Collecting and antiquing go hand in hand with country decorating: We love for our homes to tell a story, and many of our favorite tales come from hunting for new treasures to add to our troves.
If you're in the market for a new type of item to collect, you're in the right place -- our annual list of the top 10 collectibles for the upcoming year should be your first stop. This week we reveal five of our favorites, and next Sunday we'll complete our Top Ten with five more items.
Fortunately for antiques sellers and collectors, there has recently been an uptick in the market for some of the most frequently purchased items. Even though prices had been in the doldrums in the general antiques market over the past few years, values now are holding and even rising.
This is good news for sellers and also surprisingly good for buyers because a steady and rising market gives both sellers' inventories and buyers' collections greater value.
We're pleased to present another roundup of up-and-coming collectibles. We hope you see something that piques your interest and inspires you to start a long and happy collecting journey.
1. Beach pails and shovels
Sand toys spark nostalgia for happy times near the water, as Frank and Yvonne Lisa, the owners of this fun collective, can attest. Condition and availability set the price, and theme is also important to many collectors. Coney Island pails, for example, are snatched up by people who have great memories of that place; 20 years ago, Frank paid $150 for the one shown, but he feels it would sell for more now.
For lovers of patriotic themes, the "Seaside" pail with the eagle is a favorite design.
There is a wide range of prices for all of these early pieces, but reproduction pails can be found for less than $30. The earliest toys from the Victorian era are hard to find in good condition because the rough sand took off much of the original paint. The three shovels shown, which Frank says are even harder to locate than pails, were made between 1920 and 1950. Prices for those range from $60 and up. If you are lucky enough to discover a shovel with a matching pail in good condition, the pair can be valued in the hundreds of dollars.
2. Butter churns
Unless it was stocked at the local general store, the only way to get butter when living on a farm or in a small town long ago was to make it in a churn. The earliest of these tools are hard to find -- and pricey. As with wood examples, ceramic churns are also available in antiques shops and at auctions. Although not impossible to find at yard sales and flea markets, the popular items are not seen as often in those venues because they are snapped up quickly.
The blue churn in Frank and Yvonne Lisa's collection dates to the 1840s and has a wood top band and four metal support bands. According to the Lisas, the green wood tabletop churn with a hand crank ranges in value from $300 to $400. Far smaller churns made of glass with wood paddles and a hand crank cost considerably less, available for $30 to $150. The rarest piece in this collection is the all-tin example with applied handles and a wood stick, which dates to the early 1900s; not many of them lasted since they often rusted out.
3. Napkin rings
Before the inception of paper napkins and washing machines, the same cloth napkins were put on the table for several meals and, obviously, became soiled after each use. Each family member used the same napkin from meal to meal, so napkin rings (occasionally called serviette rings) were employed to identify each person's napkin between weekly wash days. Aside from being practical, many rings were artfully and ornately made of sterling silver and silver plate as well as wood and many other materials.
Today, napkin rings make a wonderful collectible because they come in so many colors and materials and coordinate well with all manner of tableware. Many contemporary rings can be found for just a few dollars each, providing a lot of tablescape interest for little money. Although sterling-silver rings can sell for $50 each and even into the hundreds, some antique pieces of silver plate can be found for $5 or less in the usual shop venues.
Most of the napkin rings shown here are $10 and less; the hand-carved cow, owned by collectors Robert Kramer and Patricia Snyder, is worth a little more. Even the silver-plated rings were only $6 each several years ago; lately, they have been increasing in value toward $30 or more.
4. Glass canning jars
Glass jars have been manufactured for food storage and preservation since the 1600s; they were first seen in Europe and then brought to the United States after colonization. Although the finest examples of handblown jars are expensive, valued at hundreds of dollars and beyond depending on color, condition and availability, there are plenty of jars available for just a few dollars, ripe for the collecting.
Inexpensive jars by Atlas, Ball and Mason can be found at thrift stores, yard sales and antiques shops. Most jar collectors know that color is king: An amethyst bottle could sell for many times the price of an otherwise identical green one. Value is a matter of collectors' favorites and availability.
Beyond canning, these containers transform into great display pieces when filled with nonperishables or flowers.
This grouping ranges in price from $5 to $1,000. According to the collectors, Tom and Kaye Johnson, the clear jar with the tin top on the right was made after 1930, and they value it at the lowest end. The jar on the far left is the most costly, worth somewhere from $800 to $1,000 due to the rarity of the green color on that style of jar. The jar on the far right is light amber and, according to the Johnsons, is valued at around $500. The rest of the pieces shown are mostly far less costly, ranging from a few dollars up to as much as $75.
5 Vintage miniature washboards
The hardworking precursor to washing machines, washboards remind us that housekeeping is far easier now than in previous generations, when using one of these tools was the way to get clothes clean. Although vintage washboards are so popular that it's hard to find a country-decorated household without at least a couple of them hanging in the kitchen or laundry room, miniatures aren't as readily available.
Petite washboards were used to wash smaller or more delicate items, say Frank and Yvonne Lisa, who own these mini boards measuring 4 to 7 inches wide and 8 to 13 inches long. Some were pint-size because they were salesmen's samples. There is a mix of materials in washboards, the majority having a wood frame with a glass, metal or tin working surface. Most of these pieces range in price from $35 to $85, depending on age and condition. The most unusual of these boards is the rare yellowware example, which cost $500 several years ago.