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Walker and Hall Giant Bottle

This giant bottle is a real talking point. Its size suggests a decanter, however the style suggests a scent bottle. I think we’ll leave it up to the buyer to decide. It is a large pear shaped blown glass bottle comprising four panels each with a floral star design cut into the glass. Between the panels rise four beveled columns giving form and texture to the design.

The silver top is a beautifully designed piece of silver-smithing. A standard collar and ball lid – one supposes, but there is a twist…literally. The lid is secured by turning the cap anti-clockwise. On the underside the cap twists in a second collar and has two prongs which slip into recesses on the main collar. By turning the cap, the prongs enable the cap to lock into place.

The cap is cork lined so no internal stopper here. The suggestion is that it is a travelling scent bottle – enabling the lady of leisure to take a huge quantity with her on the grand tour without fear of it escaping en route. Of course it could just as easily have carried brandy!

The silver is stamped with a well defined hallmark bearing the flag logo of Walker and Hall – perhaps one of the best known of the Sheffield silver companies. The date mark is a lower case “q” in a shield denoting 1933

Dimensions
A little under 21 cm tall
About 11 cm at its widest point
7.5 cm base diameter

If you are interested in this piece, please complete a contact form quoting stock number AP2023

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You label me, I’ll label you

The tax man cometh
The tax man cometh

Greetings fellow antique enthusiasts and vintage doyens. I have to report some singularly high stress levels not realised since my glory days in youth offending (I mean I worked in youth social care – I was not a young offender). A different kind of stress than that though: who knew that the powers that be, crushed beetles and tiny bits of paper on string could invoke such panic!

The week got off to a fairly bad start with an “admin” day. this largely involved filing three…yes THREE tax returns for her majesty’s revenue and customs (they collect the revenue and their custom is to make life as difficult as possible). Now this isn’t the forum for political rants; but seriously the UK government needs to sort its act out. They are now forcing us to BUY software in order to file a tax return online. One suspects our honoured (sic) chancellor may have shares in these software companies. Upshot being that we have thrown eco-friendly and expediency to the wind and filed a paper form – LATE!

Anyway, the whole affair near drove poor business partner to tears so I suggested she start tagging and labeling all our goodies for the posh fair which is now less than a week away. This she has duly undertaken with nary a moan or whimper: more a sort of death rattle of frustration and tedium. Meanwhile I have ruined two perfectly good tables with substandard proprietary French Polish – I shall be boiling my own beetles from now on. The labeling and pricing continues apace but not fast enough for either of our tastes and there is still a mountain to climb as the days tick-tock-tick-tock away.

All about the money, money, money
All about the money, money, money

Having said all this however, the week has not been entirely unsuccessful. The list of jobs, though still substantial, is shrinking and the world of online retail appears to have woken from a five month hibernation despite dwindling items and caretaking of our Etsy store. Be aware that the shop may fall foul of changing circumstances in the new year so all the vintage goodies we have on offer are basically on a last chance to by option for the next two months. Preparing for posh fair has relieved me of my online SEO and copy tagging duties to some extent and that has proved something of a blessing despite all the paper tags still needing to be written.

Well far be it from me to assign undue labels (a firm believer in live and let live) but HMRC are over priced, over valued and pointless. French polish is best if it comes from France, and price tags are probably best left to Jessie J. I’m off to try and rectify the polish issue,  console business partner as she attempts to write Birmingham 1903 on yet another impossibly small treasury tag, and destabilise the UK tax system.

Find out how I get on by giving us a thumbs up (or a heart) in cyberspace: Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

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Happy Birthday Touchstone Vintage

It’s our 1st birthday. Well, not our actual birthday – we’ve been in business for over 20 years – and the name Touchstone Vintage is a little over a year old, BUT it’s our Etsy birthday. We opened our Etsy store one year ago today. An insignificant date really (unless its your birthday too) but we launched with no sales, fewer than 10 items and nothing more than a pocket full of dreams.

One of the first listings on Etsy.
One of the first listings on Etsy.

As with the first year of any business whether online or brick and mortar, the first year (so they say) is always a struggle. “Teething problems” is not the phrase. Learning to negotiate myriad terms and conditions, set up payment options, find stock: list, list, list. Photograph, describe, correct errors, deal with customers – some of whom are a joy to chat with, others for whom manners are a concept which only relate to someone else.

Then of course there’s Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Never an easy bunch who don’t seem to want to make being in business an easy task. But…once these little pitfalls have been circumvented for the first time, they are never quite as onerous. So for our first birthday I would rather reflect on the sheer joy of hearing my phone make the “cha-ching” noise when someone purchases our vintage treasures. The cheering feedback from someone who is “Wearing it RIGHT NOW” and the friends we have made along the way.

It may have its problems but Etsy is a community, the focus on teams and forums has helped lead us not entirely blindly through the year and come out with a wealth of sales which exceeded our expectations. And for the year ahead?

Bigger, brighter, bolder

Well we have some great plans. Some larger heavier items, more focus on art and antiquities and a bigger, brighter, bolder store. We aim to move house this year, mainly so my office/workroom is not in my bedroom, but also so we can increase our stock to give you – the antique hungry public – a wider choice of beautiful objets d’art and vintage jewellery.

There’s no call to action in this piece except to ask you to join us as we step into our second, exciting year. We are sure there will be something you just can’t live without, a great gift for a family member or friend and a little bit of history along the way. Follow our blog through WordPress or via E-mail and join us on Twitter, Facebook, G+ and Pinterest for all the latest.

I’m off to blow out a candle and sup on something cold and sparkly. Maybe next year we’ll have a party to which you, yes you, will assuredly receive an invitation.

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Video killed the antiques dealer

Only one of many
Only one of many

Cue some light orchestral, 30s style background music, a vintage car and some antiques experts; stick several pins in several maps and what do you have? A televised antiques themed Eurovision song contest – entertaining but with little substance or artistic value.

I am thinking of one particular BBC programme here, but there have been – and I’m sure will be – others with a similarly simple premise: to buy and sell antiques and along the way “educate” the audience as to historic and monetary value of said objects.

The original Antiques Roadshow achieved this goal by drifting around the upper echelons: selecting high quality pieces appraised by genuine lifelong experts and realising (often) high prices. Looks of shock and awe notwithstanding, it fairly represented the current antiques and fine art market without the hovering spectre of “resale bargains”.

The TV execs next great idea was to add a populist twist. To create celebrities of the experts rather than the antiques, to create artificial buying and reselling opportunities and to create a market of “collectors” whose instincts are guided only by the pound (Euro, dollar, yen) signs in the eyes.

I should briefly explain the show I have in mind (Possibly the most entertaining but also the most damaging). Two experts drive several hundred miles, in five legs over five days with a starting budget of £200. On each leg they purchase 5 items and sell them at auction aiming to make an overall profit at the end of the week

Wonderful but with two MAJOR problems.

Firstly – retail pricing. The show presents bartering as an extreme sport with bargainous peaks and drops of up to 90%. Believe me, items with a starting price of £200 are NEVER sold for £20. Most dealers will circle around a 10 – 20% discount and no more.

With the installation of a TV crew, many a dealer’s marbles appear to vanish, creating a public view that unrealistic 90% discounts are standard. It is more likely that the BBC pays the full asking price off camera while on screen the dealer accepts improbable offers in the name of publicity.

Secondly (and this applies to most of the populist shows) the auction.

Antique dealers rarely buy from antique centres or shops to sell at auction. This makes very little business sense. Most non-specialised auctions sell to dealers who are hoping for at least 100% retail mark-up. General auctions (Depending on the auctioneer) will, at best, generate a trade price and often struggle to achieve full market values.

Worth a lot more at this fair than at auction

In this TV format this can mean substantial losses if the item was a little over-egged to start with. Auction prices on most TV shows should be regarded as a wholesale price – but sadly more and more retail customers think that because something sold for a song on TV it is worth far less than any ticket price.

While dealers agonise over pricing – allowing a bit for profit while not overselling; today’s antique outlet has become a temple to head shaking, eye rolling disbelief and reverberates to the sound of breath sucked slowly in over the front teeth. The bargain hunting spectre with exaggerated expectations, released from its televised prison, hovers – greedy and poised to destroy.

Naturally, there are other factors to consider – internet auction sites (where prices range from the ridiculous to the sublime), economics, payday; but nothing is such an exhaustive drain on value as false expectation.

Instead of just ranting though, I have designed a more realistic TV antiques show format – it maybe less entertaining but is certainly more lifelike:

Two experts travel several hundred miles in a vintage car with a budget of £200 accompanied by some light orchestral, 30s themed music gathering five items a leg over five legs. They can buy anywhere but at the end of the week they have a pitch at an antiques fair. The one who generates the most profit is the winner. The catch? The buying public, with unrealistic expectations, will attempt to knock their £200 price tag down to £20.

I’m still waiting to hear from the bigwigs at the BBC, in the meantime I’m off to re-price everything by 90%.

Check out some of our fairly priced antiques and very reasonably valued vintage jewellery in our Etsy store:

www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TouchstoneVintage

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