Weekend Finds 02.19.13

As the cold winter months have marched on, we’ve been getting pretty hungry for a good tag sale. This past weekend, we managed to find an estate that did not disappoint. Did we almost freeze to death in the van waiting two hours for the sale to start? Yes. Did we nearly have to sign the sign-up sheet with our own blood because the ink pens had frozen solid? Yes. Was it all worth it? Absolutely.


Once they opened the doors to the house and read our names off the list, the adrenaline forcibly stopped our chattering teeth and we were off on a dead run inside. We all ended up in different levels of the house and, accordingly, we each found some interesting things. The first floor held some pretty fancy antique curiosities. One of which that caught my eye was a pocket telescope.


This WWI era French-made telescope is known as a “three draw,” referring to the number of extensions in its barrel. It has a lot of charm for the $40 I paid for it. The finely detailed brass, real leather wrap on the barrel, and initialed cloth covered case all have a very rich look to them and there’s a space in my barrister bookcase just waiting for it. Plus it will come in handy if I ever need to spy on the neighbors.

The lens cap is labeled "France"

I wonder where it was made?

Cap for case also stamped "Made in France"

Cap for case also stamped “Made in France”

Appealing to my love of old photographs were these two leather bound cases containing Daguerreotypes… or so they were labeled.


Once examined more closely, I discovered neither of these are true daguerreotypes. Daguerreotypes are photos from the mid 1800s printed on a silver coated brass plate. How can you tell these aren’t? Daguerrotypes yield a very low contrast image that’s almost impossible to see unless viewed from a steep angle. As you can see below, these are both very clear images. The larger picture is a ferrotype, more commonly known as a tintype. This is simply a positive image printed on a metal plate. The more vibrant smaller image is actually an ambrotype. These images were created by placing a glass plate negative on a dark background to appear as a positive image. All of these processes were common throughout the 1800s.

Ferrotype on the left, Ambrotype on the right

Ferrotype on the left, Ambrotype on the right

Aside from the fascinating images of the past they contain, the cases themselves are true works of art. The exquisitely tooled leather cases, vibrant silk velvet lining and elaborate real gold bezel tell you the importance of such an item to people back then.


Among the most interesting finds, however, was this optometrist’s kit for Fits-U Eyeglasses. Somehow I passed over this on my first run though—possibly because it was sitting next to a $350 antique set of optometry tools and I just assumed it was also out of my reach. But somehow everyone else overlooked it as well and on my final pass I eyed the $25 tag. Too cool to pass up for that.


Fits-U was well-known for producing pince-nez style eyeglasses which, rather than having ear pieces, gently squeeze the bridge of your nose. This set of glasses was actually a tool an optometrist would use to find the correct width of the bridge so that the center of the lenses aligned with the patient’s pupils. The “+” symbols mark where the pupils should be.


Although this was easily researched to confirm the age, often visual cues from artwork can be useful to determine an item’s age. In this case, the insert on the inside of the case featured this illustration of a woman. Her clothing and hairstyle definitely put this piece around the turn of the last century, up to about the 1910s. Clothing and hairstyles are often the easiest way to date anything because they are usually very specific to a short span of time.


Going farther into a medicinal theme is this antique apothecary jar. I can’t figure out what the jar is for although a doctor or druggist could probably tell me in an instant. Even without knowing what poisons it may have once held, it’s a pretty cool piece.


What many people don’t realize is the label is actually reverse-painted on a razor thin layer of glass that is then glued to the jar. I know, right? Amazing. Back then it was the only way of chemical-proofing the label. If you find these, it’s important you don’t submerge them in water as it can damage the label. Also note that the label chips and breaks very easily, so handle it with care and don’t let a towel or your clothes snag it.

Although the antiquities were mega cool, I was also happy to snag these little mid-century finds. The aluminum Kromex ice bucket on the left oozes art deco style. A little Weiman’s metal polish and this guy will shine like a mirror. And, of course, my week would not be complete without buying at least one camera.


The added bonus here is this guy is still loaded with film! That’s right, a little time capsule waiting inside. I can’t wait to get it developed. Tammy and I will be having a special upcoming post on how to handle loaded antique cameras and where to get vintage film developed, so stay tuned.


Finally after two weeks of car shopping for a new snaggin’-wagon, I’ve made some progress.


Ok, no real progress, but I did find these awesome Matchbox cars from the early 1970s—a Porsche 910 and a Ferrari Berlinetta. The boxes are amazing on both, but I have to admit—the Ferrari is my favorite.




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  1. Victor
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    It likely stands for Ferri et Quininae Citras, or Citrate of Iron and Quinine. From what I can find, it was commonly prescribed as a tonic or elixir in the mid to late 19th century, and was preferred for prescription as it was readily soluble even in cold water. Of course, so was Citrate of Iron and Strychnine. I wouldn’t recommend taking either today.

    • Austin
      Posted February 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      I knew if anyone knew what it was, it would probably be you. I think I’ll refrain from placing foodstuffs in the jar.

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