Category Archives: Collecting

Collecting

Levis: The Jeans that Won the West

Note: This was an article written by Joe Caro that he was generous enough to share with Collectibles readers on About.com. The article has been redirected, so it’s being reproduced here for your reading enjoyment.
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Levi Jeans — at one time or another, they were called britches, trousers, overalls, pants and finally jeans. They were guaranteed to shrink, fade and wrinkle and were originally made from brown, canvas sail-cloth intended for use as miners’ tents and Conestroga wagon covers. Invented by a 24-year old German immigrant dry-goods salesman, they are as American as apple pie! We know them fondly today as “501’s”.

When a young Levi Strauss arrived in a bustling, noisy San Francisco in 1853, the rush for California gold riches was still in high gear. The son of a Bavarian dry-good peddler, Levi expected that the mining camps would welcome the buttons, scissors, thread and bolts of fabric that he had brought with him, along with yards of canvas sail cloth that he intended to sell for tent-making and as covers for the the Conestoga wagons that dotted every stream and river.

Opening a little store on California Street with his brother-in-law David Stern, they were immediately successful and their reputation and business grew. It is reported that Levi was often found leading a pack-horse, heavily laden with his merchandise, directly into the mining camps throughout the region. The story goes that both prospectors and miners, often complaining about the easily torn cotton “britches” and pockets that “split right out” gave Levi the idea to make a rugged “overall” trouser for the miners to wear. They were fashioned from bolts of brown canvas sailcloth with gold ore storing pockets that were nearly impossible to split.

Exhausting his original supply of canvas, as the demand grew for his long-wearing overalls, Levi switched to a sturdy fabric called serge, which was made in Nimes, France. Originally called serge de Nimes, this name was soon shortened to “denim”. And, with the development of an indigo dye, the brown color was soon replaced with the now familiar deep blue, the trademark color of most jeans made today.

Another novel trademark, the riveting process, was patented in 1873 and was used to add even more strength to the pocket corners and stress areas of the pants, in addition to another Levi hallmark, using a double stitching or arcuate pattern on the hip pockets, to further increase pocket strength. In 1886, the Two-Horse brand leather patch was first introduced and in 1890, lot numbers were assigned to all products including lot “501”, which contained the first watch pocket.

It is interesting to note that Levi Strauss always disliked the term “jeans” to describe his … well… jeans! The word “jeans” it seems, is derived from the French word genes that was long associated with cotton trousers worn by Italian sailors. It is reported that Levi, and everyone working for him, referred to his denim trousers as waist-high overalls until long after his death in 1902. Not until the mid-1930’s did the company ever refer to them as jeans.

Originally designed as cinch pants to be worn with suspenders, the firm added belt loops in 1922, the red Levi’s tab in 1936 and removed the crotch rivet in 1941. It’s widely rumored that the crotch rivet removal was long overdue and attributed to a troublesome problem suffered by many cowhands while crouching near a roaring campfire on chilly nights out on the range. The story goes that the president of the company, Walter A. Haas, while wearing a new pair of “501’s” experienced first-hand what cowboys had been complaining about for years. Crouched down like that, it seems, the rivet at the base of the fly is mostly exposed to the fire and is an excellent conductor of heat. Shortly after his experience, and by executive order, this single offending rivet was removed forever!

Not a company to change its successful line of clothing without good cause, Levi’s continued to sell its denim overalls with both suspender buttons and belt loops until 1937 when they discontinued the suspender attachments. The next flurry of changes (after the removal of the crotch rivet in 1941) occurred in the ’50’s when the pattern was re-cut for a more tapered leg and pre-shrunk overalls were introduced. 1955 was the year that zippers were introduced to Levi Strauss’s famous overalls with other lots like “Lighter Blues” that marked the company’s entry into the sportswear business. The popularity of the Levi’s jeans grew to such an extent that during World War II the government declared them an essential commodity, and sales were restricted only to defense workers. Demand and price skyrocketed!

With the popularity of the Western movie and stars like John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, blue jeans were all the rage. What were originally designed as prospectors working britches now gained the irresistible aura of romance and adventure. The bad-boy, devil-may-care image of Marlon Brando and James Dean in the 1950s established blue jeans as the uniform of the day for the baby boomer generation. In 1960, the company dropped the word overalls from all advertising and finally started calling jeans — “jeans”.

From the California 49’ers to cowboys who were home on the range, to Rosie the Riveter, James Dean and Garth Brooks, the pants that young Levi made, especially lot “501”, have been with us now for well over 100 years. In over 70 countries throughout the world, everyone knows his first name, and continues to eagerly buy millions of of pairs of his pants that are still guaranteed to shrink, wrinkle and fade.

Selling Cookie Jars on Facebook

monopolymanI recently wrote an article over on Hubadub.com about the new ways people are finding to sell their stuff — the ABC’s of Selling Your Stuff on Facebook.

Having a garage sale, donating, eBay or perhaps selling on Craigslist has always been an option for clutter clearing, but over the past few years another avenue has opened up. Facebook. Yes, Facebook is not only a good way to keep up with friends, but also to sell and get rid of your stuff — good, valuable and even junk.

Facebook is also a great place to sell and buy cookie jars. The groups aren’t huge, but there are several on Facebook that are terrific for collectors to share their treasures, share their finds and also sell/trade jars.
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Ford and American Pickers — Join the Scavenger Hunt!

American Pickers Van

American Pickers Van

When I interviewed Mike Wolfe during on the early seasons of American Pickers, I was really surprised at the number of negative comments about, of all things, the guys driving a foreign vehicle. At the time Mike said, it was the only one that worked. Well that’s apparently in the past as it’s just been announced that the the 2015 Ford Transit is joining the cast of American Pickers.

To celebrate they company is having a scavenger hunt in ten metropolitan areas — find the scale model at one of ten antique stores across the country for the use of a Ford Transit van for two weeks.
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College Brackets, Mascots and Cookie jars!

tennesseecjIt’s the NCAA bracket time and I’ve already made my picks. My one claim to fame is the time I won $500. in a company wide contest. It’s also the last time the company ever had the contest, is it because an older woman beat out all the sports writers? I tend to think so!

But this one is all for fun, I’ve taken the College Mascots on cookie jars and lined them up in four divisions — the Cats, Birds, Dogs and Logos, with a few additions here and there. It’s your turn to pick your favorite mascots in each division. Three may be picked in each division and in about ten days we will go to the next round.

Make your picks here . .

My first eBay purchase . .

COcountdraculaBDo you remember your first eBay purchase? I remember mine, because I didn’t start off with a little item — no, I started off with a purchase a $160. cookie jar.

It was shortly after I joined eBay in July 1996.

I collected cookie jars and had recently seen the California Originals Count Dracula jar at a Cookie Jar Show for $400 or $500. Way out of my price range. But since the Sesame Street Cookie Monster is the one I consider the start of my collecting addiction, I really wanted it.
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Quote

All About Collecting

Why do people collect, I’m really not quite sure what it is a person’s soul that causes one to gather like things around them, search for one more to complete their collection and the quest for their holy grail. Or perhaps this author has it right —

“There are people like Senhor José everywhere, who fill their time, or what they believe to be their spare time, by collecting stamps, coins, medals, vases, postcards, matchboxes, books, clocks, sport shirts, autographs, stones, clay figurines, empty beverage cans, little angels, cacti, opera programmes, lighters, pens, owls, music boxes, bottles, bonsai trees, paintings, mugs, pipes, glass obelisks, ceramic ducks, old toys, carnival masks, and they probably do so out of something that we might call metaphysical angst, perhaps because they cannot bear the idea of chaos being the one ruler of the universe, which is why, using their limited powers and with no divine help, they attempt to impose some order on the world, and for a short while they manage it, but only as long as they are there to defend their collection, because when the day comes when it must be dispersed, and that day always comes, either with their death or when the collector grows weary, everything goes back to its beginnings, everything returns to chaos.”
― José Saramago, All the Names