Some of my best Art Deco items did not come from any fancy New York City antique show, Miami gallery or San Francisco shop, but from thrift stores and junk barns. I will grant you that junk barns and thrift stores are hit and miss, and to be honest, mostly miss. But every once and a while a real treasure can be found. The trick is to find a store that is located in an old established neighborhood, town or city, rather than one located in a suburban stripmall, and then go back often. Stock comes in every day, so one weekend there might not be anything of note but the next weekend might be the jackpot.
In a junk barn a half hour south west of Allentown, Pennsylvania, I came across this Chase Corn and Pancake set, designed by Russel Wright (1904 – 1976). Wright was an industrial designer who worked in New York City and is probably best known for his spun aluminum products made in the 1930’s and his famous lines of dinnerware such as American Modern (1939 – 1959) for Steubenville Pottery and Casual (1947 – 1967) for Iroquois. The Chase Corn and Pancake set was sold by the Chase Speciality Line between 1935 – 1940 and originally sold for $4.50 ($78.00 in 2014 dollars). It consists of a syrup jug, salt and pepper shakers and a chrome and blue glass tray. This set has a book value of $250 -$400. I was lucky to find this set in unused condition for $6.00.
There once was a great thrift store in Rochester, New York. Almost every other week I would go to the Vietnam Veterans Thrift Store to see if anything new came in. Now most times I came out empty handed, but sometimes a real treasure was to be had at bargain basement prices. One day in October, 2009 in the back of the store among all the chairs there was a 1930’s Lloyd Manufacturing Company Springer Rocker chair designed by famous industrial designer K.E.M. Weber (1889 – 1963). The chair was in good original condition, with original cushions with no tears or cracks and the chrome was not pitted. Normally that chair sells for between $450 – $2,000, but at the thrift store I was able to pick it up for just $30.00.
Another great find at the Vietnam Veterans Thrift Store, was a set of six Ruba Rombic 10 oz. footed tumblers for a $1.99 each. Ruba Rombic was created by Reuben Haley (1872 – 1933), the most important American glass designer of the 20th Century, for the Consolidated Glass Company of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. Introduced in 1928 it was produced only until 1932 when Consolidated Glass closed, due to the depression. When the company reopened in 1936 Ruba Rombic was no longer part of the line. Upon its introduction, the company called it “An Epic in Modern Art”, most of the public called it “that crazy glass”. The colors of Ruba Rombic were Smokey Topaz, which is the color of the tumblers that I have, Jungle Green, Jade Green, Sunshine Yellow, Lilac, Silver, French Crystal and Opal. Jungle Green and Smokey Topaz are the most common of the colors. Aside from the extreme look of the items, it was also very, very expensive – the 10 oz. tumblers that I picked up cost $9.00 a piece in 1928, which is the equivalent of $125.00 in 2014 dollars. Today Ruba Rombic is very rare, Jack Wilson an expert on Consolidated Glass feels that less than 3,000 pieces of Ruba Rombic exist. These tumblers are worth about $275 – $300 each.
It is finds like these that inspire us to stop at those out of the way barns and thrift stores on our travels.
Chris & Anthony
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