Treasure: Consider collectibles with a Great Lakes State connection
Who is the most exhibited artist in the world? If you guessed Michelangelo or Da Vinci or someone like that, think again. According to the online Paint By Number Museum (paintbynumbermuseum.com), that honor goes to co-founder Dan Robbins, a designer whose work been displayed on more walls than that any other artist.
Whether you’re a beginning collector looking to narrow the field, or an experienced collector looking for something new, why not consider antiques with a Michigan connection? Our sports teams, beverage (Stroh’s, Vernors) and car companies have long provided a focus for some, but there are lesser-known items from Motown and the Great Lakes State that will make your fall hunting fun. As part of an occasional ongoing series, here are a few to consider.
Paint By Number: Like mid-century modern furniture and other retro 1950s antiques, Paint By Number is undergoing a renaissance. According to the museum’s website, the pastime was invented by Dan Robbins and Max Klein, president of the Palmer Paint Company in Detroit. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, who handed out numbered patterns to his apprentices, Robbins created an abstract prototype that evolved into six Craft Master kits. The craze caught on, and soon the results graced the walls of thousands of homes throughout the U.S.
Stormy Kromer: Popular with hunters and outdoorsmen and women, the Stormy Kromer hat was initially made in 1903 for George “Stormy” Kromer, a semi-professional baseball player, by his wife, Ida, to keep him warm while working on the railroad. Soon other employees wanted one. The company was later purchased and later moved to Ironwood, where the hats are made today. President Obama was presented with several variations when he visited Marquette in 2011; hats carry a lifetime warranty. The women’s version is known as the “Ida Kromer.” (www.stormykromer.com)
Mason Decoys: Well known among decoys and waterfowl collectors, Mason decoys often bring top dollar at auction. According to the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art (wardmuseum.org), the factory had a “humble beginning in a shed behind William Mason’s house,” in Detroit, but became quickly known for its quality craftsmanship. “There is nothing fancy about Mason decoys, but the shape of a head, arch of a neck or detailed bill carving keep these decoys from being ordinary,” according to the site. A Mason decoy sold for a record $354,500 in 2000 despite its humble beginnings and they are avidly sought out and collected today. More information is available from RJG Antiques website (rjgantiques.com) with a fascinating guide to collecting decoys and how to tell the difference between models.
Iverson Snowshoes: An up north staple, Iverson snowshoes grace the walls of many Michigan cabins and cottages and the feet of many active Michiganders. Acccording to the company website (iversonssnowshoes.com), “It started back in 1954 when Clarence Iverson began building his snowshoes for the State of Michigan. His premise was simple: reduce expended energy by walking on top of the snow, not through it…Clarence was very picky. He only used the finest materials–premium Michigan White Ash, full grain rawhides, and pure copper hardware. These components are expensive, but well worth the cost when you find yourself in extreme conditions, or when it’s time to pass your Iversons on to the next generation.” Today, the company makes 17 models, and vintage Iversons are a frequent find at area antique shops and malls.
What’s Your Favorite Michigan-made collectible? We want to know! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your favorite and why (include a photo of you with your item, if you want) and you may appear in an upcoming column.