May 21, 2018
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Collectors lined up for spiffy vintage luggage

By Danielle Arnet, Tribune Media Services

Q: My Oshkosh suitcases from the 1930s still have original keys. How can I sell them?

A: Nothing conveys the look of vintage like a period suitcase. Thanks to period films and TV series like “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire,” the public has developed a real nostalgia for the look of old-fashioned travel. Add a distaste for the cattle call aspects of contemporary travel, and you’ve got a trend.

Had this question arrived about five years ago, the answer would have covered how stacked vintage suitcases are used as side tables, as display and decor surfaces. But vintage luggage is hotter than ever, and now more travelers use the sturdy cases as travel bags. They survive rough handling, and spotting one on the baggage carousel sure beats pawing through acres of black, soft-sided suitcases.

Value depends on maker, and above all, condition. Buyers demand best condition possible, so tears (inside or out) and a musty odor are definite nos. Some minor scuffs are permissible.

At the apex of vintage luggage, Vuitton and Goyard pieces bring serious money. On the other hand, Oshkosh boxy luggage from the ’40s and ’50s is popular for its everyman look and striped covering.

Checking completed sales on eBay, we were surprised to note the sell-through rate on Oshkosh suitcases. Pieces sold at prices ranging from $14.99 to $200 for a striped 1940s-’50s suitcase and train case set.

Our reader needs to take a dead-eye look at those cases. Assess for flaws. View them the way a buyer would. If everything passes muster, online is the place to sell, because that’s where motivated buyers shop.

Q: Any info on our pitcher and bowl set? It was supposedly made in the early 19th century. Pieces we have are the pitcher and bowl plus two dishes. Our research puts them from the Vienna area, but we cannot identify a specific maker.

A: Images sent show a large ceramic ewer and washbowl covered with a cobalt and white floral chintz-type design.

Before indoor plumbing, such washbowl sets were common in homes, hotels, and boarding houses. Sets ranged from two pieces (the ewer and bowl), to multiple items, including soap dishes, a toothbrush holder, toothbrush cup, waste jar, chamber pot, a hot water or waste water pitcher, and more.

Marks seen are an incised Wachtersbach, several letter-number combos, and a beehive or shield mark.

The readers may not realize it, but right there they have all the info they seek. Wachtersbach (alternately spelled Waechtersbach) is the name of the pottery. The combos are codes for mold shapes, and the impressed sideways beehive is a mark used by the pottery.

The shield or beehive mark was used most famously by the Imperial and Royal Porcelain Manufactory of Vienna, but it was also used by other 18th century to 20th century potteries.

In operation since 1832, Waechtersbach is a German ceramics manufacturer that still makes pottery. Today it’s part of a large ceramics company. Contemporary goods run to Christmas ceramics plus mugs and the like decorated with hearts, largely sold by mass retailers and discounters. See eBay for modern examples.

Smart collectors know that when a pottery operates for a long span of time, goods from specific eras are most in demand. In this case, pre-Weimar pieces with Art Nouveau or Deco designs are what collectors want most.

The pattern places our reader’s set in the early 1900s. It is an attractive set with a desirable color and pattern, and it looks to be in excellent condition.


Replacements,, the giant source for discontinued china, flatware, glassware and more, carries Waechtersbach tableware. Click on the sidebar for a gallery view of patterns in stock.

Auction Action

Only 3¼ inches high, a 19th century Chinese ivory cricket cage sold for $3,750 in a recent sale of Asian art at Doyle New York. From a noted private collection, the cage has a sliding door secured by a bat finial at the base. More bats and flowers are carved in relief on the cage.

Collector Quiz

Q: Within two weeks of the start of the Civil War, over 20,000 local aid societies formed around the country. One of their main projects was making quilts (blankets) for the soldiers, a group effort. Where were most quilts made? And, how many survive today (35, 18, or 15)? Why that number?

A: An estimated 250,000 quilts were made, primarily in the North, for soldiers’ aid during the Civil War. Only 15 Northern quilts survive. Most were lost in terrible battlefront weather/use/conditions. Source: “Civil War Quilts” by Pam Weeksand Don Beld (Schiffer, $39.99). Includes history, photos, and patterns.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.


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