IN a New York home one room is devoted to a so-called panler fleuri collection which in this case means that each article shows the design of a basket holding flowers or fruit The collection is today so unique and therefore so valuable, that it has been willed to a museum, but its creation as a collection, was entirely a chance occurrence. The design of a basket trimmed with flowers happened to appeal to the owner, and if we are not mistaken, the now large collection had its beginning in the casual purchase of a little old pendant found in a forgotten corner of Europe.
The owner wore it, her friends saw it, and gradually associated the panler fleuri with her, which resulted in many beautiful specimens of this design being sought out for her by wanderers at home and abroad. Today this collection includes old silks, laces, Jewellery, wax pictures, old prints, some pieces of antique furniture, snuffboxes and ornaments in glass, china, silver, etc.
Every museum is the result of fads in collecting, and when one considers this heading, which sounds so trifling and unimportant to the layman, means all that it will not seem strange that we strongly recommend it as a dissipation!
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At first, quite naturally, the collector makes mistakes; but it is through his mistakes that he learns, and absolutely nothing gives such a zest to a stroll in the city, a tramp in the country, or an unexpected delay in an out-of-the-way town, as to have this collecting bee in your bonnet.
How often when traveling we have rejoiced when the loss of a train or a mistake in timetable, meant an unexpected opportunity to explore for junk in some old shop, or, perhaps, to bargain with a pretty peasant girl who hoarded a beloved heirloom, of entrancing interest to us (and worth a pile of money really), while she lived happily on cider and cheese!
It is doubtless the experience of every lover of the old and the curious, that one never regrets the expenses incurred in this quest of the antique, but one does eternally regret one’s economies.
The writer suffers now, after years have elapsed, in some cases, at the memory of treasures resisted when chanced upon in Russia, Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia where not! Always one says, “Oh, well, I shall come back again!” But there are so many “pastures green,” and it is often difficult to retrace one’s steps.
Then, too, these fads open our eyes and ears, so that in passing along a street on foot, in a cab or on a bus, or in glancing through a book, or, perhaps, in an odd corner of an otherwise colorless town, where fate has taken us, we find “grist for our mill” just the right piece of furniture for the waiting place!
Know what you want, really want it, and you will find it some time, somewhere, somehow!
As a stimulus to beginners in collecting, as well as an illustration of that perseverance required of every keen collector, we cite the case of running down an Empire dressing table.
It was our desire to complete a small collection of Empire furniture for a suite of rooms, by adding to it as a supplement to the bureau, a certain type of Empire dressing table. It is no exaggeration to say that Paris was dragged for what we wanted the large well-known antique shops and the smaller ones of the Latin Quarter being both ransacked.
Time was flying, the date of our sailing was approaching, and as yet the coveted piece had not been found. Three days before we left, a fat, red-faced, jolly cabby, after making a vain tour of the junk shops in his quarter, demanded to know exactly what it was we sought. When told, he looked triumphant, bade us get into his cab, lashed his horse and after several rapidly made turns, dashed into an out-of-the-way street and drew up before a sort of junk store-house, full of rickety, dusty odds and ends of furniture, presided over by a stupid old woman who sat outside the door, knitting, wrapped head and all in a shawl.
We entered and, there, to our immense relief, stood the dressing table! It was grey with dust, the original Empire green silk, a rusty grey and hanging in shreds on the back of the original glass. There was a marble top set into the wood and grooved in a curious way. The whole was intact except for a loose back leg, which gave it a swaying, tottering appearance.
We passed it in silence being experienced traders! Then, after buying several little old picture frames, while Madame continued her knitting, we wandered close to the coveted table and asked what was wanted for that broken bit “of no use as it stands.”
“Thirty francs” (six dollars) was the answer. Later a well-known New York dealer offered seventy-five dollars for the table in the condition in which we found it, and repaired as it is to-day it would easily bring a hundred and fifty, anywhere!
As it happened, the money we went out with had been spent on unexpected finds, and neither our good-natured cabby nor we were in possession of thirty francs! In fact, cabby was rather staggered to hear the price, having offered to advance what we needed. He suggested sending it home “collect” but Madame would not even consider such an idea.
However, at last our resourceful juju came to the rescue. If the ladies would seat themselves in the cab, he could place the table in front of them, with the cover of the cab raised, and Madame of the shop could lock her door and mounting the box by the side of our cocker, she might drive with us to our destination and collect the money herself! He promised to bring her home safely again!
As we had only the next day for boxing and shipping, there was no alternative. Before we had even taken in our grotesque appearance, the horse was galloping, as only a Paris cab horse can gallop, toward our abode in Avenue Henri Martin, past carriages and autos returning from the Bois, while inside the cab we sat, elated by our success and in that whirl of triumphant absorbing joy which only the real collector knows.