Antique Metalware – Copper and Brass from Asia

brassThis is a huge area that I am learning more and more about as time goes on. My friends consigned a large number of brass and some copper items with me and of course, before putting them in Space 23, I wanted to make sure I learned about the items.

For definition purposes – Copper is copper and brass is an alloy of copper, zinc, and other metals. Bronze, on the other hand is made of copper and tin.

First of all – hallmarks. Silver almost always has hallmarks – the stamps which can tell you whether it is sterling, coin silver, when it was made, where it was made, and who made it – which is great because with better provenience you can get better prices.

Brass and copper – not so much. This is especially true when you are looking at brass or copper from Korea, China, or Japan – which if it dates from the late 1800s to the present day is usually just marked with the name of the country it came from – which is done to comply with import laws.  While much of this is very finely made by artisan craftsmen who did all the work by hand – since we know little to nothing of the maker or where and when it was made – the value on these items is often far below what similar hallmarked items from France, Germany, or England would be. This is a great thing for the buyer but for the collector or seller – it is not so good. If you are looking for brass implements, decorative items, or art – eBay should be your first stopping point. I’ll tell you why – dealers charge a premium in their shops because they are paying rent and utilities. On eBay, it is the buyers who set the market and there is plenty to choose from.

Still there is a lot we can tell about metalware from the stamps -

For example – if it says Nippon – then it is probably dated from 1890-1915 and from Japan. The Japanese during this period used the proper anglicized name of their country but after 1915, it was reverted to Japan due to confusion among American consumers.  From 1915 to 1930 it would be marked “Made in Japan” and from 1945 to 1950 “Made in Occupied Japan” and then just Japan. Of course, this only applies to items made for export to the United States – not to items that were made to export to other countries or for Japanese domestic use.  So, when you find a mark it tells you something.

But, here’s the hitch – before 1890 items didn’t have to be marked. So if it isn’t marked it could be from anywhere if it is old or made for domestic use.

Things marked KOREA tend to be made in the 1970s to 1990s – but there is some margin for error there as well since not all brass makers in Korea switched to paper sticker labels in the 1990s and there were some brass Korean items marked Korea in the 1950s and 1960s – though not nearly as many due to the Korean conflict.

If items are marked British Hong Kong they are almost certainly 1950s. In the 1960s onwards they would simply be marked Hong Kong. ROC or Republic of China is 1949-1980 but in the mid 1970s there was a period where the mark was People’s Republic of China – if it’s only marked China – that dates it 1891 to 1949 or more possibly from 1978 onwards.

I should point out that items which are marked (signed) with Japanese, Chinese, or Korean characters can be incredibly valuable – or not. My recommendation is that you don’t sell anything before you know what it is.

Finally, brass and copper items from India are plentiful and very cheap. While many of these are finely made, the market is flooded with statues, figures, and plates from India. In general, these things are not very valuable, but there are always exceptions.



Japanese Statuary – Hakata Urasaki – Beautiful Japanese Life

Hakat Dolls Washable


History of Hakata Urasaki

One of the first items we’ve featured in our brick and mortar art and antique shop is a wonderful collection of Hakata Urasaki figures. These figures vary in size but most of the one’s we have are 8-10 inches tall. The porcelain figures are known for their exquisite details – in particular when it comes to capturing facial details and the minutia of Japanese life.

I should point out right away that there is a distinct difference between a Hakata figure and a Hakata Urasaki. It is helpful to know the history of both.  The original Hakata dolls date back to the late 1500s in Fukuoka Prefecture on Kyoshu. A lord was having a castle built and noticed a worker constructing figures from clay. The sculptor, Sohichi,  was so skilled that he was immediately patronized by the lord and passed his skills and trade secrets on to the next six generations. The secrets died in the mid 1850′s with his final heir.

Hakat Dolls Washable

It wasn’t until 1885 that artisans in Hakata took up the art and displayed their work at a national exhibition. This is where the dolls came to be known as Hakata. The figures became internationally known at the Paris Exposition of 1900. Hakata are earthenware and each is hand painted.  They are delicate and as a result, not many true Hakata have survived.

Hakata Urasaki Dolls

In post WWII Japan, there was a revival of Hakata dolls, mainly as souvenir’s for US troops.  In the 1950s during the Korean conflict, a doll making firm was contracted by the US Exchanges to produce a special line of Hakata dolls, called Hakata Urasaki, after the name of the firm making them, the Urasaki doll store. Hakata Urasaki were painted with a waterproofing coat which allowed them to be washed. These were produced only during the 1950s and only for the exchanges and US Servicemen. The dolls were not as brightly colored as the original Hakata dolls and were not desirable to Japanese consumers and so they were discontinued when the bulk of US troops left.

A special note about these dolls – even thought the labels say they are washable, the washable surface has long worn away with age – these should never be washed with water, only dusted with a dry cloth.

Our New Venture – A Vagabond Antique and Art Shop – Brick and Mortar!

Marley Horses

Coming back to the USA was difficult for me. I want the best opportunities for my daughter in terms of health and education and since I can’t move my family to Canada, France, or the UK – it made sense for us to move back to my home country. Coming to the USA has been difficult for my wife – but she is resilient and adapting well.

Marley Horses

Marley Horses from the Fouria Estate

One of the big problems for both of us was that of finding work – much to my surprise, nearly a year on and I find myself doing the same work that was supporting us in Morocco and Turkey (blogging) but in a much more expensive country. Over the past few years, it seems that Google and the FCC really have it in for independent bloggers and they’ve systematically made it harder and harder to earn a buck web logging – and yet – here we are. Still going.

We wouldn’t have made it without a second income – one that has always been a sort of second nature to me – picking. From the time we arrived in the USA we’ve been cruising estate sales, thrift shops, antique shops, and garage sales and grabbing overlooked treasure – then reselling it on eBay. It’s made the difference in making rent and putting gas in our tanks. Picking is a lifetime skill and I enjoy it.

A series of rather lucky events led to me putting my skills to work when a high school friend lost his parents. He needed to have a series of estate sales and didn’t have any ideas about how to run them or price things, research things, or set it up. This was like graduate school for me – suddenly, I was faced with the valuable horde of three generations of art lovers – depression glass, cast brass sculptures, paintings, French furniture, Italian art glass, Turkish brass, Japanese lacquerware, antique wood working tools, paintings and the list goes on and on.

Vagabond Antiques and Art

Our humble beginnings

Over last summer we turned what probably would have been fairly good garage sales into highly profitable estate sales – and – we cleared out a huge amount of day to day stuff in the process. I discovered my sales skills are good enough to sell three cords of firewood for a profit in 115 degree summer weather and during the countless hours of digging on the internet and in antique books – I learned about everything from Bohemian glass to Hummel figurines to vintage fishing gear and old oil cans.

Our first two sales were focused on the less than extraordinary stuff – which, in point of fact, was really extraordinary when compared with most stuff you see at sales, but not so extraordinary as the stuff we didnt’ sell. There is still all the French furniture, the Japanese wood block prints, the Victorian decorative items and more…and a truck load of smaller brick-a-brack of great beauty and moderate worth. The big success was that we cleared out enough stuff so my friends could deal with it and we didn’t accidentally give away any great treasures. We knew what we were selling and we got fair prices for it.

After the estate sales, my wife and my picking became much better. With the knowledge we’d earned, we could go to estate and garage sales – even those that had already been professionally picked – and find the extraordinary that had been missed. An example – yesterday I paid $10 at a thrift store for a painting that is most certainly worth several thousand — there is more research to do – but the painting was done by a prisoner in the Green Haven Prison facility named E. Conway in 1970. The picture does not do this oil on canvas winter scene justice…but certainly it is worth more than $10 – there is something darkly magical about it.

E. Cnway The Woods in Winter

So, my point is that we’ve accumulated a nice collection of items and a storehouse of knowledge that exceeded our eBay store and my office’s capacity to hold them. So, we decided to open a brick and mortar store. We didn’t have the money to open a full store, nor the inventory – so we opted to open a space in an antique mall. The rent is $200 per month and the owner of the mall takes a hefty 15% commission, but the store is well known and has a wonderful location – so, we don’t have to be there or pay utilities or hire employees.

As we were making the arrangements, I wondered if we had enough inventory – then I thought of my friends and asked if they wanted to consign all those boxes of stuff in our shop – they agreed and we took a quick to trip to California to pick it up.  It turns out we probably could have filled our little space – but their antiques and Japanese stuff really brought life to our space and gave us such an abundance of inventory that we don’t have to worry about it being empty for quite a while.  Kismit and with any luck (and hard work), they will get more through our shop than they would through a garage or estate sale.  The past week, I’ve been researching and inventorying hundreds of items – pricing, buying furniture, and setting up our shop. We opened last Tuesday and so far – well, we don’t really know. The busy tourist season on Highway 101 starts in a few weeks – we have our fingers crossed.

Vagabond Antiques and Art

Eventually, we would like to have our own shop and perhaps even our own little antique mall – but for now – we are starting small. Please come and visit.

Brown Dog Antiques - 595 U.S. 101 -Florence, OR 97439  -

Come in and go to the back and you’ll see us. I will be writing more about my research interesting items and art in general on this blog. I hope that we can build a little community around antiques and art – where you can share your treasures and we can share ours.

Admire the Fine Art of George Georgiou in Atlanta

Neve Shalom Synagogue, Istanbul, Turkey.

Atlanta has some wonderful fine art galleries located throughout the city, featuring traditional and contemporary pieces, together with all manner of visual arts, including sculptures, prints and photography. They are an absolute must for anybody with an interest in buying, selling, collecting or simply admiring the artistically creative works of some of the industry leaders.

Amongst the dozens of top artists whose skilled material is on display at the city’s Jackson Fine Art Gallery, is American Sid Avery, famed for his capture on film of many Hollywood stars during private moments. Especially popular is that of the cast from the original Ocean 11 movie, including Sammy Davis Junior, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Others show James Dean on the set of Rebel Without a Cause; plus Elizabeth Taylor, Yul Brynner, Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in unfamiliar poses.

Mark Shaw has some of his work in the gallery too, which are certainly well worth a look. Although probably better known for his association with the Kennedy’s, for whom he was the unofficial family photographer, his “day job” was in fashion and advertising. Consequently, he produced some marvelous images of celebrities of the day, from the fifties and early sixties, many of which are on show.

Another photographer with many thought provoking pieces in the gallery is George Georgiou. London born to parents of Greek-Cypriot origin, he focuses his work on cultural splits amongst communities, particularly in Turkey, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. He has been professionally recognized with awards and prizes over the past decade, including: The Pictures of the Year for the Istanbul Bombings back in 2004 and the British Journal of Photography for 2010.

George Georgiou

It is George Georgiou who is responsible for the dramatic photographs of Yenikoy Village in Artvin from 2006, Bitlis in 2007 and Konya in 2008. He does more than most to dispel preexisting images of places and throws himself completely into any project. He runs numerous workshops in Europe, and has many exhibitions across the continent.

Anybody with the slightest interest in fine art should visit Jackson Fine Art’s website and check out not only George Georgiou, but also the many fellow artists on display. The gallery was opened back in 1990 by Jane Jackson, who has gone onto become Director of the esteemed Sir Elton John Photography Collection. Initially it focused on contemporary work, but now under the leadership of Anna Walker Skillman, whilst maintaining the 20th century feel, it has added a number of exciting vintage pieces to its collection. This superb facility regularly participates in international art fairs, not only in US cities such as New York, Chicago and Miami, but also across the globe to glamorous destinations like: London and Paris.

There is a who’s who of clients for this gallery too, with iconic institutions that include: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Additionally, they have partnered corporate collections such as: Delta Airlines, Citibank, Coca Cola Company, Saks Fifth Avenue and Sovereign. This gallery deserves all the accolades it receives and is certainly one of the best in the city.

Art Supply 101 – Versatility of Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board

bristol Board

Bristol board is a heavy, strong and stiff paper that comes in different weights. It was originally manufactured in Bristol, England in the beginning of the 1800s, and used for drawing, painting and illustrations. It continues to be used for these purposes today, and has proved versatile enough to find application in the printing of works of art, postcards, invitations of various types, as well as technical drawings. Different weights have different applications. One of the most popular products is the Strathmore 300 series bristol board.

Types, Sizes and Weight

Bristol board, also called bristol paper, is a machine-finished, uncoated paperboard. It has two working surfaces, front and back, differentiating it from illustration board, which is finished only on one surface. Bristol is usually lighter in weight than illustration board, and is typically used for work that is meant to be preserved in the longer term. Bristol paper of the highest quality is even suitable for archival pieces.

The Strathmore 300 series bristol board is available in a smooth, plate finish or a regular vellum finish. Vellum is paper treated with a texture so fine it appears smooth but a closer inspection reveals a light, but rough finish. Some people have said it feels like the shell of an egg.

Both smooth and vellum sheets of the Strathmore 300 series bristol are available in pads of 20 sheets each bound on the top with tape. The pads are available in a range of sizes from 9 X 12 inches through 11 X 14 and 14 X 17 inches to the largest at 19 X 24 inches. It is all 100 lb. paper and importantly for archival work, is acid free. Although white bristol is most popular, it is available in many other colors.

Common Uses of Strathmore 300 Series Bristol 

Most parents have bought bristol poster board for their children to use to put together a display for a school project. Hand lettered notices of school outings, church bazaars, and community potluck dinners are often posted on bristol. However, there are also many commercial uses for the product, such as the postcards and invitations as already mentioned.

Artists, both amateur and professional, particularly appreciate Strathmore 300 series bristol board. There are online reviews that attest to how perfect the smooth version is for artists who use color pencil and pen, and how the heavier weight can stand up to plenty of scrubbing by an eraser. One art teacher says he recommends the Strathmore 300 series bristol from to all his students.

An illustrator who scans and prints his work insists the best copies come from the true white Strathmore 300 series bristol. Someone new to drawing for the comic book industry appreciates the variety of sizes. People are happy with the results they produce on Strathmore bristol products whether they are using pencils, paints or inks.

There are many varieties of bristol paper and board on the market. However, the quality and versatility of the Strathmore 300 series bristol board position the product at the top of its category. It is readily available in both local stores and online shops.

Flea Markets in the South of France

flea markets

The south of France is a beautiful area, full of culturally rich cities with countless holiday destinations, hotels, villas and cottages to choose from. But how can you choose one specific destination? Well that all depends on what you are visiting France for. France is famous for its flea markets, and while Paris is home to many famous ones, for more traditional and cultural markets – that means a distinct lack or knock off bags and phones – it is sometimes better to travel farther South. Here we look at some of the great flea markets in the south of France.
south of france flower market


Toulouse hosts a monthly market full of lost treasures in Allees Jules Guesde, on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of every month, excepting October. With classical books, military and pre war-time memorabilia, the Toulouse monthly market is an ideal place for those seeking out tidbits of modern history.  Toulouse also offers selections of traditional French porcelain, plus a variety of other treasures.

Aside from the larger monthly market, there is also a weekly market in Toulouse, with around 50 stalls in the Place Saint-Sernin, ideal for those looking for a good bargain.

flea market


The covered market in Cannes is more of a cultural experience than a shopping experience for the tourists amongst us. It is great for those living in rented accommodation as students, or living in a villa as this is an ideal place to shop for fresh foods. You might even see some famous faces, as many of the best chefs in France shop for their ingredients.

Plus if you get there early enough, the fish stalls are an educating experience as many of the aquatic varieties on sale there are not available in the UK, and you are unlikely to see them anywhere else.


The market on the Isle-sur-la-sorgue – a small, medieval town built on the islands over the Sorgue River – specialises in antiques, with over 300 stalls appearing every Sunday. This is an amazing market to visit for those looking for a real piece of history to take home, or for those who just like to browse bric-a-brac. And for the literary collectors, the final Sunday of every month is host to a book market.

flea markets


Arles is a market famous for its size. It is one of the largest markets in the South of France, with over 450 stall selling a huge variety of merchandise, anything between fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices and other consumables, to a variety of high quality, individual fabrics.

Arles market occurs every Saturday, and be sure to pack a picnic basket, because the market provides a huge choice of delicious goods to purchase for a romantic meal for two, or a simple family picnic.

Seasonal Markets

The south of France is home to a number of special seasonal markets, whether it is Easter, Christmas or Valentine’s day, the French love markets. Check out your local trip advisor for a list of seasonal French markets, as these can be both beautiful and culturally significant, with more traditional markets popping up nearer Christmas time.

Discover more from the French Tourism Office.

About the author:
Clare Cook is a self confessed Francophile with a love of spelunking. She has contributed this post on behalf of South France Holiday Villas Ltd, premier providers of high class holiday homes in the south of France