How one can Thrift Store for Classic Bakelite


Cynthia Shirk /

Procuring thrift shops, flea markets and property gross sales will be overwhelming. With the sheer quantity of stuff, how are you aware the place to start out? How do you see gems amid all of the junk?

As knowledgeable reseller who has been combing by means of thrift shops for the higher a part of 30 years, I may also help. If you happen to’re prepared to chop your buying time in half, rating larger bargains or stroll away with brag-worthy finds you may flip for money, learn on.

From hard-to-find home items to resale money-makers, every thing featured in my “Thrift Shop Like a Pro” sequence qualifies as a BOLO (“be looking out” for) merchandise. If you discover it, purchase it!

Learn on to study this month’s featured discover.

Featured discover: Bakelite

Flatware with Bakelite handles

This month’s featured discover isn’t a single merchandise, however a fabric used to make many objects — Bakelite. Invented in 1907 by chemist Leo Baekeland, Bakelite was the primary artificial plastic. Its growth paved the way in which for the trendy plastics trade.

As a result of Bakelite was moldable, heat-resistant and comparatively light-weight, it was used to make quite a lot of industrial and family merchandise.

First publicly introduced in 1909, its reputation coincided with the early Artwork Deco interval, and lots of objects manufactured from Bakelite replicate the smooth traces and stylistic cues of the time.

Immediately, Baekeland’s namesake product is prized by collectors and designers around the globe. Probably the most sought-after objects embrace:

  • Costume jewellery
  • Drawer pulls and knobs
  • Sport items
  • Kitchen utensil and flatware handles
  • Buttons
  • Clock and radio casements

Why purchase it?

vintage bakelite jewelry
Cynthia Shirk /

If you happen to’re not an Artwork Deco fanatic or jewellery lover, there’s one other compelling purpose to purchase Bakelite — resale worth.

As a result of it’s simply mistaken for contemporary plastic, Bakelite can nonetheless be discovered at thrift shops and yard gross sales throughout the nation.

Two years in the past, the supervisor of a thrift store pulled me apart and stated, “I held again some outdated bracelets for you; I’ll go get them.” She returned with a shoebox stuffed with jumbled bracelets. A number of had been plastic, however just a few had been manufactured from Bakelite. The entire field price $5, and I couldn’t pay her quick sufficient. I resold three bangle bracelets for $110.

Although many of the jewellery is in personal arms, it’s not unusual to search out Bakelite {hardware} connected to vintage furnishings. I’ll fortunately purchase a broken chest of drawers simply to salvage the Bakelite drawer pulls.

On Etsy, this set of six drawer pulls in Bakelite and brass is listed for $295. On eBay, this octagonal Bakelite bracelet offered for $231.68 and this apple-themed brooch introduced $390.

What to search for

Vintage Bakelite jewelry
Nimisid /

Distinguishing a chunk of Bakelite from fashionable plastic takes follow. With out testing the merchandise (which we’ll discuss later) search for these options:

  • Weight: Bakelite is heavier and denser than fashionable plastic. When two items of Bakelite are tapped collectively, the sound is much like the clang of pottery.
  • Coloration: A part of Bakelite’s early reputation was the wonderful spectrum of colours it provided. Search for butterscotch yellows, cherry reds, grassy greens and vivid citrus oranges. There’s additionally a sure depth and richness to the colours that’s tough to explain. When you’ve seen just a few items up shut, you’ll know what I imply.
  • Marbling: Bakelite is usually a stable shade or marbled. Marbled items function distinctive “swirls” of greens blended with gold, crimson with orange, or brown with amber. In jewellery, extra marbling means greater resale worth.

How one can take a look at for authenticity

Vintage bakelite radio
josefkubes /

Suppose you’ve discovered an genuine piece of Bakelite? The “sniff take a look at” is a fast strategy to discover out before you purchase. Utilizing a bracelet for instance, right here’s the way it works: First, rub a small space of the bracelet along with your thumb (rub lengthy sufficient to create a bit of warmth). Subsequent, odor the merchandise. If the rubbed space offers off a definite chemical odor (assume formaldehyde), it’s probably Bakelite.

Nonetheless undecided? Strive the “409 test” on a small spot at dwelling. It’s a extra definitive strategy to decide if a chunk is actual Bakelite.

Professional tip: Bakelite is sturdy, however abrasive cleansing merchandise can uninteresting the end. To wash a complete Bakelite piece, a tender material, heat water and delicate dish cleaning soap work greatest.

Disclosure: The data you learn right here is at all times goal. Nevertheless, we typically obtain compensation once you click on hyperlinks inside our tales.

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