Leader Board Ad

Monday, June 29, 2009

Check and double Check

You would think that I would learn from past mistakes…..There I was again, happily blogging away my latest post –to-be. It was getting late and I began to nod, but I thought I hit the “Save Draft” button a couple of times at least. Well, I signed off to continue the post next day and “poof” the gremlins had again made off with it. The irony is that many of my posts deal with the same (human) mistakes that allow me to find these treasures of nostalgia and oddity over and over again, and here again I seem to be missing my own opportunity to learn. Humility is a dish best served as humble pie. Or all this humility is causing my Irony to rust!

There is definitely a level of karma in “hitting the sales” as examples in my previous posts should prove. There are others, however. When setting out on the trail there are chances you take as you decide a path through the sheer quantity of sales each weekend. Which one should you pick? Which ones should you skip? Looking through the paper is only marginally helpful because 20 words or less reveals nothing about a sale. 2 similar ads side by side could be either “don’t miss” or “don’t stop” sales. These are my standards, and depending on what you’re looking for could make either one or both of these sales “keepers” or “Crappers” you never know. Also deciding which one to visit first and which can or should wait ‘til the end of the day are anyone’s guess as well.

I don’t need to hit them all, nor do I want to. Unfortunately, the things I look for (Commonly described as “I’ll Know it when I see it”) could be anywhere. I am most interested in the sales I refer to as “digs”, typically estate sales in old homes, which are “throughout the house”. Even these can be deceiving, honesty, like treasure, is hard to come by and many sales advertised as "Estate" ones are not. I was at a sale last weekend run by a well established estate sale service, but when I arrived at the house it was a mix of a few vintage items and then rooms and rooms of themed items, glass, dish sets, figurines and thousands of other items that were either placed or had been stored at the house. Very little seemed original to the house, thus the trip was a disappointment. I did manage to find a clue as to the business of the original owners in the garage at the bottom of a rusty toolbox.(Click for larger image)

Any item with a specialized purpose using scales, measures, or points of calibration are interesting to me. I guess finding anything that offers a peek into the inner workings of something we use every day makes me feel as though I have discovered its secret and can understand it in a way only a few others have. No, I have no desire to be the next Frank Abignale ("Catch me if you can").
But this led me to become interested in the technology of of MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) and how it was used to make checks and other documents more secure. You may have recognized this peculiar type style on one of your checks:
This calibration tool from 1958 permits the printer to be sure that the order he has fulfilled, whether for a bank, business, or individual will be properly typeset and successfully translated as it
passes through the check reading machine. As a collectible it may be worthless, though as a two-dollar curiosity I found it interesting for the brief education it provided.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Give them a light, and they'll follow it anywhere*

One of the many exciting prospects about urban prospecting, panning for nostalgia, or the many other colorful metaphors I've yet to discover, is finding something that is no longer made. The "one-of's" and rarity's that were never really special, and possibly never got the chance to hit the mainstream and be mass-produced. I have already expounded on my desire to have a visitor to this blog provide more clues to some of these mysteries so I can have closure. Hasn't happened yet, but if you don't ask...so, I'm asking.

I found this at a sale in Danbury, and it had exactly the the right requirement for my purchasing decision. I didn't know what the heck it was.

Measuring about 6.5" x 4.5" (closed) its simulated alligator case reveals a vinyl covered cardboard plate with elastic bands for holding a penlight and 3 Lucite attachments. Clearly a tool for viewing tight places. But how awkward a place are you trying to reach if one of the attachments does a 180 degree turn? The 90 degree seems practical and the one with the metal rod protruding from the end is a magnet.

But who made it?
While this should be helpful, it's not. I can't tell if the company name is C-WELL, and the product is a RED-BOY, or the product is a C-WELL and this particular model is a RED-BOY. Can't seem to find any C-WELL products on the net, sure there's a rapper named C-Well but...

I was fascinated by it because it was complete and in good condition and although old was interesting as a prop for demonstrating how light travels through a solid. This was, I thought, a possible predecessor to the fiber-optic techology prevalent in the telecommunications industry.
The cool part was that with a few batteries, it worked just fine. All I needed to find now was something lost in a tight space.

Well, I may not ever find out the the true origin of this oddity, I will sure have fun looking.
*This is a line taken from the Firesign Theater album, "Don't crush that dwarf, hand me the pliers."