How I started collecting Antique and Vintage purses -On Serendipity !


[ser-uhn-dip-i-tee] noun

Ever wonder how you first got started collecting? Or how that next piece or another came into your life? Some call this serendipity (Webster’s: an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident).

I am a collector of purses, of mostly mesh and micro-beaded styles from the 1920’s – 1930’s. It’s a funny thing how this came about. You see, I held onto two purses from my childhood and teen years – one, a basket purse that I needlepointed my initials onto a small sampler of sorts (c. 1965); the other, a pair of Levi’s I fashioned into a messenger type bag (c.1975). I just loved them both – then, and now! Serendipity, of course, that they would become the foundation of my collection!

My husband doesn’t care about “stuff”, and collecting is not something he even remotely cares to do. But the first Christmas we were together, his present to me was an evening bag. Though contemporary, it is still a classic piece, and holds court with many of my other vintage and antique evening bags on display. Serendipitous that he bought me that bag that first Christmas!

This past summer, I purchased a beaded figural bag (after a painting by French artist Boucher) from a collector friend in California – a real indulgence for me. So what do you think I felt when I was home the following month, going through inventory to list for Ruby Plaza, and came upon a compact with, guess what? The same figural rendering on the front and back (see photo)! Serendipity, of course! And, if that wasn’t enough, my friend later called from California and had gone through some of her collection, and found a tiny antique snuff box with yet the same figural rendering hand-painted on it! But wait! There’s more! Just a month after that acquisition, I found a hand-painted framed miniature in a store outside of Washington, DC. They are all together now, a collection within a collection, sharing pride of place harmoniously, as it should be, serendipitously.

I have encountered other experiences similar to these, wherein singularly found items somehow find their way into my universe, and then two or more items collide, making for a much better existence together. It happened with a framed lithograph of Marguerite, after a painting by James Bertrand. I loved it because she (Marguerite) was a beautiful, young woman with long, braided hair, and she had a wonderful period purse across her body, something not readily found in the purse collector’s world (prints, lithographs or photos displaying accessory details such as purses). About a year and a half later, I won a vintage statue of Marguerite at auction, and they now reside together in one room in my home, serendipitously.

In the world of purse collecting, there is a wonderful group, the Antique Purse Collectors’ Society. Each year for at least the past four or five, this group of folks (primarily women, but we do have a few male enthusiasts too!) gets together in a designated city to share knowledge, museum and house tours, and friendship. After my first gathering this past year, I was introduced to many other collectors, some of whom sold purses at our gathering, something I really looked forward to. But what I did not expect, and what happened quite serendipitously, was to be contacted, out of the blue, by a collector I had never met, who was scaling back in her collection, and offered to sell me items from her private collection. This gal was contacting me through my online auction id as told to her by another member and, though she found me to be a purse collector, indeed, I was not the original person she intended contacting (our names were similar, and she was going by memory)! Now that truly was serendipity! And the energy continues to flow, as collector friends pass along leads among our circle for finds known to be sought after by various members. Information is shared on care, repair, displays, reference sources, shows and everything related to our hobby, and on matters having nothing to do with collecting. We come together from all corners of the world, all walks of life. Serendipitously.

So, you see, some things happen without even focusing our energy on the situation, by accident – or is it? Imagine what kind of world yours could be if you consistently exerted positive energy, leaving the negative behind, whether it’s in the world of collecting or any other facet of your life and living?

Serendipity? Maybe. You get the point!

By RP Cobb

Panoply: “A Wide-Ranging and Impressive Array”

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