Discover Vintage America - JANUARY 2017

Yearly reflections, advice and a contest!

Happy New Year!

I don't know about every-one else, but I am very happy to see the year 2016 in my rearview mirror. It has certainly been a tough one. That is why instead of my usual question and answer column I decided to share a few things I gleaned in 2016.

First and foremost, thank you to all the antique shops and event planners who have invited me to come and conduct appraisal events. It is a thrill to visit antique shops, and towns that might not be on my radar. It is a pleasure to visit with the folks who bring in wild, wonderful and unique items for appraisal. The proprietors of the shops and events I attended are also amazing people whose passion for what they do is contagious.

Hubby and I went on a short trip in September and when I travel I always stop at antique shops and thrift stores along the way. Thank goodness I always have a copy of Discover Vintage America with me to help locate antique shops.

Treenware bowl

While we were traveling I was really looking forward to finding items indigenous to the area but I'm sad to say I did not have much luck. I did learn a little something while in Wyoming. I am just naturally curious and while in an antique shop a customer walked to the counter with a stack of books. When the total purchase price was given to the customer my knees buckled. I asked the shop owner what was so special about the books just purchased and she told me that they were old "brand books."

Any farm or ranch with livestock must have a brand (as in branding iron) and each brand has to be registered with the state. Every year the brands and owners are compiled into a book. Almost every state has brand books with some dating back to the mid-1800s. The old brand books from states such as Wyoming are selling, in this particular antique shop, for $1,200 and more – the price goes down depending on the age of the book.

You can bet that I will be keeping an eye out for some of the older books. If you are interested in seeing 2015 brands from Kansas here's a website:

Mercury Glass

One thing I have been seeing a lot of in antique shops and malls is "mercury glass" and even though some shop tags portray it as antique, I am here to tell you that it probably is not. Mercury glass that was made in the 1820s more often than not was "painted" with mercury. Silvering such as that used on mirror backs was another process employed. Contemporary mercury glass is pretty convincing, as it looks aged with streaky silver coloring on the glass. While it is an affordable option, just don't be fooled.

Metal baskets are everywhere. You will see some marketed as "locker room" baskets that are rectangular in shape. Then you have the round wire basket with a handle. With the wire bins and baskets, you want to look for appropriate signs of wear. The locker room baskets had a metal tag with a number on one of the short ends so expect to see marks or rust where these tags were located. Be wary of metal tins and treenware (wood bread bowls, etc.) being sold as old.

It is getting very difficult to sift through the new to find the old but wonderful buys on vintage items are still out there. Sometimes you have to get down on the floor and dig through boxes.

In closing, I would like to make an offer you can't refuse. To get some new questions for my monthly column anyone who sends an email, with photographs and all the details I need to answer the question, will get their name put in a hat for a drawing and if you use the link below and pay for an appraisal you will get three entries into the quarterly drawing for an item from my inventory.

I would love it if you would go to Michelle Knows Antiques on the web -

Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to for a one-on-one appraisal.