Monday, September 2, 2013

Mid-Century Mystery Monday

Yes, I found a few mid-century goodies estate saling over the weekend. Said goodies will have to wait for another Mid-Century Monday, however, because this weekend my husband found something a bit more fun. (If you can believe it you MidCenturaholic you.)

I don't generally like to get to estate sales late because then I risk all the "good stuff" being gone. But this last Saturday we had to meet up with someone to sell Kurt's racecar [sadly for him]. Since we were in the neighborhood anyway we decided to swing by a sale on our way home.

While I was scooping up a mid-century footrest and a dress I found in the 100 degree attic, Kurt was analyzing an overlooked lockbox in a corner. One of the guys running the sale informed him that they'd searched the whole house and couldn't find a key for the box. I could see "Challenge Accepted" register in his pupils as he asked the guy how much he wanted for the locked box. The guy told him $5 and Kurt quickly decided the mystery was worth the expense.

A couple months ago we played this game with a locked vintage Starline suitcase I found in the attic of an estate sale. I liked the suitcase and thought it would make a good photoshoot prop, but I was really sold by the fact that I could hear things rattling around inside. There could have been anything in there! Gold bricks? A shard of wood pulled off the Titanic as it was sinking? A kitten?! I bought it for $1 in what I considered to be one of the greatest transactions of all time, even before I cracked it open.

In that case it turned out to be about a half dozen wooden hotel hangers that appeared to be stolen back in the day and a fabric dress belt. Not exactly a huge score, but not bad for $1. Not bad at all actually.

Back home, it took less than three minutes for Kurt to crack the box open. And we surely made our $5 back.

Here's what was in it:

Lots of old family photos

I like old photos, but I feel a bit guilty having these. I've tried to call the sale company to see if they'd like them returned but I haven't gotten anyone on the phone. (For the record, perhaps I should feel guilty about keeping the rest of the stuff we found in the box as well, but A) we paid the asking $5 and we can't be held responsible for a poor economic choice on their part and B) as it turns out maybe I only feel like returning the pictures because I can't make any money off of them. That might be the truth about me.)

This Marriage Program from 1958

I love the smell of old books and, not surprisingly, that's exactly what this smells like. I love that this couple kept their marriage program. And I love the font and minimalist color usage. It reminds me of the mid-century children's books I collect--but more romantical. 

A Brooch from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

This is one of my favorite box-finds. I have no idea what the tab inside says (please don't be greedy with that information if you do). I tried to find something like it online but couldn't find a single thing similar. It appears to be in its original box.

What I did learn about the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics Games (thanks Wikipedia!):

  • American Billy Mills, a little-known distance runner, shocked everyone when he won the gold in the men's 10,000 m. No American had won it before and no American has won it since.
  • Reigning world champion Osamu Watanabe capped off his career with a gold medal for Japan in freestyle wrestling, surrendering no points and retiring from competition as the only undefeated Olympic champion to date at 189–0.

I'd like to think this pin belonged Osamu Watanabe. Don't wreck that for me. 

An old Asian hair comb.

I'm honestly not cultured enough to know what sort of writing is on this box, but if you are I would love to know. In fact--any information you might have on this at all would be greatly appreciated. I am a pretty solid Googler but I don't know how to Google characters I can't even read. We assume it's in Japanese because the Olympic brooch was from the Tokyo Olympics, but that might not be the case.

A Rolls Razor Whetter Sharpening Strop

The case for this has "Don Shima" embossed on the front. I couldn't find another one with that on it so I'm thinking maybe this was the name of the owner?

The razor system inside, on the other hand, is easily searchable. It would appear that Rolls Razor was very proud of their strops and emblazoned them with identifying markers all over the place. I researched and found that this was called a strop, but I didn't know what a strop was so I googled and it's more or less a piece of leather used to hone the edge of a razor. This device not only includes the razor and the strop but also acts as a self contained honing machine. Plus it comes in a fancy case and has a cool Greek Key design.

One side of the razor says "Best Sheffield Steel."

The other says "Rolls Razor Pat No 224-578, 242-718."

Here's a video I found on how it works:

A 1936 Shirley Temple Picture Book, "Just a Little Girl"

Short of the original owners being super serious Shirley Temple fans, I'm not sure what the significance of this book is, but they had it saved in a plastic sleeve and everything.

A Michael Jordan McDonald's Toy Stopwatch from 1991

Another sort of random thing, but it was in the original packaging and everything. I looked this up on Ebay and apparently it's worth about $12, which is more than twice what we paid for the whole box so I'd call that a win.

A Piece of Paper Signed by Andy Warhol

I really don't know anything about autographs. Does anyone care about them if they're just on a random piece of paper? I am pumped to just be in the presence of such a legend's signature. The fact that we found it in a random locked box is just bananas. And one that we paid only $5 for? Shut up. But um, beyond all that, did we just get rich? That's a serious question.

The funniest part about this, assuming it is a genuine Andy Warhol signature, is that I can imagine the person who got the autograph getting coffee somewhere when Boom! There's Andy freaking Warhol! So she whips out her Elephant notepad and snags that sig...and then, even though the piece of paper conveniently says "Don't Forget," she goes home and pulls out of a magazine page with the same signature and attaches it so she for serious does NOT forget that ish.

Have any information about anything we found in this box? Don't hold that in. Tell me in the comments, duh.


  1. Hi! I realise I am SUPER late in replying to this post but I only found your blog yesterday and I have been reading your old posts (that's a normal thing to do, right?). Anyway! I reckon your treasures are exciting and because I am sick at the moment and have nothing better to do I thought I'd have a red hot go at trying to translate that Japanese Olympic sticker thing.

    So I came across a list of Katakana symbols and found the ones that looked right, whacked them into google translate and got: "Cage-Soviet water chestnut bear meat". I am about 98.6% certain that this translation is incorrect.
    So next I found a site that translates katakana to english and vice versa. It was a long process but the first word (オリンピック) is "Olympic". No surprises there but I can't figure out the second word.
    The next line is hella complicated and is not Katakana :(
    I presume the O.S.G. on the bottom stand for 'Olympic Summer Games' and the H-24 is some kind of location or team code.

    The Laelia pin might be from the Laelia Private Resort in Bali. Obviously it's in Indonesia but they have a Japanese version of their website so perhaps it caters to Japanese tourists and maybe this person stayed there at some point round the time of the Olympics.
    Are there any names on the photos or the marriage program?

    So in conclusion I am no good at translating Japanese. Oh well. It was fun trying!

    P.S. your blog is wonderful :)

    1. Wow, you are amazing! Why aren't there more detectives out there like you? There are names on the marriage program I believe. I'll have to dig it out of storage and report back