Compact Mirrors & Powder Compacts

Jane Vanroe on collecting vintage powder compacts and compact mirrors. You can find Jane's designs at and on Amazon in the EU & USA

How to start a powder compact collection – Part 2 of my interview with Weranda

vintage 1940s powder compact by Zenette

A vintage compact by Zenette, England

A little more from my recent interview with Polish magazine, Weranda. If you’re starting out as a vintage compact collector, these answers might be of interest… and if you’re an established collector do feel free to add advice (I’m a relative newby!). I’d also recommend that every collector join the British Compact Collectors’ Society for their fantastic newsletter, Face Facts. I’ll write more about the BCCS shortly as I’m thrilled to be exhibiting at their convention this october.

Weranda: Do compact collectors specialise in certain brands of compacts?

Certainly. Most have a brand they look for, as researching the stories around each brand – vintage advertising, endorsements of filmstars – can really bring your collection to life. I know of a vicar here in the UK who collects American Elgin compacts – as well as everything associated with Elgin. He even has a sound archive of Elgin’s radio advertisements from the 1940s and 1950s. They are just delicious to listen to and add so much to his collection.

Elgin America vintage powder compact

An Elgin America vintage powder compact, circa 1940

My interest in Stratton and KIGU led me to collect the brands’ vintage advertisements, then other brands’ ads… then vintage beauty ads in general. And suddenly this site (and my business Vanroe Compacts) was born! I’ve also started a collection of KIGU’s jewellery from the 1950s and 1960s. It was fantastic to be able to wear a pair of vintage KIGU earrings to a recent meeting with Stratton, who bought KIGU in the 1980s. There’s a wonderful, glamorous heritage to these brands.

1959 advert for Stratton powder compacts My Home magazine

Stratton’s 1959 compact advert for My Home magazine

What tips would you give someone who would like to start collecting vintage compacts?

Start with compacts that you love. Don’t be too concerned with condition until you learn more about the brands that appeal to you. As you learn more, try to find examples in “mint in box” condition. As with all collectables, the box makes a real difference to future value.

A 1980s vintage Stratton powder compact mint in box

Collectable but currently undervalued – a late 1980s / early 1990s Stratton, mint in box

Most powder compact collectors actually have two collections – their “mint in box” display compacts, and those beautiful but used pieces they carry in their handbags. Most buy vintage alongside new powder compacts by the leading brands like Stratton and Estee Lauder, knowing that these will also appreciate in value. I know of several collectors who buy new pieces in pairs. One for use in their handbag and one to keep in mint condition.

KIGU 1950s karette vintage compact

A vintage 1950s KIGU “Karette” compact, with original unused sifter and puff – adding to collectors’ value

If you’d like to use your vintage compact with powder you’ll need a new powder sifter. This is the gauze sieve to keep loose powder in place and dispense a little on your puff. Even if your compact has an unused vintage sifter, it may well be too fragile to use. Best to keep this vintage sifter in a safe place (it will add value to your piece), and use a modern replacement for your powder. I’ve written about my technique for making your own powder sifter, and after lots of customer enquiries, I got permission from Stratton to stock their new powder sifters at Vanroe. These come in two sizes 67mm and 60mm, and the latter can be cut down even further if required.

See also my post on refilling a vintage powder compact.

loose powder compact open with Stratton powder sifter

Compact in use with Stratton’s 60mm replacement powder sifter

Is powder compact collecting a hobby that requires a lot of financial effort?

Absolutely not. You can find vintage powder compacts in car boot sales and online auctions for just a few pounds. As the world of powder compacts is a relatively new area for collectors, compacts are still undervalued. Prices start at just £5 – £10 for a well-used compact on Ebay, even great designs like Stratton’s mass-market 1970s pieces. You just have to be prepared for your compact to include scuffs, scratches and ageing face powder!

Stratton popular 1970s powder compact

A mass-market Stratton design in production from around 1970. Still made into the early 1990s.

At the top end, sought-after novelty pieces by KIGU, Stratton, Volupte, Vogue Vanities and Le Rage can be worth upwards of £300. And these prices are likely to increase as Europe follows America in the growth of “vintage glamour” collecting.

Read Part 1 of this interview on powder compact collecting.

Stratton silver-plated 1960s powder compact

A pretty silver-plated 1960s Stratton compact. Not as valuable as a Le Rage novelty, but so lovely to collect.


9 comments on “How to start a powder compact collection – Part 2 of my interview with Weranda

  1. Gina
    April 30, 2012

    HI Jane–Very nice article. I have a good sized collection of compacts. I am looking for a neat way to display them, possibly on a shelf, but I am having a hard time finding a stand of the appropriate size for compacts to sit on. They are all different sizes. What do you suggest?

    • Jane Johnston
      April 30, 2012

      Hi Gina,
      Have you tried ebay? A number of sellers sell little wire and plastic stands for miniature plates – they work well for most powder compacts. x

  2. Colin Macdonald
    May 1, 2012

    HI Jane

    Thanks for the mention in the article. Collection growing daily including collection of Illinois Watch Case Co. ( the origional Elgin American brand name ) items. Also several clips ( well whole shows actually ) of Amkerican TV programs sponsored by Elgin.
    Gina – I use the little display stands mentioned by Jane and then have them displayed on Ikea Billy bookcases turned on their sides! Hope this might help.


  3. Ellie
    September 6, 2012

    I have just started collecting them and love it already.
    I have a 60mm Stratton and one that has no name but is wonderful! A cigarette holder, powder and lippy!
    Your site has been very good at advice that I have needed! Not sure if I should join the British Compact Collectors society yet. . . . I am thinking about it. Keep up the brilliant work! ^_^


    • Jane Johnston
      October 5, 2012

      Thank you Ellie! I’d really recommend joining the society – I look forward to their newsletter every month. Perfect winter-day-with-a-cup-of-tea reading x

  4. Sharon
    September 22, 2012

    Hi Jane,
    Fabulous article! You have inspired me. Where can I find your information about making my own sifter?
    Thanks -Sharon

  5. Keith
    January 19, 2015

    Hi I have a 1950s karette compact unused inside and in its own bag the same as the one in the photo can you tell me how I would price this to sell

    • Jane Vanroe
      July 6, 2015

      I’m afraid I can’t offer valuations :( Sorry!

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This entry was posted on April 30, 2012 by in Advice for powder compact collectors.

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