Jasper52 auction unlocks cabinet of curiosities Aug. 14

Cabinets of curiosities were encyclopedic collections of macabre and bizarre objects gathered from around world. Many of these obscure curiosities are found in an online auction to be conducted by Jasper52 on Tuesday, Aug. 14. Some items in the auction were picked from the collection of the late Canadian tribal art dealer Billy Jamieson, the star of Treasure Trader on television’s History Channel.

Life-size hyper-realism sculpture by Evan Penny for FXSMITH studio, circa 2008. Estimate: $35,000-$75,000. Jasper52 image

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Pest Control In Pretty Packages

It is difficult to comprehend that some of our smallest works of antique art took their inspiration from disease, foul odors and fleas, yet the facts are indisputable.

Imagine a typical overcrowded 18th- or 19th-century city without plumbing facilities, where refuse littered the streets and animals roamed freely. Consider the multiple layers of heavy clothing people wore year round and how rarely those same people bathed, if at all. There was little oral hygiene and no hygienic paper products. There were no washing machines and no routine garbage collection. It was a world where rodents ruled and both animals and humans carried fleas. There was Febreze, although it was certainly needed.

How would a person mitigate these circumstances enough to make life bearable? If you were poor, you could not. If you were well heeled, however, you could purchase a vinaigrette or fancy flea trap.

This hollowed, Russian hand-carved bone flea trap dates to the 18th century. It is 2 inches tall and 3 1/2 inches in circumference. The owner would cut a strip of cloth, rub honey on one side, saturate the other side with blood, then slip it within the flea trap. The blood attracted fleas, they entered through the many carved perforations and stuck to the honey. Most flea traps are straight and tubular, but this flea trap displays the Russian penchant for the onion dome. Image courtesy Dr. Anthony J. Cavo

To the wealthy, flea traps were every bit as much an accessory as jewelry, hats, gloves or a fan. They were worn around the neck, tucked into clothing, stashed under a wig, or placed in a bed. Flea traps have been in use since the Middle Ages. They were made of silver or ornately carved ivory or bone, their beauty shrouding their unpleasant purpose.

Early flea traps, which are scarce to begin with, are even more difficult to find because they are often misidentified as vinaigrettes or even needle cases. As a result, comparative pricing can be tricky. Linear, cylinder and bulbous shapes are the most common forms and sell in the $250 to $300 range, although there is one 17th-century example currently listed online for $20,000, a highly inflated price.

An interesting fact to note is the origin of the color puce. “Puce” is the French word for “flea,” and by extension, the color of the stain remaining on a bedsheet after a sated flea has been crushed. You may never think of puce in quite the same way again.

19th century pomander that might also have been used as a flea trap, carved from coquilla nut, the fruit of the Brazilian palm: the coquilla nut. The top and bottom halves are turned in opposite directions to open this case, which is 3 inches tall and 5 1/2 inches in circumference. These beautiful pieces can be readily found online in the $20 to $30 range. Image courtesy Dr. Anthony J. Cavo

Throughout history, foul odors were another unpleasant aspect of daily life. Although, of necessity, people became accustomed to the circumstances that caused the odors, they still attempted to alleviate them. During the Middle Ages people began to use pomanders to introduce a pleasant fragrance to the environment. Initially, pomanders were made at home, much like those we still make during the holidays. People used citrus fruit pierced with herbs like cloves or they saved the skin of an orange and stuffed it with a rag or sponge that had been soaked in vinegar. Oranges and vinegar were believed to have the power to ward off illness.

Pomanders were also made of silver and gold, often with enamel work or even mounted with gems. These would be filled with sponges or cloths infused with scents. They were worn around the neck, wrist or on a chatelaine. They could also be placed in a trunk or cabinet with clothing.

Another innovation that soon largely replaced the pomander was the pouncet box. Pouncet boxes emerged during the late 16th century in England and were used primarily by the wealthy. The pouncet box was flat and circular in shape with a perforated lid that held vinegar-soaked sponges or cloths. Both men and women carried pouncet boxes to overpower any foul odor and, more importantly, to offer protection from infected air, then considered to be the source of contagion.

This 1851 Dutch Lodereindoosje or Loderein box, also known as a vinaigrette, is a hinged box type. The name Loderein is the Dutch phonetic variation of the French phrase “l’eau de reine,” which means “queen’s water.” It retains the original sponge and a hint of scent. Visible marks on this piece include the Dutch lion passant, the 1851 date letter “R” and the Minerva-head duty mark. Boxes such as this are often misidentified at antique shows as snuffboxes. Image courtesy Dr. Anthony J. Cavo

By the late 18th century, the pouncet box evolved into a smaller silver container known as a vinaigrette, from the French word for vinegar – vinaigre. The vinaigrette worked on the same principle as the pomander and pouncet box. Aromatic substances dissolved in vinegar or concentrated scented oils were used to saturate sponges or fabric placed in the vinaigrette, which was carried in a pocket, worn around the neck or suspended from a chatelaine. The amount of detail silversmiths managed to apply to such small pieces is quite remarkable. These are truly artworks.

Novelty vinaigrettes in the form of musical instruments, shoes, wallets, satchels, hearts, eggs, nuts, and even books were very popular during the 19th century and are highly desirable today. The violin vinaigrette shown here is valued in the $500 to $600 range.

The 3 1/4-inch long 19th-century Dutch vinaigrette was made in the form of a violin or cello, complete with pegs, string, bridge, scroll and “f” holes. It is decorated with scenes of a dock with a ship in the background and putti performing various tasks. There are wine barrels, wheels of cheese and, most interestingly, a figure in the background holding a caduceus, perhaps supporting the belief that the vinaigrette was a prophylaxis against disease. Image courtesy Dr. Anthony J. Cavo

By the mid-19th century, the popularity of the vinaigrette was waning. Younger women viewed vinaigrettes as outdated accessories carried by older women who used them more for their invigorating effect than as a prophylaxis. During the early 20th century they were collected as curiosities and regarded as bjets d’art or bibelots. Chances are you have overlooked these treasures at an antique show or auction. They are usually exhibited in jewelry display cases and can be easy to overlook when they’re jumbled together with other items.

Knowing about flea traps, typically identified as pomanders, will afford you the opportunity to obtain an antique far scarcer than vinaigrettes – an antique not many people have in their collection.

While on the subject of fleas and flea markets, do you know the origin of the term “flea market?” The phrase is derived from the French name “marché aux puces” (market of fleas) that applied to a market in Paris specializing in secondhand goods, especially clothing of the sort that might contain fleas. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the date 1922 as the year when the phrase was first used in its English translated form.


Our thanks to Antique Trader for sharing this article. Click to visit Antique Trader online.

Street art masters featured in online auction Aug. 8

Contemporary art lovers can tag their walls with a collection of street art offered in a Jasper52 online auction taking place Wednesday, Aug. 8. With their roots running deep into street art are such widely known names as LA II, Cope2, Pure Evil, and the team of The Producer BDB x Flore, and they’re all represented in this sale.

The Producer BDB x Flore, ‘Kate Boss,’ acrylic and resin on wood panel, 36in x 24 in. Estimate: $10,000-$12,000. Jasper52 image

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Rare, old tribal art comprises Jasper52 auction Aug. 8

Sixty-five lots of premium tribal art from, most from old European collections, are offered in a Jasper52 auction to be conducted Wednesday, Aug. 8. Carved out in this treasury are masks, figures and other objects integral to traditional ceremonies from tribes around the world.

Fali betrothal doll with long draperies of beads. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500. Jasper52 image

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Elongated Coins: Make Your Money Stretch

You don’t need to have an interest in coins to get started in coin collecting. An affordable alternative to traditional numismatics is the elongated cent. Just find a machine, plug in a penny and a couple of quarters (to pay the cost), crank the wheel to squash the penny and imprint a design, and you get a memento that will last forever.

Elongated coins (also known as elongated cents, stretchies, squashed cents, or rolled cents) are made by forcing a coin, token or metal blank between two steel rollers. The design engraved on one roller (die) is then transferred to the coin, turning what was just moments before legal tender into a memento valued to the maker at more than a penny.

Cindy’s cents machines at Natural Bridge, Virginia (6477 S. Lee Highway, Natural Bridge, Virginia). Courtesy of Cindy Calhoun/Cindy’s Cents

Speaking of legal, many people think it is illegal to alter U.S. coins by smashing them. However, it’s perfectly legal to roll pennies. U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 17, Section 331 prohibits, among other things, fraudulent alteration and mutilation of coins. This statute does not, however, prohibit the mutilation of coins if done without fraudulent intent or if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently.

These coin curios have been around for more than a century. The first elongated coins in the United States were made in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The enterprising individual(s) who brought a rolling machine to this world’s fair to press designs on coins created a whole new type of collectible, falling into the exonumia category of numismatics, which includes all things coin-related. Ever since that Chicago World’s Fair, entrepreneurs and collectors have taken a shine to pressing coins.

Elongateds fall into three general production classes: oldies, modern and contemporary. From the period 1893-1965 come the “oldies,” which were issued primarily at national and world expositions. Circa 1965-circa 1985 coins are considered “modern elongateds,” which were created primarily by private rollers. Contemporary elongateds, circa 1985-present, are made largely by commercial penny presses, such as those found in many zoos, parks and other amusement sites.

Custom coin designated by Cindy Calhoun commemorates the C&O Canal, DC to Cumberland, Maryland. Courtesy of Cindy Calhoun/Cindy’s Cents

Cindy’s Cents has specialized in custom elongated coins and penny machines since 2006. The business has about 30 public machines placed in West Virginia, Virginia and a few machines in Maryland. [Their website, www.elongatedpenny.net, lists the specific locations and offers elongated coins from those machines for 75 cents apiece.] The company is headed by Cindy Calhoun [TEC #3467] of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. She is also a squashed penny enthusiast and has thousands of elongated coins in her collection.

Calhoun says her collection started with elongateds from places she visited when she was growing up. “I didn’t consider myself a collector back then, I was just getting souvenirs,” she explains. “I became more involved with the hobby as an adult; then trip routes were planned around where the penny machines were located.”

Currently serving as president of the Elongated Collectors, Calhoun is also a private roller – someone who designs and rolls elongated coins for clients.

1915 Pan-Pacific International Expo in San Francisco PPIE elongated penny with Tower of Jewels, priced at $25. Courtesy eBay seller BJStamps

The Elongated Collector (www.tecnews.org) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1966. The group’s official mission is to “educate, encourage and promote the study, acquisition and exhibition of elongated coins;” assisting new collectors and youth rank high on their priority list. Benefits of joining the group include being a part of an active collecting community that makes it easier to buy, sell and trade elongated coins; receiving informative quarterly newsletters filled with articles written by TEC members – plus at least two free elongated coins with each issue; and access to a wealth of information about elongated coin history and realistic and consistent values of elongates.

Modern and contemporary elongateds make up the lion’s share of the pressed coin population, but there are still plenty of oldies to pursue. Oldies tend to cost the most to acquire.

Calhoun explains, “The first known elongateds were at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Surprisingly, these can still be found for a reasonable amount ($25-$40). Many key events in the U.S. have been commemorated on an elongated. The early elongateds were prominent at the world’s fairs, and many elongated collectors specialize in the coins from those events.”

1906 San Francisco Post Office elongated cent. Uncirculated 1906 Indian cent showing image of the San Francisco Post Office. Sold for $34. Courtesy Heritage Auctions

According to the TEC, “Prices of elongated coins vary depending on the number rolled, age, denomination, popularity of topic or event, even the condition of the coin.” Help with determining rarity comes from the book Yesterday’s Elongateds, which is a helpful resource for collectors of older elongated coins. It includes listings of oldies along with a rarity scale. As for condition, in addition to considering the state of the metal itself, elongated coins on which the design is completely visible are more desirable than those with the design cut off (rolled short) or those with long “tails.”

Calhoun shares helpful insights when considering value: “The older elongateds that were made in limited numbers sell higher than those from public machines. The most expensive elongated is the Pike; it’s pictured on the front of Yesterday’s Elongateds and last sold at auction for more than $4,000. However, most current elongateds can be purchased for less than a dollar, and the older elongateds vary depending on the host coin (one rolled on a gold coin will obviously be more), when it was made, and the number of that coin that are known to exist.”

Rare 1910 Grand Army of the Republic elongated cent. The host coin is an uncirculated 1910 Lincoln cent, $81. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

While there are possibly hundreds of thousands of elongated cents to pursue, building a collection doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. Stretched penny fans can create a collection of any size that reflects their own personal interests. In fact, Calhoun recommends focusing a collection. “You can’t collect them all. Some people collect by location (i.e., all related to a particular city or state). Others have collections by theme (zoos, sports, events, Disney, Christmas, etc.), or by the engraver or roller,” she says. Modern and contemporary designer initials are often included in the design, usually in the border or at the edge of the design.

There are some aspects that most collectors agree on: Pre-1982 copper cents are best for rolling. According to the U.S. Mint [www.usmint.gov], the metallic composition of pennies has changed several times since 1792. As it relates to elongated pennies, from 1864 to 1962, the cent was composed of 95 percent copper and 5 percent tin and zinc (with the exception of 1943, when pennies were made of zinc-coated steel to conserve copper so it could be used in the war effort). In 1962, the tin content was removed from the alloy, making penny composition 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc. In 1982, the Mint transitioned the cent composition to 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper (copper-plated zinc). The post-1982 cents have a zinc core, which will show up after rolling the coin; and with time the zinc will turn black, and it greatly diminishes the look (and value) of the elongated coin.

Most elongated cent collectors also agree it’s best to use clean or even polished pennies for rolling.

Appealing to families because elongated coins make for affordable souvenirs, there is no limit to the variety of pressed pennies that are available. While it’s not guaranteed newly rolled pennies will ever be of significant monetary value, there are several things that are guaranteed:

The The pursuit of rolled cents is as affordable as collecting gets.

Collectors will never run out of elongated coins to chase.

A penny is just a penny, but when it’s elongated, it becomes a valued memento.



Sources: https://www.money.org/blog/the-start-of-a-new-collectible; Penny Collector, www.pennycollector.com; elongatedcoins.org; The Elongated Collectors, www.tecnews.org; ParkPennies.com; www.elongatedcoin.com

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