Monday, September 30, 2013


 One of the most unique material in doll making is tin--a practice that started in the late 19th century, and peaked in the 1920s. Doll heads of metal were considered "indestructible", more durable than porcelain, parian and bisque. Unlike composition, they also did not absorb moisture. One such example I picked up from ebay is this great-looking metal head boy doll in a smart Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. The back of the head is marked "Minerva", a common manufacturer's mark found on such dolls. In reality, these dolls were made by different companies and distributed all over the United States.

 This 21 inch doll features a cloth body and composition hands and feet. Other than a few paint losses on the head, it is in good condition. The Fauntleroy costume in brown velvet looks like a later replacement, but it is still a vintage piece. The only drawbacks noted with metal head dolls was the fact that they are affected by temperature changes, absorbing heat and cold. As such, they were not as "cuddable" and "huggable" as other dolls. They don't command much, as they are not popular (I still have to see an example in the Philippines)--which is fine for a collector with a shoestring budget like me!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


I found this creation in a shop along Sta. Rita's antique strip. It represents maybe a fruit (pineapple, perhaps? a symbol go hospitality) or a flower bud. It is made of pottery clay, then painted--I don't know if it it's molded by hand. Its base on where the "bud" rests is very similar to bases for old Philippine religious figurines. It is a hefty piece, about 8 inches tall, and certainly, an old one, but I can't figure out its purpose or function.
I asked the dealer what it was, but she had no idea. All she could tell me was that it came from an old house (which dealers tell to practically all their customers!) What could this be? Could this be a table centerpiece to hold flowers. maybe? (There's a hole on top). or could just this be an architectural detail, a finial for a cabinet or a staircase?
As I am stumped, I leave it up to you dear reader, to figure out this mystery piece. What do you think is it?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

273. Bear Essential: BABY BEAR PULL TOY

I had it in my mind, that in the near future, I will open an antique toy museum in Pampanga, based on my rather extensive collection of vintage toys and playthings. I had already pitched the idea to a university in my province, which welcomed the unique idea of showcasing toys that shaped and defined our childhood. I have been stashing old toys I could find, ever since.

Toys, however, are not exactly hot collectibles in the country, rarely showing up in traditional antique shops. I have seen a few sungkaans lying around, largely ignored--but not old commercial toys from the 20s and 30s that were once staples in downtown bazaars and emporia like I. Beck's, Aguinaldo's and La Puerta del Sol.
 So it was a major 'eureka' moment for me when I found this whimsical pull toy from the 1930s from an online seller on , of all all places--the Philippines' largest online shop. I hardly noticed this seller, who advertised a couple of steel Wyandotte trucks and cars on his site. When I called him up, I was disappointed to know that he had sold most of his motor toys, which are so desirable today.

He told me, however, he still had a few toys from the 30s, toys which his grandfather had played with, and which now they are trying to dispose. One toy that caught my fancy was this baby bear pull toy; it was a stuffed, plush bear mounted on 2-sized wooden wheels. When pulled, the bear nods forward, which certainly would have delighted kids.

There is no marked on the straw-stuffed, glass-eyed bear; it may be a Steiff or a Schuco, German companies that specialized in stuffed toys. Saved for a few bald patches and a missing screw on one of his paws, the toy was in good shape after all these 70 plus years!!!
This example is the first I've seen locally--the other in my possession is a camel push-toy that's larger and meant for older children. For a few hundred pesos, I bought this huggy bear home. Cleaned, oiled  and restored, it is stored in a cabinet, ready to grin and 'bear' it--when the toy museum opens.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Pharmaceutical collectibles are few and far between--the most popular being medicien cabinets, "botica" signs (mostly medicine brands like Casfarina and Cortal), medicine bottles and thermometers.  Even rarer are phramacy equipments--like mortar and pestles ("dikdikan') that were traditionally used to crush various ingredients prior to preparing a prescription. I found this complete example from a newly-open antique shop at the famed Sta. Rita Exit of Bulacan.
The set is made of heavy brass--and very deep and tall--12 inches to be exact, dating from the 30s. Older examples were made of wood and porcelain, but my mortar and pestle is outstanding for its size and heft. Pharmacy was a popular course among ladies as early as the turn of the 20th century in the Philippines, a popular course in the early years of  U.P. and Centro Escolar de Senoritas. Graduates would go home back to their provinces to set up their "botica", personally preparing solutions, or crushing pills using their indispensable mortars and pestles.

Today, of course, these are becoming extincts in modern drugtores and pharmacists as the same medicine can come in many forms--liquid, powder, tablet. So, I'll probably stash this away in my kitchen and use it to pound peanuts for my favorite kare-kare. How's that for adaptive re-use?