Memorial Day

This coming Monday, on Memorial Day, Americans will honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.   

Here at the Midtown Mercantile Antique mall we honor those who serve on *every* Monday. Yes, every Monday is military Monday, when, in our humble way, we give military members and their dependents a 10 % store-wide discount.    
We offer our deepest gratitude for their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families in the defense of our country and the preservation of our freedoms. 
To the survivors of those who perished in the defense of our country we are eternally grateful for their ultimate sacrifice.
Throughout the history of our country some lovely artwork has been produced in honor of Memorial Day.  I’ve picked some examples, most old, some new.  As you look at these I hope it brings to mind those who have sacrificed their lives so that we can have the freedom we have today.





Carol Fenn 5-2017

Authenticating Old Cast Iron Toys and BanksĀ 

Even though the prices are down on a lot of antiques there are still some things that sell for a lot of money. Cast iron toys and banks are a good example of this. Excellent authentic pieces of cast iron can still sell for several thousand dollars at a good auction. With this in mind, it’s probably a good idea to know how to identify the good stuff! There are five things to look for:

Jonah and The Whale bank sold for $414,000

First, check the alignment. On modern reproductions the mold sections are often not properly aligned before they are locked together.

Swan chariot with original box

Second, check the seams. Look at how the separate pieces of cast iron fit together. The seams between pieces on most early cast iron toys are so tight that they might even be hard to find. On the new fakes, there are often large gaps.

Toy truck sold for more than $21,000

Bell toy

Third, check the surface. In early cast iron, the molds were formed from very fine sand. That light sandy texture can still be felt, but it is very fine and uniform. On newer pieces you will find areas with a coarse surface. 

Foot ball bank with original box

Fourth, look at the paint. Paint is one of the most important points to look at. It’s difficult (but not impossible) to fake the look of old paint. On old pieces the paint is thicker, the color is brighter, the surface is shiny and hard. 

Fantastic example of a cast iron bank

Fifth, look at the bolts. On an old piece the bolts will be so flush to the surface that you almost don’t see them. On a new piece, they will often stick out from the surface. And, if you see Phillips head screws – look no further! That’s a fake!

Carol Fenn 5-2017

Collecting “Mother” Motto Prints

In the early part of the twentieth century a popular gift was a framed motto print. Usually sentimental, sometimes funny, they were always charming. Some had a strong Art Deco design, others harkened back to the Victorian era. Some of the most popular mottos, then and now, are devoted to mothers.

These mottos are endearing, the text is ornate, the frames are lovely, and they make a stunning collection when grouped together. They can be hung in bathrooms, bedrooms, guest bedrooms, kitchens, really any room in the house. I’ve even seen tiny ones tucked into a Christmas tree.  

There were a few companies who made and sold these mottos. The Buzza company and P.F. Volland are the names you will see most often. 

Interior display room at the Buzza company

There is a definite joy and sweetness to motto prints. When I see one it always makes me smile. Some can be emotional and might bring a little tear to your eye but without some sadness, happiness is not as sweet. There are friendship mottos, “going home” mottos, ambition mottos, etc. Mottos devoted to fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, birds, dogs, etc. But probably the most common is the mother motto.  

You can find motto prints at estate sales, flea markets, yard sales, antique malls and online. Prices vary – generally from $20 – $75, with some going for a couple hundred. But watch out! Once you have one, you will want more!

Carol Fenn 5-2017

Collecting PoP-Up Books!

Pop-up books are so cool! From intricate antique versions to intricate versions made today, they are fascinating. Fairy tales, adventure stories, anatomical tomes, they have all been represented in these wonderful books.

Antique Little Red Riding Hood Pop-Up, 1890

As a child I remember having a pop-up book. As I slowly turned the page there was Little Red Riding Hood (and parts of the forest) magically rising from the page! Then further on, uh oh! The Big Bad Wolf! As an antique dealer I have owned and sold my fair share of wonderful vintage and antique pop-ups. From simple to intricate and amazingly delicate. Today printed book sales are down, with e-books replacing them. However, it is unlikely that this will affect pop-ups. That is because all pop up books are, and always have been, made by hand.


Pop-up books go back to the 13th century, but they became extremely popular in the late 19th century. Today, interest in the field continues to grow and the price paid for rare items is on the rise. In the last few years many have sold in the $250-$350 range. Some rare examples have sold for thousands.

This pop up is in booth #1966 for only $10

Right now in the Midtown Mercantile Merchants Antique Mall at 4443 E. Speedway there is a sweet little pop-up book. It’s in booth # 1966 and it’s only $10. Might be a nice way to start your collection!

Carol Fenn 5-2017

Collecting Wedding Cake Toppers

From the 1800’s Victorian era, well into the 1970s, virtually all wedding cakes had a bride and groom topper. In more recent decades, however, floral designs and sculpted icing have, sadly, pushed the little couple off the cake. But lately there’s been a resurgence of interest in old fashioned wedding customs. Hence the re-emergence of two little figures on the top of the cake. And some brides are not using new figures. They like the warmth and whimsy of the vintage ones.  

Contemporary cake with a vintage topper

Collectors, too, have fallen under the spell of these whimsical objects. There is an amazingly vast variety of styles, plus they look so charming and festive when grouped together. This is certainly an area of collecting where you can’t stop at just one!

Vintage wedding cake toppers were manufactured in large numbers in Germany, Japan, and the United States. Since most were stored as treasured keepsakes, many survive in good condition. Nineteenth century chalkware toppers are rare and often sell for several hundred dollars each. Mass produced pieces dating to the early to mid 1900s made of bisque, composition, and, later, plastic are the most plentiful. Prices range from $40 to $150. War time designs with soldier grooms start at about $100.

So, if you have a wedding in your future, or if you want to start or add to your collection why not come into the Midtown Mercantile Merchants Antique Mall in central Tucson at 4443 E. Speedway? With almost 100 dealers the search for a wedding cake topper just might be successful!  

Carol Fenn 4-2017