Monday, October 26, 2009


What did James Dean, Tab Hunter, Elvis and Frankie Avalon used in common to keep their hair shiny, gleaming and in place? Brylcreem, of course. Created in 1928 by County Chemicals, Brylcreem was responsible for giving generations of young men the "wet look" hairdo, the rage of the times. Brylcreem was marketed internationally, available even in Thailand, where it was sold in jars (in America, Brylcreem was sold in tubes).

This rare Brylcreem thermometer with a wooden backboard and painted features was just one of the thousands of merchandising materials produced to support the brand in stores. Even in conservative Siam, men were entitled to some form of vanity, and just a dab of Brylcreem provided just that.Bryl-creem, you'll look so debonair. As the product jingle goes: "Bryl-creem, the gals will all pursue ya, they'll love to run their fingers through your hair".

68. Now Serving: HERO OF MANILA

Hershey Chocolate paid tribute to Admiral George Dewey, the American who decimated the Spanish fleet under Patricio Montojo, in this 1974 tin serving tray. The connection between Dewey and chocolates is not that apparent, until one learns that Dewey reportedly liked smoking cigars--hence these "chocolate segars"", get it? The history of cocoa is featured on the other side of this collectible tray which I got for a few dollars from ebay. Current online search pegs the value of this tray from between $6.95 to a whopping $139. What a price range extreme! No wonder the Spanish armada sank..

Thursday, October 22, 2009

67. Bottled Wellness: AGUA DE CARABAÑA

Long before we were introduced to mineral water in plastic bottles, Filipino in the peacetime era were discovering the many health benefits of Agua de Carabaña, mineral water in clear glass or aqua bottles, from the Carabaña Springs of Spain. The water was believed to have curative and medicinal properties that it was soon being commercially bottled in the early 20th c. to America and Europe. Agua de Carabaña was available only in boticas and farmacias in the Philippines and was used to cure all sorts of ailments--from kidney problems, stomach ills and even as an abortifacient!

Today, mineral water is so commonplace in the Philippines and its only use is to assuage thirst. Old colored bottles with the familiar Agua brand name in relief are easy to find; but unlike plastic bottles which are being resold for recycling, Agua de Carabaña bottles are for antique collecting!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

66. TOM MIX and Other Cowboy Cigarette Cards

When my old man was still around, he would tell us stories of his growing-up years, including those times when he would play hooky to watch movies starring his favorite cowboy hero, Tom Mix. Tom Mix (born in Pennsylvania as Thomas Hezikiah Mix in 1880) was the first Hollywood western superstar, the son of a logger. The King of Cowboys made over 300 movies in his lifetime, inlcuding "Destry Rides Again", "The Texas Bad Man" and "The Miracle Rider". he also became a popular radio personality, hosting the his own radio erial entitled, "Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters".

Tom Mix died in a freak car accident in 1940, but not before leaving a rich legacy of classic Western films and a while slew of offiial merchandise such as these cigarette cards. Teal Cigarettes was a popular brand of British-made cigarettes in the 1930s. A common on-pack promotion at that time was to give cheap premiums--like these cigarette cards-- with every cigarette pack purchase. The card sets were always themed--everything from national costumes, flags, movie stars, and in this case, cowboy heroes. This particular cowboy series also included other stars like Harry Carey, Leo Maloney and William Hart.

I scored these cards in a Bangkok flea market, of all places. Not too many locals are interested in cowboys and Indians over there, so these cards were largely ignored. Had the cowboys been riding on elephants, it would have been a diffrent story. Hi-yo, Chang, awayyyy!


These small made-in-the-Philippines Coca-Cola cases were popular collectibles in the 1950s--the yellow painted wooden divided cases date them to that period. Although they look like salesman's samples, they were treated as miniature curio items or even as toys, to be displayed and kept in glass cabinets. Missing are the small, clear Coca Cola bottles (24 to a case) complete with embossed logos and tin crowns, mini replicas of the classic bottle. Finding an intact set is very difficult these days, as bottles were sold separately (I only have two bottles). If found complete, the whole caboodle would be worth about Php3,500. This slightly damaged pair were found at the annual Greenhills collectibles fair, priced at Php500 each (see the price sticker peeking from the case?). But since it was the last day of the evnt, I got the two for half the price. Now if I could only find more Coca Cola bottles...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

64. Shirley You're Not!: BRIGHT STAR DOLL

Shirley Temple dolls were all the rage in the 30s that unauthorized impostor dolls were made of the most famous doll in history. To get around the legalities, doll manufacturers made their own Shirley look-alikes, with some variations. This deadringer, from Horsman Dolls, is actually Bright Star, a composition doll circa 1930s. Horsman Doll Company was founded in 1865 by Edward Imeson Horsman. the company is still in operations today.

For a 70+ year old plaything, this Bright Star Doll is in remarkable condition, complete with an identifying tag and its own cardboard box. Toys are "sleeping collectibles", rarely offered by antique shops here, so when a local dealer showed me this doll, I napped it up. Besides, even if she's a Shirley rip-off, who could resist those dimples and curls?

63. HAND VASE: Hands Across Time

Hand vases were popular motifs in the 50s and 60s, and a lot of these kitschy ceramics were made cheaply in Japan. They were kept atop tocadors and dressing tables, with a thousand and one variations: some held cornucopias and shells, and one example featured outstretched fingers meant to hold rings. This manicured example holds a vase that looked eerily like a funeral urn to me. Could it have held someone's dearly departed's ashes, perhaps? But I love the symmetry of this kitschy piece. I'm sure The Thing (from Addam's Family) will also fall in love with this one!

62. Hey, You've Got to Hide this Tray Away: BEATLES TRAY

Now you can eat your cake and ogle at the Beatles too. This is Beatlemania to the extreme! John, Ringo, Paul and George immortalized on a metal tray. If you're a fan, would you dare use this funky piece of moptop memorabilia and risk rusting the smiling likenesses of the Fab Four. Of course not, in fact, this enameled serving tray made by Worcester Ware hangs in my room, like a treasured painting. And this circa 1964 tray has an authentic provenance--I got this from a trip from the famous Portobello antique strip in long-ago London trip. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

61. Boxed: PAC-MAN

Before Pacquiao, there was Pac-Man, an arcade game created by Namco in the 1980. It is derived from "Pakkuman"--which a Japanese description for the sound of the mouth when it opens and closes abruptly. The ghost-eating Pac-Man goes around a maze, devouring its enemies along the way. It became so popular in the U.S. that it is now a classic game icon of the 80s. Well, if you've been boxed, you must be good! This rusty Pac-Man lunchbox was found in an American-leaving shop in Dau. It shows Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Clyde in the clutches of Pac-Man. I wonder what ghosts taste like.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


This tin ukulele, with superstar Nora Aunor's silkscreened likeness, must have been inspired by her singing of Hawaiian hit songs "Pearly Shells", "Little Grass Shack" and "Tiny Bubbles". Why she even made a whole album called "Blue Hawaii"! This is an unauthorized merchandise that was made at the height of Ate Guy's fame, mid-70s possibly. A real trubute to the "Li'l Brown Gal" of Albay! Aloha oe!

59. '50s ARTISTAS! Fan Photos Galore

Dream. Believe. Survive. Starstruck!

And survive these 1950s movie stars did--in these small color fan photos found at a recent collectible show. Printed on thin paper, these may have come as premiums with certain products--like bubble gum and candies--made to be collected as a set. Or they may been cheap prizes for a "bunutan" board. The photos even have printed 'autographs' of the stars that include Nestor de Villa, Tessie Agana, Ben Perez, Carmen Rosales, Evelyn Valle, Danilo Montes, Carlos Salazar, Jose Padilla Jr. Armando Goyena and Alicia Vergel. You see, old movie stars never die, they just get collected.


At a recent Greenhills Collectibles Fair, I found this Chinese Checkers board, a game we used to play as kids but which we discarded in favor of the easier-to-play dama or plain checkers. The objective of the game is to place one's marbles in the corner opposite your starting position on a hexagonal star, through single moves or jumps over your opponent's marbles. This game, however, is not Chinese at all--it was devised in Germany in 1893 under the name “Stern-Halma”, which in turn, was derived from an American game called "Halma". “Stern” is German for star. The name “Chinese checkers” was coined by Bill and Jack Pressman from their patented game originally called "Hop Ching Checkers".

The above-featured Chinese Checkers board is Philippine-made by Aristocrat Checker Supply, possibly in the early '70s. It is of thin plywood and painted green and red. I thought this boardgame is worth keeping - I still haven't figured what to do with it--considering that nobody plays Chinese Checkers anymore. (Well, I know of one friend who still plays this game--but online!)