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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Market Notes > Feature: Shopping for Vintage Gifts

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Shopping for Vintage Gifts Online
Give the unexpected and reap genuine surprise

Christmas Cards
Boxes of unused, vintage Christmas cards from the early-to mid-20th century make great gifts.  A brief scan of the current selection on Ebay revealed an amazing assortment of cards brimming with idyllic depictions of children, frolicking reindeer, and presents galore. They can be purchased for a modest price.

Two-sided holiday greeting card
Two-sided holiday greeting card decorated with white silk fringe, late 19th century

 Of particular interest are those cards made in the years following World War II, a time when America was experiencing not only a baby boom and a robust economy, but also the joy of Christmas during peacetime.  Cards of this era depict an America that is pious, enthusiastic, and full of optimism.

  Opening bids often start as low as $1.99, and many sellers offer large groups of these items for less than $10.00.  It's nice to know that in a time when so many new products are designed to look vintage, you can still find the real thing for the right price.

Silver Napkin Rings
Vintage silver napkin rings are another great gift item.  Currently, a stunning variety of these items can be found on Ebay.  Figural napkin rings are especially interesting.  They take on a more animated and sometimes even comical appearance with the addition of miniature dogs, ducks, cherubs, horses, and acrobats that seem to leap off the actual rings.

Great sterling silver napkin rings are available and can be purchased on Ebay for less than thirty dollars.  However, if you widen your search to silver-plated rings, as well as those with monograms, you will find many charming examples at modest prices. 

Rare American Victorian silverplate napkin ring
Rare American Victorian silverplate napkin ring

 Most silver-plated napkin rings can be found for a few dollars, and they're sometimes offered in small sets for that amount.  Prices increase markedly if you want to give only those napkin rings that bear the hallmark of special makers.
 Sewing Boxes
 Does someone in your family love to sew?  Needlework was once considered an important and necessary accomplishment for most 19th-century women, and sewing boxes were often gifts to a beloved daughter, sister, or wife.  

Hand carved Victorian sewing box with two compartments
Hand carved Victorian sewing box with two compartments

 Boxes were made in a variety of woods, such as pine to walnut to mahogany. Some fancier ones include bone and ivory inlay or have elaborate inlaid marquetry.  Value is often dependent on the decorative appeal of a box.
 Sewing boxes will vary in size, but most are about 9 to 13 inches long, by 5 to 6 inches high, by 7 to 9 inches deep. Vintage sewing boxes are often mistaken for document boxes, which were meant to keep deeds, wills, birth certificates, and other family trusts safe.  Document boxes were nearly always a bit larger than sewing boxes, were made to be locked, and did not have a divided tray and lid enclosure a feature common to vintage sewing boxes.

Make sure the box you select is complete there may be several interior compartments with lids.  If you have time and money, pick up some vintage needles and bobbins. Needlework tools and accessories related to stitchery are still highly desirable in today's market.  A search of eBay revealed a variety of sewing boxes labeled "vintage," with prices starting at $5.00.  Authenticated vintage sewing boxes sell for considerably more between $100.00 and $1,000.00.


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Making Hand-Sewn Boxes: Techniques and Projects by Jackie Woolsey