2004 Issue

Compiled by
Mike McLeod

  This month Mike McLeod gives us a personalized look at Navajo rugs, tobacco tins, cereal boxes, and Twiggy memorabilia. Mike, who lives with his wife and five children near Atlanta, has written about a broad range of antiques and collectibles – from Sumida pottery to Gutenburg Bible pages. Readers who would like to share interesting websites with Mike may contact him via email at mikemcl@mindspring.com.

At the Medicine Man Gallery, click on “Navajo Rugs” to view many impressive blankets.

Navajo Blankets www.medicinemangallery.com

            One of the great mistakes I made when I lived on the Navajo Reservation from 1977 to 1979 was not buying any blankets – especially when I recently read that a Navajo blanket appraised at $350,000 to $500,000 was the top collectible ever on the Antiques Roadshow. Watching saaniis (old women) working at their looms — a common sight in many hoghans — I did learn a few keys to look for when buying a blanket: the use of natural colors from natural dyes, tightly woven yard, symmetry in the design, and the size of the blanket (larger usually being more valuable, depending on the three previous factors).

            Many Navajo women in those days were the breadwinners in the family, with their weaving, herding of sheep, and raising gardens. Unemployment among Navajo men was very high at that time, as was alcoholism (which was probably made worse by the unemployment). There were very few jobs on the Reservation for men because, at that time, the Navajo Tribe and local chapter houses made it very difficult for non-Navajos to open businesses there. And few Navajos chose to do so or had the capital to do so. It has improved somewhat over the years.

            The Navajo society is based on a matriarchal order. This stemmed from the tradition of men going off to raid the Spanish and other tribes in the early days. Spanish conquistadors were the first to report seeing Navajo blankets in the Southwest. In the 1800s, a traveler reported seeing blankets made of wool that held water. This was probably due to the tightness of the weave and the wool’s natural lanolin. Consequently, blankets were prized as protection against the rain.

            And they are beautiful. At the Medicine Man Gallery, click on “Navajo Rugs” in the left-hand column to view many impressive blankets. Exhibited there are several major patterns: Two Grey Hills, Yei, Ganado, Klagetoh and others. And learn from my mistake when an opportunity presents itself to you.


Tobacco tins like these carried their own advertisements.

Tobacco Tins

            In the days before mass media, every product carried its own advertisement. Product labels fought against each other for the attention of buyers. This is why many product containers from the 1800s are so dramatic, colorful, and look like works of art.

            Take, for instance, tobacco tins. Made to protect cigars, “fixings” for rolling cigarettes, and other tobacco products while carried in a pocket, tobacco tins were attractive because of their design work and colors. Harvey Leventhal’s Antiqueadvertising.com website has a grand collection of these pieces of history. (Scroll down and click on “Pocket Tins”.)  Harvey’s website gives some valuable clues for collecting tins: “Look for superior artwork, elaborate designs,

            10 colors or more, unusual shapes, and mint condition.” It also explains that tobacco tins were popular during the mid-1800s and that tax stamps on the tins can be used to accurately date them. Paper labels can also be used to date those created before lithography came into general use in the 1870s.

            I have to wonder, though, who thought the name “Horse Fly” would help sell a tobacco product?


This is what the French
eat for breakfast.

Cereal Boxes

            In addition to being a marketing and labeling bonanza of information, theimaginaryworld.com has a wonderful collection of cereal boxes from the 1950s to the 1970s. Fancying myself as a connoisseur of cereal — not, like Jerry Seinfeld, because I eat it all the time, but because my wife and I have five children — I was still astounded at the number of cereals I had never seen before. Like Fruit Brute, Sir Grapefellow, Mr. Wonderful’s Surprize, and Wackys from General Mills; OJ's, Orange Kombos, OKs, and Pep from Kellogg’s; Muffets (not Muppets) from Quaker Oats; Cornfetti and Corn Cracko’s from Post; and Fruity Freakies and Moon Stones from Ralston Purina.

            On the home page of the website, click on “Tick Tock Toys,” and then scroll down to the cereal box link — if you can make it past the links for premiums, store displays, food packages, vintage supermarket photos and candy catalogs.

            It seems they collect cereal boxes in France, too, as the website  http://www.gadgetus.com/ shows. Crazy stuff there. Check out the Choco Crack cereal. It is the breakfast of …well, forget it.



       Do you remember Twiggy? Man, you are old! Do you know her real name?  Then you need to check out the website that is “All things Twiggy.”

            Born in 1949 in Neasden, England, Twiggy grew up with her two sisters, Shirley and Viv. Believe it or not, Twiggy liked to eat ice cream as a kid. It did not, however, prevent her from being called “stick” and “twig” by her playmates, and the name stuck.

            A modeling career projected Twiggy to stardom, and she was christened the “Face of 1966.” Her face — and sometimes her 90-pound body — appeared on magazine covers and collectibles, including clothes, purses, books, notebooks, school supplies, mirrors, makeup, lunch boxes and bags, thermoses, and coat hangers (seems fitting). She is even on a “Dune Deck” metal pail. Perhaps a Twiggy officinado can explain what that was for, since the website does not.

            But all skinny jokes aside, if you find yourself a little lean on things to do, you can pop on by and take a long look at the face (and body) that made England famous — if you don’t count the Beatles… or Margaret Thatcher… or Princess Di… King Arthur….


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