On occasion the editors of Sight Unseen spot a story about creativity told from a viewpoint that’s not unlike our own. This one was originally posted at The Inside Source, eBay’s style blog. It’s the first in a series of four columns on fashion personalities who are also longtime collectors, the following three to be reported by writer Lynn Yaeger herself. You can view the full article and image slideshow here, plus check out Yaeger’s eBay wish list.
By Lynn Yaeger
Here is what I do every single morning, in between teeth-brushing and waiting for the coffee to boil: I turn on my laptop and type “baby locket” into eBay. This is followed by “baby brooch” and then either “sweater 1930-46 (Depression, WWII)” or “antique enamel charm bracelet” or “Becassine doll.” I do this because I am an avid, some would argue rabid collector, with a shifting catalog of enthusiasms that at the moment includes vintage cardigans and 1920s bracelets; rag dolls meant to resemble French cartoon characters (the aforementioned Becassine dolls) and Victorian children’s jewelry — the rarer, the more elusive, the less findable, the better.
Why am I searching the four corners of the earth for this old stuff? How is it that these links with the past, these talismans from another time, exert such a powerful pull on my imagination? I can’t pretend to know, but of one thing I am certain: I am not alone in my passions. Plenty of other people — people with excellent jobs, people who are in many cases at least semi-famous — collect all kinds of weird stuff too, though thankfully for me, it isn’t usually Gallic comic strip dolls or shabby reindeer sweaters.
In the next several weeks, I will be interviewing some of these collectors, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of what makes otherwise sane people spend all their money on King George coffee mugs and vintage striptease costumes. They’ll be sharing with me the joys of the hunt, the incredible rush of victory when you get your hands on something you’ve been longing for, and, inevitably, the agony attending the ones that got away. (Speaking of which, if someone reading this is the proud owner of a 19th-century locket decorated with the word “BABY” rendered in rose diamonds that was bought out from under me at the New York Antique Jewelry & Watch Show two summers ago, we need to talk!)
As for me, my collecting started innocently enough, decades ago, with a desire to perk up my house with a couple of interesting geegaws and maybe add a few pieces of old-fashioned glamour to my wardrobe. Back in the day, your only option was to cruise the local flea markets and wait for the occasional antique show to roll in town. Then one day, oh, maybe 12 or so years ago, I was at my desk at the Village Voice when a colleague moseyed over to show me something our new toy, the computer, could do. He typed “Martha Chase doll” (a circa 1910 plaything I was obsessed with at the time) into something called eBay (funny name, right?) and when those doll faces popped up on the screen, my life changed forever… Read more at The Inside Source
A longtime fixture in the style scene, Lynn Yaeger was a columnist for the Village Voice for over 30 years. She also contributes regularly to Vogue, the New York Times’ T magazine and other prominent publications.