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.