Antique dealers and vintage vendors use the word smalls to describe items that can charm customers. They may evoke emotions of pleasure or nostalgia or excitement. Here are 5 characteristics of smalls:

  1. Not too large. They tend to be portable.
  2. Not too pricey. Think of a small as an impulse buy. It’s something you didn’t plan to purchase but decide it’s too good to pass up. Let me make an important distinction here: an original Fabergé egg, for instance, although small in size, is not a small because of its exorbitant price. The price of smalls depends on where you shop. Our smalls generally range from $10 to $150.
  3. Lots of character. Not every small appeals to all people. You decide if it fits your personality and home. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  4. User friendlySmalls are fun. They can be quirky, stunning, colorful, dull, useful, impractical, hard or soft. Or any combination.
  5. Collectible. Some people collect specific smalls — jewelry, World War II medals, bottles, baskets, dishes, or action figures, to name a few. The beauty of smalls is that they can add to a collection or stand alone as a unique item.

Right now we are awash in smalls thanks to a few successful weeks at estate sales. We’re trying to be better about taking photos as items arrive at our home — our son Michael is responsible for all these — and then again in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

This leather-covered carry case, for starters, looks intriguing. With its leather-covered handle and initials, W.J.F, what could it be?
Vintage portable cocktail case
A party in a box! Michael thoughtfully inserted the almost-empty-bottle of tequila for the photo shoot. The Mid-Century Modern fabric is wildly mod — and there’s an unopened box of cards.
Portable Cocktail Case

Handmade sweetgrass baskets, coiled in the Low Country near Charleston, SC, incorporate  techniques brought by West African slaves in the 17th century. Genuine sweetgrass baskets are prized for their intricate artwork. Would this find be valuable? Nope. Imported Asian knockoffs are sold even in Charleston’s tourist shops. The expert I checked with claims the hanging loop is a dead giveaway that it isn’t original. Yet the pattern and weave are interesting and would warm any home’s decor.
Sweetgrass Basket Repro

Here’s another piece that shouts Mid-Century Modern, made by Viking Glass Company (1944 – 1987). On a practical level, it’s a candle holder. On an aesthetic level, it’s orange flower power.
MCM Viking Glass Candleholder

These seahorse glass containers are useful, pleasing to the eye and probably contemporary. They’re perfect for a coastal home.
Seahorse Glass Containers

This is a double bell: the large outer one . . .
Brass Bell with Bell Clapper
. . . and the smaller one inside that serves as a clapper. Who doesn’t love bells?
Brass Bell with Bell Clapper Inside View

Here’s metal wall art in the shape of a lifesaver, with nautical flags aflutter. Since we live in Florida, I’m hoping this will be a popular item.
Nautical Flag Metal Wreath

Speaking of nautical flags, they served as an international code system for ships signaling each other or for ship-to-shore signals. Each flag has a special meaning, for instance:

  • A: Alpha – diver down; keep clear
  • B: Bravo – carrying dangerous cargo
  • C: Charlie – yes
  • D: Delta – keep clear
  • E: Echo – altering course to starboard

This sign, with its 3-D flags, offers historical content in a fun way:
Flag Language Sign

A 1984 handmade bowl from Hawaii came with documentation, which is pretty rare. Its shape reminds me of a tropical flower.
Makai Art Village Bowl 1984

I fell in love with this rectangular Chinese teapot and — Bonus! — we discovered an authentication paper after we returned home. We had to work to get that folded paper out of the tiny lid opening. The teapot was purchased in Kyoto, Japan, in 1986. The document claims it is over 100 years old. We’ll have to verify authenticity with our Asian expert.
Chinese antique teapot with koi

An acrylic bottle holder: it could be mid-century or new. It will look fine among the MCM items in our booth.
Acrylic bottle holder

Józefina Glass Works in Poland, started in 1980, makes handmade glass. Obviously the company didn’t exist in during the Mid-Century Modern era, but this large vase certainly looks like it could be part of that time period. To my eye, it also looks like swirls of chocolate and caramel syrup.
Józefina glass vase Poland

This poster was printed for a Picasso exhibit at the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, 1982-83. We’ll have to reframe it, but that’s doable at our house. It’s not an antique, but it is rare and out-of-print.
Picasso Poster Mexico exhibit

Thanks for visiting. We’d love to hear about your favorite smalls — and where you discovered them. You can also find us on Facebook and Pinterest.

Ann Marie & David

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3 Comments on 5 Reasons Why People Like Smalls

  1. Diana Petrillo
    March 27, 2016 at 11:15 pm (4 years ago)

    Great finds guys! I especially like the 3-D flag sign and the Picasso print. I’m wondering how you’ll go about pricing it? Do you have an art guy 🙂 I have a Matisse poster from a museum opening and have never gotten around to evaluating it–lol. Happy Easter 🙂

    • irisabbey
      March 28, 2016 at 12:24 am (4 years ago)

      Thanks, Diana — I just sent you an email answering your question.

  2. Terry
    April 3, 2016 at 3:53 pm (4 years ago)

    I agree with you about the smalls. Sometimes people who are a fan of your business don’t always have the funds for a large piece they really admire. Having smalls makes them able to still afford something from their favorite shop as well 🙂 You have found some really interesting pieces, I bet they won’t stay in your shop long! Have a great week!
    The Curator’s Collection & Making Broken Beautiful


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