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