Discover Vintage America - SEPTEMBER 2017

Back to school - a nostalgic time of year

Traditionally, September has been the month that a new school year started. It is bittersweet; on one hand the kids are excited to see their friends and make new ones. On the other, there is no more sleeping in, week-night slumber parties nor vacations.

I loved getting ready for a new school year because we got new clothes, shoes and school supplies. My school supplies were usually purchased from Woolworth.

My daughters enjoyed the fabulousness of a big box office supply store. To be honest, their school supplies often cost me more than their clothes and shoes. They are office supply store junkies.
Boy, have times changed. We have gone from long lists of necessary items to one notebook as most students have school-supplied iPads.

The smell of new crayons is imprinted in my brain as are the shavings from sharpening a pencil, and I can still taste the paste we used in school. Oh, don't tell me that you didn't lick the little paste brush. If the teacher picked you to clean the blackboard erasers by clapping them together, you felt special even though some of the kids called you "the teacher's pet."

Of all the "old" school supplies, few have any real resale value. Metal lunchboxes with the original thermos can bring several hundred dollars depending upon condition and the character or theme depicted.

Old globes and classroom pull down maps also can fetch a pretty penny but age and condition are paramount. Be careful when buying globes as these have been reproduced to look old and new globes are still being made.

Old school desks are also in demand. If you can find one that still has the glass or metal ink cup, grab it. Unusual desks such as those found in other countries are real finds. My mom has one from Southeast Asia that is raised off the floor and you rest your feet on slats. They are made in this manner because flooding can be a problem in monsoon season.

When I had my shop she waffled on bringing it in to sell or not. "Not" won out, even though I was going to price it at $600.

Then you have all of the ephemera – paper items, such as report cards, certificates and photographs.

I personally love all of these things and price is dependent on age and decorative appeal. Some of the certificates can be quite decorative especially penmanship certificates.

Michelle's granddaughter, Kaya, heading off to her first day of school - junior year.

My daughters are grown. My grandchild is 16 so our school days are almost over. Then we move to college days.

I would love for you to share your school memories with our readers. You can email me at

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.