Wednesday, August 31, 2011

191. SPOTTING SHIRLEY: A Darling of a Doll at the Greenhills Antique Fair

I didn’t even know that the famous Greenhills Antique Fair was already under way since last week; I had earlier texted a dealer for an appointment, and he texted back—asking me to meet him instead at his stall at Greenhills. Apparently, it’s that time of the year again for this longest-running antiques and collectibles show which I have been attending since the mid 90s. I think its history goes even further than that.

For 4 weeks, Manila’s antique dealers, segunda mano shops, numismatists, deltiologists, philatelists, collectors, “junkies” and kibitzers congregate near the fountain area of the Greenhills Shopping Center for a full day of wheeling, dealing, trading and swapping. Anything of value is sold here---the term ‘antique fair’ is not quite accurate as there are more repros being sold than the real thing.

Thus, Greenhills is not for buying quality century old santos; instead, it is for rummaging and scrounging around for collectibles of all sorts—not too old, mostly vintage, but still capable of invoking nostalgia, that hard-to-explain longing for a connection to the past, which many collectors like me experience in the presence of anything old, passé and defunct.

Toys, softdrink bottles, old product packaging, medals, stamps, 1950s magazines, schoolbooks, clocks, pens, pinback buttons, vinyl records, prints—name it, the Greenhills Fair has it—well, almost.

Supply seems to decline over the year judging from the number of participating dealers this year. This did not deter me from rushing over at Greenhills on one Sunday afternoon, ready to jostle with the thick weekend crowd in the hope of unearthing a ‘find’.

But the old reliables are still there—my tocayo, Alex Villaflor, is still at it, peddling ephemera, artworks and kitsch with his partner Sonny Benitez. Alex founded the first pop culture collectible shop in the country—Circa—back in the 80s at Creekside. He used to have a fne array of Bakelite radio and Coca Cola memorabilia, but those are long gone. Instead, he had these nice Flora de Filipinas botanical prints (called ‘Blanco prints” by collectors), ready for framing.

George Bonsai also has one or two stalls here, but unfortunately, he was still setting up.

Jun Macaro had a fine display of medals and coins, but I was after his old photos, which he failed to bring, to my disappointment. I’ve have had lots of luck with June—I found my small ivory Sto. Entierro complete with his wooden calandra in his Aurora Blvd. junkyard and I also bought most of his old photos from the estate of Jorge Pineda.

I just hopped from stall to stall—the antique shops from Tiendesitas are in full force—but they carried mostly reproduction santos dressed in gaudy clothes—they looked more like overdecorated dolls.

Talking about dolls--it was at Mike’s stand that I saw, lying on the bottom-most shelf of his glass display—an old cardboard box that had a large doll inside.

The box was wrapped in plastic, but it took only one look for me to recognize the moppet with curly golden locks tucked inside, which even had a cardboard leg separator and head support.

This is a large composition Shirley Temple Doll from Ideal Novelty Inc, perhaps the most popular doll in the world based on the likeness of the top child star of the 30s, at the time of its release in 1937.

Today, early Shirley Temple dolls are highly prized by doll collectors and Shirleyana enthusiasts; only large pre-War emporiums had Shirley dolls in stock as the prices were prohibitive. This is just the second Shirley Temple doll I have seen so far here in the Philippines.

The first ever Shirley Temple I have seen here was an 8 inch compo that was sold to me by person whose name I have forgotten while looking for old toys at Makati Cinema Square. She had overheard me while talking to a shop owner and made small talk with me after, telling me of a Shirley doll which had once belonged to his lola. To make the long story short, she sold me the doll.

But Mike’s Shirley Temple doll was a big one—all of 22 inches tall. It came in its original cardboard box with a paper label that clearly identified it as an authorized doll made by Ideal Novelty Corp.

The name “Shirley Temple” was scrawled in the familiar signature of the child star, just 10 years old in 1938. He told me the doll was sold to him by an 80++ year old grandmother, who had barely played with it in her childhood, hence, the almost pristine state of the doll.

Almost perfect—one finger was nicked which I quickly repaired using clay epoxy. The face had some crazing, a typical problem of old painted composition dolls which were made of pulp, sawdust, paper and binder. The paint and the composition contracted at different rates with every change in temperature, hence the crazing, but the condition has since stabilized. When I have the time, I intend to further clean the doll with Wipe-Out and give it a single coating of clear paste wax to condition the composition material.

When I got the doll, I thought the open-shut eye mechanism had been damaged or had rusted, but when I carefully pried the eyelashes which had adhered to the lower lid, the eyes popped open. I just had to swab clean the glass eyes with a glass –cleaning solution using a cotton bud.

The trademark golden curly locks of mohair are as curly as the day the doll came out of the factory, even after 73 years! The red ribbon on her hair however, is full of pin-prick holes.

The original party dress, undergarments, socks and shoes are intact, although moth-eaten and tattered in some places.

What’s more, the metal pinback button is still with the doll—“World’s Darling, Shirley Temple” the button proclaims, made to be proudly worn by the owner. In auctions, these Shirley Temple pinbacks are sold separately, some commanding as much as 40-50$! Interestingly, 3 heart shaped buttons are also included as part of the doll’s extras.

Of course, I just had to have this rare Shirley doll! I needled Mike into giving it to me for the best price—and for less than the price of a 15 in. antique santo the world’s darling was mine!

A quick survey of antique and collectible price guides as well as online auctions put the price of this doll in the $385 to $800 range. Given the good, unplayed with condition and the presence of its original packaging and accessories, this Shirley should be worth about $900, at least!.

I haven’t figured out what to do with Shirley, whether to put it in my cabinet of old toys or display it at home—but one thing for sure, she will be treasured and handled with lots of TLC, befitting the stature of a child star who once animated the silver screen with her precocious talent, captivating the imagination of movie audiences and earning a place in heir hearts as the world’s darling!


Was lucky enough to find this pretty pair of folk art fruit ensembles in shadow boxes that date back to the pre-War 30s. They used to hang in the home of a dealer-collector, until he probably got tired of them and consigned them at an antique shop. They're not exactly cheap but these fruity displays are very typical Filipiniana pieces that were handcrafted and sold at curio shops in Manila. The fruits are so life-like--they are actually made of wood, pulp and fabric coated with escayola/ gesso then painted realistically and assembled in their narra frames. The first boxed frame features a basket of indigenous fruits like kamatsile, lanzones, balimbing, atis, mabolo, duhat, banana. chico and kasuy, artfully arranged in an embroidered red satin pouch.

The second shadow box combines fruits and vegetable--ampalaya, green and yellow mangos, turnips, squash, guava, sampalok, avocado and a section of a sugar cane. The fruits are wired and stitched on to a fabric backing, which in turn, was nailed onto the wooden stretcher. The molded fruits have some minor scruffs but overall, the unusual displays are in fairly good condition despite their 70 odd years. Who would think that artistic inspirations can also come from our own orchard?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Fresh from my Kamuning thrift shopping comes this memento of Gemma Cruz's Miss International triumph in Long Beach. The first ever global beauty winner from the Philippines, Gemma redefined the Filipina beauty stereotype with her victory; after all, she had distinct Malayan looks (mestizas like Lalaine Bennett and Josephine Estrada were the rage at that time) and was a woman of culture and intellect (she played the nose flute in the local contest and was already working at the National Museum). To top it all, she had a national hero--Dr. Jose Rizal, no less, as a relative!

When she left to compete in the U.S., she was sent off with only a few relatives and 10 friends (Ten-tacles, she called them), but when she came back as Miss International, the whole country embraced her! She was given tributes of all sorts and this musical composition of Alice Doria Gamilla is just one example. "My Wonderful World Is You" was composed for the piano by Gamilla, who would also find fame as the composer of Pilita Corrales's signature hit, "A Million Thanks To You", that was even recorded by famous international artists like Bobbi Martin and translated in 7 languages!

Shamcey Supsup's recent Miss Universe 3rd runner up win also has interesting parallels with Gemma's Miss International experience. Soothsayers predicted that she will be a "thank you, girl", while others talk of the so-called "UP curse" that plagued brainy UP winners of Bb. Pilipinas Universe--all losers in the contest. Like Gemma, Shamcey left with little publicity. Like Gemma, she came back to an adoring nation, was paraded, serenaded and even met Pres. Noynoy. Shamcey seems to have it all for now...but like Gemma, will she have her own special music sheet entitled "My Wonderful Universe Is You?". I wonder.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

188. Head's Up: BOY'S HEAD VASE

Male head vases are rarer than ladies', so when I saw this 50s boy's floral head vase at a Kamuning thrift shop, I just had to bring it home. I don't know, but there seems to be a certain holiday feel to this ceramic vase--maybe I could use it this coming Xmas. This, by the way, was made by Relpo, and is about 7 inches high. Relpo was a leading maker of quality decoratives in the 50s and it identified its works with a paper label--which remains intact on the bottom of this vase. This head vase is well-made and delicately painted. I looked up the value of this vase in a 1998 price guide, and was surprised that it already cost $65 in pristine condition 13 years ago. Of course, I got my flower boy for half of that. You should see how much head vases go for now--at, there's one priced at $1,600 and a couple more at $1200, $800! Crazy but true. Definitely, my head-hunting days aren't over!


On 2 February 1953, Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ceylon, and Pakistan, and named as Head of the Commonwealth after her father's death, the late King George VI, on 2 June 1952. Over eight thousand invited guests attended the historic coronation at the Westminster Abbey. Commemorative souvenirs were made by the hundreds of thousand to mark the ascension of a new monarch--and this very nice coloring book was just one example produced in the U.S. The Coronation Coloring Book has the painted portait of the new Queen on the front cover, while inside, there are pages and pages of illustrations of the various stages of coronation for kids to color.

This second example is an unauthorized 50s edition paint book that features generic coronation scenes, obviously capitalizing on the Queen Elizabeth fever. It is a thin book, made in Britain, and most likely cost a pence or so. Royal commemoratives are making a comeback after the recent wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleston this year. They may have mugs, plates, tea sets, key chains and coins--but did they have coloring books? I bet none!