Newsletter #132

November 18, 2000

Greetings Accumulators!

This poor computer is slowly dying, "slowly" being the operative (or non-operative, actually) word here. He Who Is The Light Of My Life is building us a new computer system, and is in the process of transferring all our files, so this is a lucky day for me - I can get a newsletter out. That's if the system doesn't crash while I'm doing it. Poor hard drive!

We did the Triple Pier Expo in New York last weekend, and were visited by the lovely Diane Dunne, one of Those Fabulous Dunnes. So nice to meet an Accumulator face to face! Speaking of The Pier Show, having always considered it a bellwether for the market, I made a point of noticing a few trends.

A few categories of collectibles that seemed dead or slumping in the past year have suddenly perked up. One example: World's Fair memorabilia (hear that, you guys up in Ferndale, NY?). It was hotter than hot this time around, with 1939 New York, 1964 New York, and 1933 Chicago leading the pack. In the category of costume jewelry, the really high end stuff is attracting notice, while the middle level things just languish in showcases, and the lower end things can't be given away. This is really as it should always have been, but it took everyone a little while to figure it all out, what with anything made of bakelite being priced sky-high, whether it was junk or a thing of beauty. Prices have settled now, and that's a helpful thing. Vintage fashion is strong indeed, with less-than-pristine offerings being, surprisingly, snapped up along with the quality garments. Good purses are flying off the shelves! Anything fifties is still strong, as is Arts and Crafts furniture, lighting and accessories.

Not to mention the makers of Tickle Me Elmo and, before them, Coleco and their Cabbage patch Kids. It's called creating a market by creating a shortage. All of us can remember parents rushing the stores, begging to buy Elmo at any price. And, how about the Ty Company telling retailers they'd only be able to get twelve of each new Beanie baby? Or announcing that they'd "accidentally" sewed nine arms on about three thousand octopi, which made them "special" and, somehow, "more collectible"? (Blame it on all those highly motivated sweatshop seamstresses). Now comes the tale, more than six weeks before Christmas, that there's a shortage of chips to power all those smart new toys, the ones that "learn" things and become more personalized the longer you have them. I suppose this will result in the usual humanitarian behavior of store employees (like the year that Toys-R-Us employees bought all the Elmos on the shelves before the doors opened, and then sold them to hopeful parents and ten times the retail price) and other speculators, who will make the shortage become reality. As we've all seen, greed is a powerful thing. As long as our society is willing to support marketing schemes that bring out less than the best in everybody, why not give your kid one of those new Diva Starz by Mattel? Children will be encouraged to pull the dolls' hair in order to hear them scream, or leave them in their pajamas after sunup, so they'll complain. Nice.

Congrats to Mickey Mouse, who is 72 years young today. He was born on November 18, 1928, with the release of "Steamboat Willie", the first animated talking picture ever. Willie was a different rodent then than he is today. He looked much more like a rat, and he was a lot more mischievous than the fine upstanding squeaky clean mini-mammal of the contemporary Disney Corporation. In fact, the first attempts at merchandising the character resulted in some way too realistic-looking European toys, with long pointy noses and big teeth. They actually frightened children, so their production was halted. These early rarities sell on today's market for megabucks.

I was fortunate enough this summer to visit Disneyland not once, but twice, in the company of my dear friend Phil Rossetto, screenwriter and artist extraordinaire, who took me to the various Millenium celebrations and provided amazingly knowledgeable narration. At the conclusion of one show, a water spectacle with blinding pyrotechnics, a paddlewheel steamer rounded a bend, filled with colorful Disney characters, and piloted by a black-and-white Steamboat Willie who, Phil confided to me, was actually being played by a young Asian woman. Ah, progress!

Accumulators, this has been fun! I feel as if I've gotten a message past the guards and out into the free world. HWITLOML promises the new system will be up this week, so my next missive to you may very well be a breeze, with no re-boots, no lost text, no know. In the meantime, have a glorious Thanksgiving Day, if you're in the US. For those of you in the rest of the world, have a great week. Happy hunting!


2000 Judith Katz-Schwartz. All rights reserved.
Antiques and Collectibles Newsletter #132
U.S. Library of Congress
ISSN 1520-4464


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2000 Judith Katz-Schwartz. All rights reserved.