Sunday, June 30, 2013

266. Sulit Kitsch: 50s LADY HEAD BUSTS

Don't you just love The country's biggest online sell-trade-buy marketplace has the widest, weirdest, funkiest assortment of goodies any collector would go crazy for. One of my most recent unexpected finds is this pair of small busts, made of plaster, representing 2 fashionable ladies from the 50s. All of 6 inches tall, they realistically represent the midecentury look gal--from the puffed hairdo, to their mod, stylish clothes.
The first lady head bust looks almost Oriental, with rosy cheeks, red lips and puffed up hair held with a green bandanna tied in a knot under her chin. She wears a green blazer with padded shoulders, over a cream colored blouse, a style so much in vogue in the war and early post-war years.
The second lady wears a more daring outfit, with a plunging neckline, accessorized by a flower on her puff-swept hair. With her heavy make up, she looks like she's ready to paint the town red!
The back of the plaster busts are incised with what looked like scripts in gibberish, but upon closer examination, I recognized them as Burmese letters--which I can't read anyway. Maybe these ladies represent important women from Burma--actresses maybe, but Ican't be sure. What I am certain is that this kitschy pair are worthy collectibles, flash from the 50s golden period of Hollywood glamor and style.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I don't know for what reason, but one of my very first antique purchase were these flat irons or "prensa" or "plantsa" made of brass (Php100 in 1985).  I think I was attracted to their utilitarian value more than their antiquity, a reminder of the hard work that went into perfect homemaking. Early presses used heat to iron out wrinkles on clothes and fabric--the above example is called "plantsa korona" as it had an open circular top over which live coals were placed. Held by a wooden handle (now gone), the "plantsa" is then made to slide over clothing over and over again, to remove and smoothen out creases. Made of brass, these 'plantsa koronas' were tricky to use, as sparks would fly from the uncovered top and could singe the fabric.
Later plantsas were streamlined in shape, closer to how modern flat irons look like. They were made with a top cover where charchoals could be place into the 'plantsa's" hollow body that had vents to draw off excess heat. "Plantsang de uling", these were called, and these examples are what are usually found in antique shops today. The above 'plantsa' is Philippine made and dates back to the early 50s.
Antique flat irons from the Asian region looked very similar, although many integrated local designs onto the body. This brass example, from Thailand, has incised designs on the rims, and the wooden handle is supported securely with two brass prongs mounted directly on the body of the flat iron. The cost of antique flat irons remain steady in the Philippine antique market with a price range of Php 1500-3000 for the 'plantsa korona', depending on the size. Plantsang de uling could be had for under a thousand bucks. It's all up to you how to display them--I once used my plantsas as book-ends, as a vase holder, or a desk accent to contain paper clips, staples and post-its. You can even use them for their intended purpose, but do learn how not to burn.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


When I saw these Classics Illustrated comic books for sale in a Cubao thrift shop, I was transported back to my younger days when I read and collected every issue I could afford of these popular reading materials. They had no back covers but the pages were all intact; at Php100 apiece (a brand new one cost me 80 centavos in the 70s), they were pricey indeed. But nostalgia got the better of me and I ended up bringing home over 20 issues of these comics. I still have a long way to go towards re-building my collection but with all these great finds recently, I am getting there.

These comics were adaptations of literary classics such as Silas Marner, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and The Iliad. Created by Albert Kanter, the series began publication in 1941 and finished its first run in 1971, producing 169 issues. Gilberton Company published these classics, including the Classic Illustrated Junior, a series of fairy tale comics that debuted in 1953.