Discover Vintage America - JANUARY 2018

Silhouettes and on-glass paintings make great gifts

Here we are going into a new year. It is time to go through all of the items one collects and decide if you want to continue collecting certain items, keep collecting, sell or donate them. As a dealer this is a cathartic process for me, simply because my home is not large enough to keep all the wonderful items I purchase each year.

I know that I am not going to stop going to sales, therefore purging is my only hope. I refer to this as the circle of life whether one is a collector, dealer or both.

I have decided that 2018 will be the year I hunt and find odd and unusual items. I already have a good start on collecting high school pottery class items but I know that there are more unusual items out there.

Here are a few items that I believe you will find interesting:
The first items were sent to me for an appraisal. One is a blanket and the other a cape.

They were both made by Chinook Indians and are made with fabric and buttons, tiny white buttons.
Thankfully, the blanket has a piece sewn to the back which gives us the name of the crafter. The blanket measures 70" x 48" the cape is 36" x 29". A button blanket is often a wool blanket embellished with mother-of-pearl buttons, created by Northwest Coastal tribes, that is worn for ceremonial purposes.

The blanket was crafted in 2005 by Catherine Herrold Troeh, a Chinook tribal elder and historian, well known in Pacific country. Troeh died in 2007 at age 96.

Ceremonial robes and their associated regalia have been among the most spectacular creations of the Indian people of the Northwest Coast of North America. For generations, these robes have served as insignia of family and clan histories, duties, rights, and privileges.
These robes are powerful statements of identity and, donning them, people become in a real sense what they wear. The beaver is sacred and considered to be crucial to the creation of the Chinook people.

Rather than being used as bedding, the blankets are used as capes and gifts at ceremonial dances and potlatches. The blankets usually have a red border on the upper and lateral edges. A central crest figure is created from the buttons and red flannel appliqué. Button blankets are worn over the shoulders and the crest design hangs on the back of the wearer.

The resale value on the blanket is in the $600 range due to the extensive embellishment. The cape also has a lot of detail and would sell in the $350-$400 range.

The other item is a book that I picked up at a book sale. The name of the author, T.S. Eliot, jumped out at me and despite the damage to the dust jacket I paid my $2 and scurried home to see if the author was the poet we are all familiar with. Not only was the children's book, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, written by the poet T.S. Eliot, but the book was the basis for the Broadway hit "Cats." Eliot also illustrated the early editions. The book in my possession is a 5th impression printed in 1943 in England.

There is some damage to the jacket, a few stray pencil drawings and a spine that is a bit wobbly but still has a resale value in the $50-$75 range.
Yes, it is for sale.

One of the things I love about what I do: most days are a learning experience.
Happy 2018 to all!

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.