Collecting Vintage Compacts : a mini-guide

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With the glamour and femininity of bygone eras, antique and vintage powder compacts are a growing collectors field. Some of the most famous manufacturers include Stratton, Max Factor, Estee Lauder, Zell, Elizabeth Arden, Volupte, Coty and Elgin, although many of the earliest pieces are unsigned.

Eras & Styles

Whether you love the Art Deco period, retro minimalism or fifties kitsch powder compacts offer evocative collectables for all pockets.Although prices for the most desirable pieces have increased in recent years, it is still possible to start or add to your compact collection at a reasonable price. This is because there are still plenty around, after all almost every woman considered a powder compact to be a handbag essential.

Compacts come in all shapes and sizes - from the head of a hatpin to minaudieres (or carryalls). These elegantly and ingeniously included compartments for everything from powder and rouge to cigarettes to coins, quite literally in a compact form. 

Where to Find Out More

Many good reference sources are now available and a wise investment for the beginner. Roselyn Gerson, founder of the American Compact Collector's Club has written several essential  guides. Juliette Edwards has also written an invaluable Collector's Guide and is the founder of the UK Collectors Club.

Where to Buy

Ebay offers a great resource for the compact collector and you can start your hunt in the Vanity & Grooming section of Collectables. Other good sources include specialist antique & collectable shops and websites. That old cliche of "look in the attic" and "ask your grandmother" is well worth a try too. Who knows what beauties you may find?

Present Day Collectables

And remember that Estee Lauder, amongst other beauty companies, continues to produce eagerly sought after compacts each year, some of which are limited editions. Some Lauder designs have greatly appreciated in value in the space of only a few years.

Treasures of the Boudoir & investable Collectables

These  treasures of the boudoir are often beautifully made and also represent the social and design history of their times. Whatever your taste and style, choose to buy a compact because you "just have to have it"!-  but if you choose wisely, who knows - it may also be an investment for the future too...

[Adapted from my own article originally for Helium]

 

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