Saturday, April 30, 2011

San Francisco's Playland, Laffing Sal and Musee Mecanique

WOW! We just visited the Musee Mecanique on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. What a great place! Nostalgic, energetic, fun, and admission is free! This is an arcade of old games and stereoviewers, mechanical dioramas and oddities, including several well-known attractions including "Laffing Sal", "Susie the Can-Can Dancer" and the "Carnival". The collection was created by Edward Galland Zelinsky, whose son, Dan Zelinsky, operates and maintains the collection.

The whole thing brings back memories of Playland at the Beach, a grand old amusement park at the foot of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on Ocean Beach. This beachside park was like so many across America with the tunnel of love, the fun house, the hall of mirrors, as well as arcades and rides. It's roots were planted in the late 1800s with a few separate attractions along the beach. By 1926 it had officially become on big park, Playland-at-the-Beach. It was a sad day when the park was closed after Labor Day weekend in 1972.
Playland 1955 (Photo: WNP collection from
The end of the Rita Hayworth & Orsen Welles classic, The Lady from Shanghai.
Probably the best remembered thing about Playland was Laffing Sal. Her laugh, which went on and on, was contagious, hilarious, and frightening to some. But once you saw her, you would never forget her. Musee Mecanique is now her home.
Laffing Sal from Playland at the Musee Mechanique (Photo: Wikipedia)
Musee Mecanique is not like the arcades that kids (and adults)  play today. The games and contraptions are all old, some dating back a century or more. There are some early 1980s digital games, like Pong and Pac-Man, but for the most part these are mechanical games and automatons. Some are so sophisticated that they would qualify as early robots.
Mechanical Baseball Game from 1937 World Series (Photo:
Mechanical Boxing Match (Photo:
Monkey Band patterned after Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (Photo:
Barber Shop Quartet (Photo:
Collage Gallery of the Musee Mecanique (Photos:

Old Wurlitzer Player Piano (Photo:
Here are a couple of videos to give you a flavor of this fantastic arcade. This one is energetic, like the arcade. Musee Mecanique video.

This video is a bit macabre, but is a well done production incorporating some of the more unusual exhibits (like the English Execution, the French Guillotine, and the Opium Den). Requiem for Fat Ernie

If you are in the City (that's local speak for "San Francisco") take some time to ride down Lombard Street, have a cracked crab or bowl of cioppino on the Wharf and visit the Musee Mecanique. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Burlap is showing up all over the place. And Vintages is not going to be left behind. Here's a few items we have that are made from burlap ... and one project that we saw at a show.
Little Burlap bags with fleur d'lys stamp ($6.95 each)
White Burlap bean bags with clocks, keys & crowns ($11.95 each)
Cutout stars, hearts & tags (Set of 3 • $3.75 Burlap • $2.95 Canvas)
Burlap bags with coconut fish toothpicks ($11.95 per set)
Wide Burlap ribbon & jute twine
More Burlap ribbon
We saw this project at a show. Torn fabric, ribbons and trim are the fringe for this burlap table cloth. Great Idea!
This little burlap stuffed Scottie Dog and his friends will be coming in later in the summer. We will have some matching ribbon as well.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Mother's Day • Sunday May 8th

You too, my mother, read my rhymes
For love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor. 
To My Mother by Robert Louis Stevenson

Moms are always there when you need them, even when you don't know it. They are one step ahead of disasters and one moment behind should you fall. Nothing is sharper than a Mother's eye or stronger than her love.  So let's vow make this Mother's Day her best of all. 

Happy Mother's Day

Beautiful Cameo Pendant ($95)
Handmade by Susan, these pendants and charms are perfect. They can be personalized for you. Including a ribbon and an organza bag, these cost $12.95 to $19.95.
Lela Belle charms, bracelets and necklaces. (Charms $24.95 each)
Mesh Crown ($39.95) Other crowns starting at $19.95.
The Queen Will ... ($79.95)
Wonderful Linen Lavender Sachet Pillows ($17.95 to $20.95 each)
Porcelain Limoges Boxes (from $89 each)
Very Special Mary Jo Matsumoto hand decorated handbags (from $155)
Shirlie Robles fragment tiles for the Gardener ($24.95 to $39.95 each)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter Zinfandel

Happy Easter White Zin !!!
Now this Easter Bunny knows the way to a man's heart!

(This is a custom wine label from the 1980s.)

Hope you all have a very Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter • London 1934

I found this super poster at a local auction. What was Easter like in London in 1934? Celebrate EVERYWHERE ... Parks and Open Spaces ... Woods and Riverside ... Country Towns ... It conjures up images of Victorian grandeur, pastoral leisure, or even Hyacinth Bucket of Keeping Up Appearances hosting a riverside picnic (or what she would call a "waterside supper with riparian entertainment") decked out in a pretentious, stodgy dress and hat!

This poster was created by Dora Batty who did many posters for London Transport in the 1920s and '30s.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cameos, Intaglios and Portrait Jewelry

Five-layered sardonyx cameo, Roman artwork, second quarter of the 1st century AD. Photo courtesy of the Antique Jewelry University
Cameos and intaglios have been around for centuries ... back into the times of the Greeks and Romans, and even earlier to Biblical times. They were very popular during the end of the 18th and throughout the 19th century. 
Early 1900s photo of a lady wearing a cameo pin at her neck, a common practice at that time.
This lady is wearing a high relief cameo pendant (c.1900)
Victorian lady with a cameo and lorgnette chain.
The classic cameos and their cousins the intaglios are both forms of glyptography, which is the art of carving in relief. The cameo is a carving in which the foreground is carved away, leaving a colored background. The cameo projects above of the surface of the material.  This is the opposite of an intaglio, which is carved into the material so the image is below the surface. 
The art of engraving goes back to the time of the petroglyphs (c.15,000 BC). But the artistry of engraved seals, which emerged with the Mesopotamian cylindrical seals (c.3300 BC) and was refined by the Greeks in the 2nd millennium BC, marked the beginning of a new artistry in engraving and relief carving. Seals and scarabs found their way onto jewelry in that time. The increasing skill and craftsmanship of carving hard stones and gems lead to the introduction of the cameo, sometime around 332 BC. Sardonyx, a layered stone introduced from India and Arabia, allowed the artisans to carve intricate images with multiple colors by using the strata of the stone.

Early cameos were made primarily from hard stones and sardonyx. Today these cameos are rare and highly collected. Most of the cameos on the market today are carved on shells from the Mediterranean Sea by Italian artists. A small fraction of the 20th century cameos have been made from hard stones, lava or ivory.
The lava cameo on the left is carved in very high relief, protruding from the surface. The sardonyx cameo on the right shows the effect of an image carved into multiple colored layers.
Another 20th century innovation in cameos are the plastic and molded glass cameos. While some are truly artistic and beautiful, most are cheap imitations of the sardonyx and shell cameos of the past.
Three beautiful plastic cameos. L to R: Celluloid or French Ivory cameo on a celluloid chain (1920s); Celluloid plastic bangle bracelet (1920s); Pink and Black Retro cameo (1950s)
The images on cameos from early times, were of mythical gods and mythological scenes. Kings, warriors and people of stature commissioned cameos in their likeness. Over time, the mythical images of specific gods and goddesses gave way to anonymous mythical characters, and later to artistic renditions of anonymous beautiful ladies, powerful warriors and bacchanalian scenes.

When buying cameos to wear or collect, there are a few important things to look for:
  1. Quality of the image: The image should be crisp and detailed. Some older pieces may have been worn down over time, which needs to be weighed against the rest of the desirability of the cameo. Poor quality carving always detracts from the cameo.
  2. Material: There is a heirarchy of cameo substrates for the collector. Knowing which you want and which is used in the cameo of your choice is a critical factor. Hardstone, coral, ivory, lava, sardonyx, onyx and carnelian are all higher ended materials; while plastic and doublets, molded or carved, are the substrates on the low end of the scale. Most are shell cameos.
  3. Frame: The frame and setting should complement the cameo, not overpower it and definitely not diminish its beauty. Gold and silver frames are preferred, but nicely designed gold-filled or plated metal can be quite good as well.
  4. Do you like it? This is the most important thing. Never buy a piece you do not like.
At Vintages we have a very nice collection of cameo jewelry as well as a few intaglio pieces. We also have a small selection of Victorian portrait jewelry, a cousin to the cameo made from hand-painted porcelain or photographs imbedded under celluloid.
This turn-of-the-century lady is wearing a photo portrait pin on her pearl collar.
Here is a gallery of some the cameos and intaglios we have in stock. Most are available online.
Sardonyx Cameo Pendant in Sterling Silver Setting ($95.00)
L: 10K Gold Shell Cameo Brooch ($195) • R: Contemporary Glass Cameo Brooch ($165)
Czech Glass Beaded Clip with Cameo ($95)
From top left: Carved Ivory Cameo Pendant ($95); Glass Intaglio Earrings ($195); Glass Intaglio Brooch ($28); Gold over Silver Filigree Bow Brooch with Shell Cameo ($49)
10K Gold Victorian Carved Cameo Rings • Coral (L) & Shell (R) • $95 each
Silver Brooch with Scarab Cameo ($65)
Victorian Carved Cameo Stickpins • Day/Night Warriors in Layered Onyx ($95) & Lady in Pink Coral ($59)
L: Carved Onyx Cameo Earrings ($38) • R: Carved Sardonyx Cameo Earrings ($95)
Black Bakelite Cameo Brooches ($49 each)
This is one of the many photo portrait pins we have in our Victorian jewelry collection.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lalique Emerald Glass Ring

How beautiful is this? This is the central panel on a Rene Lalique Art Nouveau bracelet, a gorgeous emerald green glass cameo set in a yellow gold bracelet with panels of vines and leaves (circa 1900). The two lovers appear to be the classical nymph and satyr. Wouldn't you love to have this bracelet? It could be yours. Only $200,000 or so! Until then, just enjoy looking at it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vintages of Los Gatos Celebrates its 8th Anniversary

We opened Vintages of Los Gatos in April of 2003 and have combined our diverse strengths with a common love of art and antiques to create a shop unlike any other. Take one part of antiques with one part of distinctive gifts, mix in crafting treasures and hand crafted art, and you have Vintages. We hope you enjoy shopping with us.

As a thank you to our loyal customers, we are offering this 15% savings coupon for a limited time in April.  Please come on in and pass a copy of this post to a friend. They can use the coupon too!

Thanks for eight great years ... and more to come!
Bob & Susan
Bring the coupon above into the shop for a 15% discount on your purchase -- or you can show it to us on your smart phone. The coupon can be used for online purchases at both our antique sales site on Trocadero and our Vintages shopping site as well (but not at Pretty Ribbons on Etsy), BUT you need to contact us prior to any online purchase to obtain the discount. Please see the coupon for restrictions. The coupon and the sale end on April 16th.

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