On Collecting – 4 and 20 Pie Birds

Pie birds are small ceramic kitchen tools used to vent steam when baking pies. After a dish is lined with pastry, the funnel is placed into the center, the filling is added, and the top crust is molded around the figurine. While baking, the hollow center of the pie bird allows steam to escape the filling and prevents juices from overflowing.

The earliest pie birds were often plain white earthenware objects used to advertise kitchen product manufacturers, with company names, etc.

Taking inspiration from the popular “Sing a Song of Sixpence” nursery rhyme, which mentions “4 and 20 blackbirds, baked in a pie,” ceramic designers eventually moved away from utilitarian and came up with charming new forms.

While most pie birds are “birds,” they can also be almost anything else, but are still called “pie birds.” Elephants, dogs, people, cats, etc. They’ve all taken their turn as a beloved pie bird.


Pie birds are not only useful, but they also make a great collection. And, as any collector will tell you, the fun is in the variety! Pie birds have been made all over the world for many years so there are a lot of them out there. Come on into The Mercantile. The search will be fun and you just might find a pie bird … or two!

Carol Fenn 3-2018


Make A Fairy Garden For Your Garden Fairy!

Every fairy needs a garden
Of that there is no doubt
But fairies, they’re always busy

Granting wishes and flitting about
Perhaps you’d like to help them

Build a garden where they can stay
Cozy, cute and magical

I hope you’ll find a way
Come in to The Mercantile

And we can help you out
We’ve got the pots

We’ve got the plants

We’ll even show you how.
You’ll walk out of our door

Fairy garden in hand
And when you get home

Just give a little call
Your happy fairy will hear you 

And will know exactly. where. to. land.
– Come to our March Mash-Up!

“Peter Cottontail Hoppin’ Through The Secret Garden”

March 1-4 Thursday – Sunday

We have everything you need to make your very own fairy garden.

Your fairy will thank you!

Carol Fenn 2-2018

Tucson Rodeo Posters!

It’s rodeo time in Tucson!  

In 1925, Frederick Kramer, president of the Arizona Polo Association, created The Tucson Rodeo, known as La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. The event gave visitors a taste of cowboy range work and glamorized Tucson’s Wild West background. It also gave cowboys a chance to win some cash! The first rodeo featured four events—steer wrestling, steer tying, calf roping, and saddle bronc riding. The purse was $6,650. 

The first Tucson Rodeo was held at Kramer Field, now a neighborhood called Catalina Vista, near the U of A. 

Advertising posters are an important part of any event, and Tucson rodeo posters have certainly been an important part of this tradition.  Over the years there have been some spectacular posters inviting folks to come to the rodeo. The tradition continues today. The folks who run the rodeo are still producing some great artwork.  

So, pull on your cowboy boots, dust off your western hat, and get on down to the rodeo, and don’t forget to check out this years poster while you’re there!

Carol Fenn 2-2018

Those 50s and 60s Vintage Valentines!

If you are of a certain age and grew up in the 1950s and 1960s I’m sure you have fond memories of these mid century Valentines! And if you’re not of that certain age I know you’ll love them anyway!

Dogs were always popular

Food related Valentines are always funny

Disney cards were full of character LOL

Mermaids fall in love too!

Back in the day, we went to the five and dime and bought a packet of these sometimes sweet, sometimes funny, always fun, little cards. Then we took them home, spread them out on the kitchen table, and decided which one should go to which kid in our elementary school class. Then on Valentine’s Day, or the day before Valentine’s Day if it was on the weekend, the teacher would set aside some time and we would exchange our Valentines. It was great fun to then go home with your pile of cards and enjoy each and every one.

Thank goodness, many of these vintage Valentines still survive. And we have a LOT of them for sale here at the Mercantile. Come on in. You’ll really enjoying seeing them and they are so much fun to collect! 

Just some of the Valentines we have for sale

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Carol Fenn 2-2018

Mercantile Mash-Up – Victorian Valentines Meet The Wild Wild West 

Get ready to experience our first Mercantile Monthly Mash-Up! “Victorian Valentines meet The Wild Wild West.” Join us Feb. 1-4, Thursday – Saturday 10AM – 6 PM and Sunday 10AM – 5 PM.  

Rare original Victorian Valentines

On the first weekend of every month we’ll have a new mash-up theme. Always fun! Always surprising! Always filled with finely curated items!  Here’s a few preview pics. Enjoy the photos, then come on in and lasso some treasures!  

See you soon at the Mash-Up!

Carol Fenn 1-2018

Those Lovely Victorian Valentines!

Valentine’s Day cards were exchanged long before the Victorian era. But sending them was expensive and was reserved for the very wealthy. In 1840 with the birth of the Penny Post in Great Britain, now almost everyone could afford to send valentines through the mail. This brought forth the explosion of Victorian valentines! Unfortunately, due to their delicate nature, only a small percentage have survived. If you’re lucky enough to find one (or a few) cherish it as it has a wonderful history.  

Cupid toiling to make and deliver Valentine hearts

The beloved fold-outs

Here’s an interesting fun fact: When valentines could suddenly be sent for a penny, they were mailed in such great numbers that postmen were given a special allowance for fountain drinks to keep them refreshed in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day!

This little postman needs a fountain drink!

Early on, the majority of valentines were handmade by the giver, but advances in printing methods and the booming market soon led to the popularization of commercial valentines. There were hand-tinted lithographs, perforated laces, and embossed foils. A cottage industry of hand-crafted, much loved today, fold-out valentines also emerged. Whether they were store-bought or homemade, both the Victorians and the Edwardians proudly displayed the Valentines they received on their parlor tables for all to see.

Collecting valentines is a lot of fun. Many dealers will find and curate them all year long then bring them out for their customers in late January in preparation for the holiday. Here in the Mercantile you will find many vintage and Victorian valentines throughout the store. Come on in and start your collection!

Carol Fenn 1-2018 

Arizona’s Mana Pottery 

I was recently given two pieces of old Mana pottery, made in Arizona. Even though I’ve been scouring Arizona for 27 years for all manner of antiques and collectibles, this was my first introduction to this pottery. I found it to be intriguing so I decided to look into it’s origins. 

The marks can vary

For the last 60 plus years Mana Pottery, which is based in the beautiful Aravaipa valley, has been producing American Southwestern art pottery unlike any other. They are still active. Their hand painted, hand made, earthenware is unusual, unique, and quite glorious. Grouped together it would make a stunning collection.  

The beautiful Aravaipa Valley. Home to Mana Pottery

Hummingbird vase front and back

Rare Mana pottery pendant

Immanuel “Mana” Trujillo was the heart of Mana Pottery. A World War II veteran who suffered a bomb blast that caused traumatic brain injury, Trujillo led a very interesting life, getting to know both Timothy Leary and Salvador Dali, among others. 

Horses are a recurring theme

 At some point Trujillo came to Arizona and in 1948 he started Mana Pottery. Senator Barry Goldwater, for one, was an early collector. It was sold at Goldwater’s Department Stores, Red Feather Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park, and other small gift shops across Arizona and New Mexico. Mana Pottery ceremonial earthenware was also sold at Ortega’s in Scottsdale, Arizona. The “Peyote Way” line of Mana pottery is featured in the Smithsonian’s “Museum of the American Indian Collection.”

A nice little collection

The Peyote Way line

The pottery is relatively rare but with 100 plus unique booths in the Mercantile I’ll bet a piece of Mana pottery could eventually be found. Come on in and take a look!

Carol Fenn 1-2018

Celebrating New Year’s Ephemera

Celebrating New Year’s Ephemera!

As New Year’s Day approaches and old father time gets ready to hand over the reins to baby new year, I thought it would be a fun time to share some antique and vintage New Year’s ephemera.  

From circa 1890 to the 1960s New Year’s ephemera was glorious. Filled with beauty, fun, whimsy, sentiment, cats and dogs, and even Mickey Mouse, it’s fun to collect, easy to display and is usually relatively inexpensive.

Come on in to The Midtown Mercantile Mall. Peruse our 100 plus booths and you just might find a cool old piece of a New Years past.  

Carol Fenn 12-2017

Christmas Mistletoe – Naughty or Nice?

 Is mistletoe naughty or nice? In 1952 the lyrics to a popular Christmas tune were “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night.” It may very well have been daddy in costume, but, if not, that would make mistletoe very naughty indeed.

1952 album cover

Norman Rockwell’s take on mommy (getting kissed) by Santa Claus!

Kissing under mistletoe is a long holiday tradition. But, the plant’s history as a symbolic herb dates back thousands of years. Many ancient cultures prized mistletoe for its healing properties. The Greeks and Romans were known to use it as a cure for many ailments.  

Antique card- mistletoe girl, holly boy

A happy tradition

Mistletoe’s romantic overtones most likely started with the Celtic Druids of the 1st century A.D. Because it could blossom even during the frozen winter, the Druids came to view it as a sacred symbol of vitality. They gave it to humans and animals alike in the hope of restoring fertility. 

Mistletoe’s associations with fertility and vitality continued through the Middle Ages. In the 18th century it had become widely incorporated into Christmas celebrations. Just how it made the jump from sacred herb to holiday decoration remains up for debate, but the kissing tradition appears to have first caught on among servants in England before spreading to the middle classes. As part of the early custom, men were allowed to steal a kiss from any woman caught standing under the mistletoe. Refusing a kiss was viewed as bad luck. Another tradition instructed folks to pluck a single berry from the mistletoe with each kiss, and to stop smooching once they were all gone.

Another Norman Rockwell with a mistletoe theme

“Plenty of berries left on this one, my dear”

As Frank Sinatra sang, “Oh by gosh by jolly, it’s time for mistletoe and holly, tasty pheasants, Christmas presents, countrysides covered with snow.” So, mistletoe. Naughty or nice? Who knows? What I do know is, it’s a fun tradition, full of history and a bit of mystery! Happy Holidays from The Mercantile!

Carol Fenn 12 – 2017

Holiday Candles and Their Many Uses

There are many different reasons why candles are associated with seasonal holidays. Long, long, ago candles were used during ancient winter solstice celebrations as a way of remembering that the light of spring would soon come. One of the earliest records of candles being used at Christmas is from the middle ages, where a large candle was used to represent the star of Bethlehem. 

Candles are used during Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Light. During the eight nights of Hanukkah each candle is lit in a special menorah.

Antique Sterling Silver Menorah

Candles are also used in the modern winter festival Kwanzaa, where a special candle holder called a kinara is used.


One of the most beautiful use of candles at Christmas are candlelight services when the entire church is only lit by candles.

Candles were also originally used to decorate Christmas trees until safer electric lights were invented!

In some parts of Ireland it was traditional to have a Yule candle instead of a Yule log.

Candles are also used as part of the St. Lucia’s or St. Lucy’s day celebrations in Sweden. A wreath of candles, worn on the head, is a beautiful tradition.

So no matter where you are, or who you are, it’s time to get out your candles and celebrate the season!  

Carol Fenn 12-2017