Collecting our history.IT CAN BE SAID THAT JACQUELINE Lanier never began collecting black memorabilia. She just refused to allow herself or any other family member to throw anything away, including the dolls she played with as a child. "I never had a white doll," she says proudly. "Even when I was growing up you could find black dolls Black dolls are dark-skinned, inanimate representations of dark-skinned people. Representations--both stereotypical and accurate--fashioned into playthings, date back to the early 1800s. More accurate, mass produced depictions are today's playthings and adult collectibles. ."
The home of the 47-year-old Baltimore native is filled with dated collectibles, but then she has been indulging in this hobby for 42 years. In her living room, there are historic photos, including a picture of the Buffalo Soldiers buffalo soldiers, name given to the African-American U.S. army regiments commissioned by Congress to patrol the American West after the Civil War. Consisting of two infantry and two cavalry regiments, they were the first such units chartered in peacetime. and one of famed entertainer Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker (or Joséphine Baker in francophone countries) (June 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975) . In her kitchen, there's the Bull Durham smoking tobacco posters--which show blacks with big red lips standing in front of a general store--and Aunt Jemima-type spice containers and cookie jars.
Lanier is one of a growing number of African-Americans who collect and sell such memorabilia. Their ranks--reportedly more than 50,000--include such celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg Whoopi Goldberg (born November 13, 1955) is an American actress, comedian, radio presenter, and author.
Goldberg is one of only ten individuals who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award, counting Daytime Emmy Awards. , Cicely Tyson Cicely Tyson (born December 19 1933) is an Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated American actress.
Tyson's devout Christian parents came from the island of Nevis of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies, but Cicely was born and raised in Harlem, New York City. , Bill Cosby William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr., Ed.D. (born July 12 1937) is an American actor, comedian, television producer, and activist. A veteran stand-up performer, he got his start at various clubs, then landed a vanguard role in the 1960s action show I Spy. , Oprah Winfrey “Oprah” redirects here. For the show, see The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Oprah Gail Winfrey (born January 29, 1954) is the American multiple-Emmy Award winning host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest-rated talk show in television history. and Anita Baker Anita Baker (born January 26, 1958) is an eight-time Grammy Award-winning, multi-Platinum rhythm and blues and soul singer and songwriter, renowned for her soaring alto vocal range. .
Throughout the country, collectors rummage through flea markets, haunt estate sales and antique shops and visit the memorabilia shows that now tour the U.S., searching for those special items that strike their fancy with an eye toward enhancing their personal holdings.
Malinda Saunders has been organizing black memorabilia shows throughout the country since 1984. When she started, a typical show would draw about 17 vendors and 500 browsers. Today, her shows draw more than 70 vendors each and usually attract more than 1,800 visitors. She estimates that 85% of those attending her earlier shows were white, but says that now 75% of attendees are black. Saunders operates That Certain Place, a memorabilia shop in Hyattsville, Md.
Collecting black memorabilia, like collecting anything else, is a highly speculative art The phrase Speculative Art is used an a variety of ways. It may be, possibly, a reference to Gambling in general or, perhaps, specifically to investment in the Stock exchange. In these cases the "art" referred to is the art of making a wise choice of investment. , experts warn. There are no guarantees that items will increase in value or even hold their present worth. Collecting for profit should be left to the experts, experienced collectors warn.
The increasing popularity of black memorabilia also makes this area attractive to people looking to pass reproductions off as originals. Experts warn that buyers, when spending larger amounts, should stick to reputable dealers and antique shops to ensure legal recourse if needed. They should also consult appraisers whenever feasible.
A PASSIONATE DISEASE
For Lanier, her collector's passion feeds her professional life. The possessor of one of the most extensive black memorabilia collections in the country, Lanier is the historian and the development coordinator of the Heritage Museum of Art in Baltimore (410-664-6711).
One of Lanier's bedrooms contains movie posters of black films dating back decades, and every room is filled with first edition books, manuscripts and even a few slave documents.
For those whose tastes run more toward entertainment, there is even an original program and menu from Harlem's famed Cotton Club.
A former jazz radio disc jockey disc jockey (DJ)
Person who plays recorded music on radio or television or at a nightclub or other live venue. Disc jockey programs became the economic base of many radio stations in the U.S. after World War II. who gained a portion of her collectibles through connections made on the job, Lanier lectures at schools and often invites children into her home to examine the items she's collected.
"If we don't teach our history to our children, others will and it will be misinterpreted," Lanier says, explaining part of the motivation behind her dogged pursuit of black memorabilia.
It was during a trip to New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded in 1988 that Jean Pierce Jones--who operates a black memorabilia shop in Philadelphia called Jemima--fell in love with black collectibles. She was at a garage sale when she spotted a cast-iron black boy eating a watermelon watermelon, plant (Citrullus vulgaris) of the family Curcurbitaceae (gourd family) native to Africa and introduced to America by Africans transported as slaves. Watermelons are now extensively cultivated in the United States and are popular also in S Russia. . "I got so excited, I just had to have it," Jones recalls, unconcerned by the stereotype involving blacks and that juicy fruit Juicy Fruit is a flavor and brand of chewing gum made by Wrigley's. Introduced in the United States in 1893, Juicy Fruit almost immediately became one of the best-selling brands in the country, and remains so today. .
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(2) To reduce equipment and associated costs by switching to a less-expensive system.
(jargon) downsizing cost Jones her job as an executive assistant last year, she seized the opportunity to pursue full-time her love of black memorabilia by opening her own collectibles shop.
While maintaining an interest in the full spectrum of black memorabilia, Jones is particularly intrigued by objects with watermelons. Her "melonmania" is apparent to anyone visiting the quaint shop Jones operates in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.
The sign outside her shop includes a watermelon in its design, as does her business card. The watermelon motif also figures prominently in her small shop, which is crowded with an eclectic assortment of artifacts artifacts
see specimen artifacts. .
Many of the collectibles at Jemima may prove distasteful for those who are unwilling to face the grim and painful realities of the black experience in America. A "For Rent to Colored" sign adorns one wall; a cartoon from the Sept. 8, 1907, Baltimore American Sunday paper Sunday paper n → (periódico) dominical m
Sunday paper n → journal m du dimanche
containing black characters is entitled "Sambo and His Funny Noises," and there's a small wooden clock featuring a drawing of a charcoal-colored boy with big lips and the words, "Ah would go to de north pole fuh yo' mah honey."
Some of Jones' items have been garnered from family members, but she gets the majority of them by scouring scouring
characterized by scour.
a colloquial name for secondary nutritional copper deficiency. flea markets, yard sales and antique shops. Such items have always been collected, Jones notes, but until recently white collectors had a corner on the market. "Collecting is a disease. It's like a passion," explains Jones, who specifies that anything marked with a red dot in her shop--which includes family photos--is not for sale, at any price.
Currie Ballard of Langston, Okla., has a 6,700-piece collection that includes African maps dating back to 1670 and a letter from a runaway slave. Ballard, who is the curator of black exhibits for the Oklahoma Historical Society The Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) is an agency dedicated to promotion and preservation of Oklahoma's history.
OHS was formed in May 1893, 14 years before Oklahoma became a state, by the Oklahoma Territorial Press Association. , says his collection is worth about $150,000. "I started 17 years ago while I was in college," Ballard recalls. "It was from a love of learning about our people's history."
Ballard says interest in black memorabilia was virtually nonexistent non·ex·is·tence
1. The condition of not existing.
2. Something that does not exist.
non when he started collecting. "I can remember going into antique shops and asking for black items and people bringing me skillets and pans," he recalls.
COLLECTIBLES OR CONTEMPTIBLES
Generally, the items commonly referred to as black collectibles were produced from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Some people are offended by the items because many of them portray blacks negatively.
The majority of collectibles are not degrading or offensive, but it's the items that fall into those categories that have drawn media attention. "The more comical, the more fun it seems to make of black people; the more degrading, the more it brings in," says Richard Opfer, a leading collector in Baltimore, who believes that negative images drive the black memorabilia market.
Others argue that black memorabilia represents a wide array of items, most positive but some negative, all of which are a part of African-American history. "People think it represents the negative things," says Jeannette B. Carson, founder of the Black Memorabilia Collectors Association (BMCA BMCA Building Materials Corporation of America
BMCA Black Mountain Center for the Arts (Black Mountain, NC)
BMCA Brain Motor Control Assessment
BMCA Big Mountain Commercial Association (Whitefish, MT) ). "That is not true."
Others agree. "This is history. It's nothing to be ashamed of," says Saunders, who in 1995 has scheduled black memorabilia shows in Dallas, Denver and Silver Spring, Md. "We should never forget our history."
Collector Sharon Banks Hart adds: "There are so many aspects of our culture that you can collect. To continue to view all of these items as negative is taking a narrow viewpoint, even from a historical perspective." Hart produces a newsletter, Collecting Our Culture ($35 for four issues; c/o BMCA, 2482 Devoe Terrace, Bronx, NY 10468).
WHERE TO START?
There are some obvious places memorabilia "affectionadoes" can go to find black collectibles--flea markets, antique shops and memorabilia shows. But it's the less obvious places where prospective collectors should start the search. "Look in your attics, in your trunks, in any place where things are stored," says Carson of the BMCA. "When most people come to the shows, one of their first reactions is, 'We had something just like that.'"
Others suggest starting by expressing your interest to relatives, especially older ones, and getting their permission to canvass their homes for items that may be of interest. Carson, who for seven years produced a magazine called Black Ethnic Collectibles, says many items routinely discarded have monetary value and that value keeps increasing. "I have a cookie jar that I bought six or seven years ago for $50. Today, it's selling for $250," Carson says.
Interesting items can also routinely be found at garage and estate sales and, yes, even junk stores.
Black memorabilia categories include: advertising items, ashtrays, banks, books, bubble gum cards, dolls, doorstops, entertainment-related mementos (such as posters and publicity stills), figurines
Figurines is an indie rock band from Denmark, formed in the mid-1990s. The band released their first EP, The Detour, in 2001 and their first full-length album, Shake a Mountain , furnishings and decorations, glassware and household items.
Kitchen items, magazines, masks, newspapers, photographs, buttons, planters, postcards, prints, sports items and toys and games are other collector categories.
So what are the hottest items? According to Ballard, the Oklahoma collector, the hottest collectibles are objects associated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For example, an autographed photo of the civil rights leader can cost $4,500. Other popular items include slave bills of sale ($375 to $500); old photos dating from before World War II; autographs of black sports figures, such as Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis or Jack Johnson; items from the civil rights movement, especially things associated with the Black Panther Party Black Panther Party (for Self-Defense)
U.S. African American revolutionary party founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale (b. 1936) in Oakland, Calif. Its original purpose was to protect African Americans from acts of police brutality. ; and pictures, books, posters and other objects associated with black leader Marcus Garvey.
A BARGAIN AT WHAT PRICE?
But before you go racing off to the nearest memorabilia show, be sure to bring your checkbook or credit card. You can expect to pay $195 for an Aunt Jemima spice set and $65 for Aunt Jemima and Uncle Mose salt and pepper shakers Salt and pepper shakers are condiment holders used in Western culture that are designed to allow food eaters to distribute edible salt and ground pepper. This is a conjoined term for salt shaker and pepper shaker. ; $155 for an original Cream of Wheat Cream of Wheat is a hot breakfast cereal invented in 1893 by wheat millers in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The cereal is currently manufactured and sold by B&G Foods. Until 2007, it was the Nabisco brand made by Kraft Foods. poster (circa 1916) of a boy jumping a fence; or $55 for a Cream of Wheat tin from the 1930s and 1940s.
A figurine of a boy holding a watermelon sells for about $30; a first edition of Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a 1969 autobiographical novel about the early years of author Maya Angelou's life. The autobiography explores the isolation and loneliness faced by Angelou, and the attributes of her character that helped her cope with the prejudices of garners $100, while a first edition of James Baldwin's Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone sells for $250; and an original theatrical poster of Josephine Baker (circa 1925-1946) can cost between $6,000 and $10,000.
Experienced collectors advise that you consult a price guide, such as The Black Memorabilia Price Guide ($13.25; P.O. Box 70346, Washington, DC 20024) before buying.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
There are no hard-and-fast rules about prices, and the increasing popularity of black memorabilia insures that unscrupulous individuals will try to pass off reproductions as originals, collectors warn.
If an item appears too good to be true, it probably is. If an 80-year-old photo appears totally undated un·dat·ed
1. Not marked with or showing a date: an undated letter; an undated portrait.
2. , it probably is a reproduction, not an original. Experts tell you to look, look--and look some more. It is only through experience, they advise, that true bargains can be immediately spotted and dubious or inflated items avoided.
Even if it is as good as advertised, it's a good idea to have the artifact appraised, especially if the price is more than nominal. "It always comes down to when is it an important amount [of money being spent], and then it's no different than a house or a car. It makes sense to have someone else check it out," explains Alex Rosenberg, president of the Appraisers Association of America in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of .
The association, which has about 1,000 members, will mail buyers a list of three approved appraisers in their area or will send out their complete membership list for $14.95 (AAA AAA: see American Automobile Association.
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Rosenberg says buyers should only hire appraisers who work on either an hourly rate or by an established day fee. Avoid appraisers who base their fees on the value of the item being appraised.
Once you buy an item, Rosenberg says, you should insure it. Normally, homeowners and renters' policies cover such items. However, if you have a large collection, you may need a separate fine arts insurance policy.
Buyers must also be sure to store items correctly to preserve them. "Generally, go to people who have knowledge in that field--museums and other collectors. Believe me, they've made plenty of mistakes in the past, so they know exactly how things should be stored," Rosenberg says.
Before buying any item, you should look around. Visit several places to compare prices and then decide on your specific areas of interest, Saunders suggests. "Black memorabilia is such a large field. You really need to know what you're interested in before you start looking," she emphasizes.