave it in the database in the hopes that future users can learn from someone else's experiences, see how responsible auction houses act, and, most importantly, avoid other examples of this fake!
Suggestions for the newsletter?  Have your own collection that you think could be better represented in the database?  Services or changes that you'd like to see?  Let us hear from you!

Hollie Davis, MLIS
Senior Editor
In This Issue
A Titanic Debate: Relics vs. Respect
Keep Your Hat On: Collecting Antique Hat Pins
p4A Highlights
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Resources for Librarians

Weathervane; Rooster, Copper, Sheet Tail, Gilt, 28 inch. [p4A.com item #E8890641] Weathervane; Rooster, Copper, Sheet Tail, Gilt, 28 inch.
Sold for $ 1,440.00
at Garth's Auctions
Gate; Folk Art, Pine & Wrought Iron, Relief Carved Flowers, 41 inch. [p4A.com item #E8985392] Gate; Folk Art, Pine & Wrought Iron, Relief Carved Flowers, 41 inch.
Sold for $ 3,318.00
at Skinner, Inc.