Suddenly Hip: Iconic Flea Market Finds
By Marni Elyse Katz, September 7, 2011
These decidedly retro bowling trophies belong to self-described vintage hawker and Kitsch and Craft blogger and native Nebraskan, Jonnie Andersen. (photo: flickrjohnnyvintage)
A detail of collector Caitlin Holcomb’s bedroom/workspace. She says, “I like to surround myself with little things that inspire me: artwork and handmade pieces, pretty sewing notions, favorite magazines, and of course plenty of vintage trinkets and treasures. The trophy came from a thrift store in a plastic bag full of other random goodies. I'm sure it was originally a party favor. From time to time I like to stick a single flower in the cup.”
No flea market would be complete without its fair share of classic collectibles — glass marbles, fruit crate labels, chipped china, milk glass cake stands, beaded Deco purses and the like. Sometimes, these timeworn vintage finds have a "moment," finding their way into many a hipster home. Last year, it was anatomical images that were all the rage among style setters.
This year, we’re seeing an interest in the following relics from the past: wooden doodads (spools and bobbins, shoe lasts, and bowling pin), retro clocks, old cameras and vintage trophies. We explore the latter here — trophies are so hot they get their own feature (and a window in the J. Crew men's store in Boston). For a deeper analysis of the rest, click here.
An assemblage of shiny trophies decorated the window at the J.Crew Men’s store in Boston this June, in honor of Father’s Day.
Vintage trophies are an award winning collectible on eBay. When we compared a recent 30-day period to approximately one-year prior, we found that listings were up 38 percent, sales were up 34 percent and average price was up 14 percent.
Diane and Doug McElwain, owners of Sport & Spool Antiques in Goldsboro, North Carolina, confirm that trophy sales are indeed on the rise. They say that while some collect specimens in specific materials, say pewter or silverplate, others collect based on subject matter, like dogs, horses, football, or track and field. But no matter what the style, everyone displays them in groups. As to who is doing the collecting, the McElwains say they often sell trophies to restaurants; just recently they provided a major display for a hotel bar in Atlanta. J. Crew is a frequent customer, as well as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. As for the allure, the couple notes, “Each one that is engraved is a one-of-a-kind-item.”
A tower of trophies from Sport & Spool Antiques at The Pier Show at Pier 94.in New York City, photographed by blogger Myles Henry, who appreciates their masculine decorative appeal.
Gary Briggs, co-founder of Aunt Sadie’s Candles and owner of Twin Oak Antiques in Lunenburg, Vermont is an emphatic trophy collector. Seeing the abandoned, forgotten awards makes him a bit sad, he tells us, because the pride that once went along with the win has somehow been lost. He says, “I always think that incorporating an old trophy into my decor gives life back to the original feat for which it was won.”
Briggs also notes that trophies are great conversation starters: “When I have guests over, they want to know: Where did I get it? Do I know the school? The family? People associate trophies with childhood, so they evoke nostalgia.”
San Francisco-based interior designer Grant K. Gibson added a well-worn collection of cup trophies to the top of a built-in bookcase set with leather-bound books and wood-framed "ancestral" images.
Don Carney and John Ross of PatchNYC agree. They’re drawn to the history behind trophies and vintage medals, pointing out, “Often they are beautifully engraved with names and events; each piece has a story behind it.”
Lyndsay Maver of Lynzariums planted succulents in a vintage trophy for the guys of PatchNYC.
Blogger Heidi Gordon of Dreams Intertwined sums up these sentiments, saying, “I like the shapes, the patina, and I guess the prize that they represent.”
Blogger Heidi Gordon, who works for an estate sale company arranged this tableau last fall. She says, “I like to layer different finishes and textures. I like things that have age and patina, as well as contrasting colors. This vignette was about autumn, with a $1 thrifted painting behind it.”
On the other hand, interior designer and photo stylist Kelly McGuill, who’s known for expertly integrating fantastic flea market finds the décor has an altogether different take on the trophy’s allure: “I've collected trophies for years—maybe it's because I was a horrible athlete growing up and never received any trophies of my own. This is my way of rewarding myself.”
Designer Kelly McGuill collects vintage trophies because she never won any of her own as a kid. (photo: Kelly McGuill trophies; email: trophies