Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Down the Drain




I’ve been haunting a particular antique store lately. I would call this a second-tier place, up from the flea markets, down from the fine-English-antiques emporia that cater to those who didn’t inherit anything from Grandmother but would like people to think that they did. This one has all kinds of great stuff. Lots of costume jewelry that reminds me of “Mad Men.” Some furniture, hats, knick-knacks, handbags, china, you know. 


The reason I’ve been hanging around there is that I’ve been looking for a new perfume cabinet. To say I’ve outgrown the last one is just a, um, slight understatement. I’ve searched for six months now, and finally found The One. I had more in mind something funkier and, er, less expensive, but they had a nice Heywood-Wakefield cabinet, and although I don’t know that much about mid-century furniture, I know enough to realize that the price on this one was a steal. So,the routine: check the prices online, authenticate, then stop by the store, measure it surreptitiously, go home, measure the space, go back to the store, pretend to be casually looking around, ask questions, bargain a little -- the proprietor looked at me like, “Are you kidding me?” -- a steal, like I said, but hey, one always tries.


So I went home and I said to the DH, “It’s got three drawers. You could have two of them and I’ll take the cabinets.” (He’s always complaining that he doesn’t have enough drawer space. When the guys have to own twenty brassieres to go with every conceivable style of clothing, not to mention all the other underwear, and stockings and socks and all those nightgowns and gym clothes and swimsuits, well, then they can have more drawer space. But I digress.) Anyway, it worked. I went back to the store and bought it and it’s being delivered today.


In my ever-so-casual looking around, I noticed that the proprietor had a bottle of Wind Song that looked like it was in pretty good shape. There were also many empty bottles, some quite recognizable, in cabinets and on shelves behind glass. Many. The only one with perfume in it was the Wind Song, in the little crown-shaped bottle. I began to wonder what had happened to all the perfume. I asked her.


“Oh,” she said. “That stuff’s old. I pour it down the drain.”


Stop my heart, why don’t you? I had visions of vintage Mitsouko, Joy, Shalimar, perhaps a birthday or anniversary gift, kept in its box in a drawer, maybe never opened or maybe just dabbed once or twice for the most special nights, still golden and luscious, glug, glug, glug down the drain.


Should we tell them?


This is something I wonder about. What will happen to all those $2 bottles at estate sales if the antiques network finds out that “old” doesn’t necessarily mean “spoiled?” What if they discover the new ingredients regulations and realize that there isn’t going to be any more deep-voiced oakmossy perfume? I think some have already. Witness the skyrocketing prices on fleabay. That could be what-the-market-will-bear thing, but I don’t think that’s all it is. 


I gave her my card. I told her I had a vintage perfume collection. I asked her to call me the next time she was preparing to pour something out.


I see some truly shocking prices for vintage perfumes now on fleabay, especially for things in perfume strength. Sixty or eighty dollars for a quarter ounce of something, not necessarily the best of the best, either; those go for many hundreds, sometimes well over a thousand, dollars. Bottles of eau de toilette I could’ve had for $10 two years ago are now $40 or $50. In a time when so many people are pinching nickels until they scream, I’m not sure what this means. Nostalgia? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I suspect that it’s the start of a run on the vintage perfume market, which would be nothing unusual in a time of scarcity.


Or maybe it’s you. Are we bidding against each other, this few hundred of the converted, the true fragrance freaks? Are you cruising fleabay every day? Are you "r****a"? 


Damn it, r****a, knock it off, willya? I’m trying to complete my collection here!


I’m just not good at rummaging.  I never find anything. Dirty shirts. Electric skillets with heat elements that don’t work or don’t have a cord. A yogurt maker without any jars. Tupperware stained with Aunt Effie's spaghetti sauce. Moldy books hiding hundreds of silverfish. And I just can’t seem to haul my behind out of the bed at six on Saturday morning. When somebody on my street has a sale, the Early Birds start ringing and knocking at five a.m. They park in front of (sometimes in) our driveway. They bring the dogs and kids. And it looks like a demolition derby out there.


So what does one do?


I guess I’m going to have to get creative.




Drain image © Valdore from Dreamstime.com.



14 comments:

BitterGrace said...

Hmm, I thought I was beyond the madness of vintage lust, but the thought of beautiful juice going down the drain actually makes me tremble slightly. I'm kinda shocked at your seller--most flea market/antique dealers seem to have figured out the value of vintage 'fumes a while back. Whenever I see a decent bottle for sale, which isn't often, there's usually a hefty price tag on it.

If there really is a run on vintage, that's slightly comforting. It'll burn itself out, and all those impulsive perfumistas will sell at a loss. In the meantime, the stuff won't be running into the sewer...

BitterGrace said...

PS. Congratulations on the cabinet. Wish I could find a pretty, affordable one.

Olfacta said...

Hi M -- It surprises me too. I've talked to a good-sized handful of antiques dealers/flea marketeers who have absolutely no idea. They assume you want the bottle. One (a different one) offered to pour the perfume out for me. So maybe they're more savvy where you live, who knows? (Or maybe I'm just looking in the wrong shops.) My guess is that the mid-level vintage perfumes get thrown out as junk unless the bottle is "collectible," and I've never been able to figure out exactly what that word means.

Thanks for the nice words.

ChickenFreak said...

I'd say, yep, tell them. Preserve the perfume; if the prices go up, so be it. I have a friend who has a friend who does estate sales; I've been making a point of telling her that even relatively ordinary perfumes of even a few years ago are probably worth more than she'd think, with the rampant reformulations.

Perfumeshrine said...

Gosh, you did the right thing although I would have had to stop myself from crying NOOOOOOOO.....upon hearing that piece of news! Seriously, I think with all the panic and the craziness on the blogs and the guide and all about the reformulations (and so much undereducation too, I might add, from beginners) I get the impression some think they got hold of the hen with the golden eggs. ;-) Discontinuations figure highly too, in the list of reasons. (speaking of which I'm fuming today, but I digress)

Congrats on the new perfume cabinet btw, you have to photograph it for us!

Mals86 said...

Down the drain... Ow. Ow, ow, ow. OWWW! That HURTS.

I haunt ebay all the time for vintage whatever (have a saved search for "vintage parfum") and wish I lived in a more upscale area so that the thrift stores might have something other than 70's Avon bottles. I love to pick up something neat from people who are just selling the contents of Aunt Sadie's dresser drawers - sure, it's a gamble, but I have gotten some really terrific things. (Um, I'm g*****f, by the way, not your nemesis.)

Glad you told your antiques dealer to call you. There's an antiques shop in my parents' town that I used to love to visit (I also seem to be addicted to crocheted table linens), and I went by there on Saturday, only to find the shop GONE. Gasp. Now what'll I do?

Liisa Wennervirta said...

*headdesk*

Ines said...

oh, I think we are bidding against each other. I tried for a bottle of vintage Mitsouko some time ago but was outbid. :)
I was checking perfume bottles here in antique stores and they are all empty (I think they empty them all around the world). :(

The Left Coast Nose said...

I read this yesterday, and the image of that fragrant drain has been haunting me ever since... Wow. I guess it's just a case of folks not knowing. And I've had bottles turn on me after only a few years use, so I can definitely see how someone might assume that old=yucky in every case. But sheesh, man....

There's a scene in some movie about a really fancy, rare vintage wine-- only a few hundred cases are left stacked in this one warehouse in the world. The bad guy casually tips the stacks over, smashing them to bits, thereby driving up the price of the few that do remain: induced scarcity. So wasteful, though...

Melissa said...

I am such a regular shopper at the local antique/thrift shops that they know me as "the perfume lady". I've had the same conversation with them about dumping the contents. After I've recovered from my seizure, I let them know that I'm always here to take that old, stinky stuff off their hands and to PLEASE never dump the contents. If someone wants just the bottle, they can just as easily dump it themselves. I also have a "connection" with a really super guy who handles estate sales, and he now keeps the perfume he normally wouldn't hold onto because he knows I'll take it off his hands. It really just comes down to money. If you let these shops know they'll make money off of your perfume obsession, they'll get used to keeping it around. And yes, I think the group of us that blog/post are the ones in the Ebay trenches fighting it out for those rare bottles. I think the general public would be amazed (as they often are with me) at how much we are willing to pay for Aunt Bertha's 50 year old bottle of _________ (fill in your dream perfume). I also get the regular comment of "Do you really put that on your skin? It's so old." Well of course! I'm NOT in to perfumes just for the bottles!!!!

weegee said...

Congrats on the new cabinet. As someone whose collection resides all over the house in various dark nooks & crannies, I am majorly jealous.

I'm weegee, btw, and I'm tickled pinkish to have won the Teatro sample but: I cannot figure out how to let you know my contact info without publishing it here... and I don't consider myself either an idiot or a Luddite even though I don't blog (yet), have no website (yet) and don't Tweet (never will). I am, like Mals86, a fragrantica member, (Hi Mals!), so you could pm me there if it isn't too much trouble? Pretty please?

Aimée L'Ondée said...

That's just so upsetting, the breath caught in the back of my throat when I read it! And yeah, the antique dealers around my town know me as the perfume lady, too. They think I'm a freak, basically. lol

Perfumaniac said...

I'd rather there were 100 crazy vintage perfume lunatics sniping for perfume on eBay than another person who unwittingly pours old perfume down the drain. Just reading that, I think I shed a chypre-scented tear...

Having said that, one of the ways I keep costs down is to get minis or decants, and if I really like them, save my pennies for the fancier ones. Still, it's pretty ridiculous what my vintage perfume budget is. I've basically stopped shopping for anything else, unless I really need it. Didn't Oscar Wilde say, "Give me the luxuries, and I can dispense with the necessities?"

Anonymous said...

Fleabay is getting pretty darned expensive for vintage juice. I was outbid on a couple of Guerlain parfums recently. The perfumista world is in panic mode.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails