For a number of years, I have been detailing, repairing, and generally improving furniture pieces, because I resell furniture as one of my business ventures. Below are several tricks of the trade I have learned to redo furniture in your home. If you come across that older /antique/ or simply vintage piece of wooden furniture that has a multitude of scrapes, scratches or dings, one of the best products I have found to alleviate the situation, without refinishing the entire piece is to apply liberally a product called Liquid Gold. This product can be found at almost any hardware store, lumberyard, and many times in larger grocery stores. Liquid Gold comes as a spray on product or bulk liquid one quart cans. If you are only going to do a few pieces of furniture only every once in a while, then the spray can would probably service your needs. However if you plan to work on a lot of pieces or continually need this product, it is much more economical to buy your product in the quart size or larger canister. The product gives off a very pleasant cherry or almond odor which makes it easier to work with, and better to display after using in a home. A simple soft cloth can be used to wipe away excess spray, or to rub on the liquid form of this product. Simply pour a little bit of the liquid onto your rag and wipe directly on the affected area. Careful not to use too much of the oil , because it takes a while for it to dry up, and more product can leave a little stickiness to the surface. (Note:try a little of the Liquid Gold in a more inconspicuous spot to see it the desired finish is obtained.) Another product that has proven to be somewhat useful if Formby's Furniture Refinsher. This is a dissolve and dry reformed into a new finish type agent. The product actually melts the old finish into a liquid, stabilizes it and drys back into its original form without showing the original flaking,splitting, or cracking to the finish surface. I only use this product generally on smaller areas not an entire piece for several reasons. One reason is the simple cost of the product, the product normally comes in about a 1/2 quart size, and to do the job right can use up the entire can. This can depending on where you buy it can cost you up to twenty dollars a can. The other reason is that I have found the results may vary from surface to surface, or area to area. One side of a piece might finish out much lighter than another due to what that particular surface has been exposed to. A side which spent most of its life against the wall will have picked up less dirt, grime and/or exposure to light. This can cause various color variations from lighter to darker. Some people swear by the use of Old English. This product comes in varied shades of stain which can in many cases hide imperfections to the surfaces of the furniture. However especially on large areas, Old English does tend to leave a sticky residue which will attract dirt, and be harder to use on an everyday basis, especially on tables or chairs. In all cases be sure to allow at least 24 hours to completely allow the product used to dry. After drying, you should be able to apply polishes, or in some cases when using Old English or Formby's you can overlay with Liquid Gold. I must stress to only use any of these products in a less visible area at first to see what kind of results may be expected. By taking this simple step, you might avert having to go back and completely refinish the entire piece of furniture. In the future we will discuss various refinishing techniques and products available, but personally I try not to completely refinish any piece of furniture that does not really need it.
You have found that unique toy in your grandma's attic, or at a flea market or even garage sale. The toy appeals to you because you had one as a child, you fondly remember the toy from your childhood, you like the looks of the toy, or you want to use it as an investment. Now how do you clean this toy up safely to preserve its beauty for all to see. First thing you must decide is how much cleaning you want to do, or you feel the toy needs. If buying it for yourself, it will only matter what you personally like. However if you are buying as an investment, it would be better to do some research and find out what a collector looks for in your type of toy. Some collector's prefer the toy to have all its own original patina (which is the aging dirt, grime or discoloration). Other collectors simply want to do any cleanup themselves. Either way a rule of thumb is leave the toy alone if it is for resale value, you may hurt the value more if you try to clean it up. If the toy is going to go for your own pleasure then decide how much you want it to shine or clean up. Sometimes it is better to just wipe down the toy with a soft cloth or soft cloth and mild soap. ALWAYS use a Q-Tip with whatever soap you are using and clean the toy as a test in a spot where it cannot be seen very readily. Older tin toys can be very fickle, and can easily be damaged while cleaning. Case in point, many years ago when I first started collecting and selling, I bought some small tin Japan cigar racer toys. In my eagerness, I decided to clean them up to make the colors come out better. Using only a damp towel, I began rubbing on the front of one of the cars and lo and behold presto, the entire front lithographed color wiped off on my towel. Now I had a neat looking but colorless front on a cigar racer worth about only one quarter the original resale value. I never again cleaned a toy in an obvious place. I first test the toy so I know that I will not hurt the finish. I generally only clean toys with water, or sometimes I may use some W-D 40 on a Q-tip but once again I test FIRST! Along the same line of thought, most of the time a toy may appear to be dirty, dull, or simply dark, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Many of the pre 1960s toys were not lithographed in bright colors, the color will appear to be duller, or darker than present day toys. This is due simply to the lack of knowledge at the time on how to make a brighter color. Sometimes the duller color mixed better with the paint used to color and bind to the tin plated metal surfaces. I always suggest to new collectors, and dealers to leave the cleaning to professionals. It is easier to damage a toy trying to help it, than just leaving it alone. If you want it cleaned go to someone who knows how and ask questions. Most collectors love to expouse their own work habits and materials they use to clean their products. One other note, do not be fooled into buying over the counter cleaners even if they say they are safe for lithographed toys. If you do not know what you are doing either leave it alone, or ask for help.
People are always asking what the “hot” collectible item is at the moment. This question's answer can shift almost daily. Collecting is in itself up to each person’s own taste. Over the years many items have become hot for a few weeks, few months, even a few years. Sometimes things become popular due to their age. I subscribe to the "Mountains and Valleys" theory of collecting. I apply this theory generally to the toy collecting field but it could also be applied to other collecting fields. This theory is simply based on common sense. When an item is first sold, it is at the high point of the value of the item. After it is sold, it plummets in value either from removal from it’s original packaging (which is a whole other topic for later discussion), or simply because it becomes used, played with, or displayed. As the years go by, the value continues in a downward spiral, the speed of the fall based on several factors, including how much wear or abuse the item gets, lack of popularity, and if the original packaging is still available. Eventually the value of an item bottoms out and the price stays about the same. Depending on how popular the item was at the time of initial sale, or what event, person, or place it is based on, will determine once again how fast the value may begin to climb. Back in the mid 1980’s. the Star Wars Craze had subsided, and Star Wars toys and items could be picked up generally for very little investment. Many toys still were on the store shelves at huge discounted prices. Wholesalers were shunning any new items offered and the overstocks and unsold products were being dumped on the closeout markets. Savvy investors began acquiring these caches and putting them away. A few short years later, new Star Wars related cartoons and movies were put in the front of the public, and the popularity of the shows began a new fuel for the collector’s fires. These old stock items began rising in price, especially mint in packages and the items that were difficult to locate back when they were first introduced. Boxed Star Wars dolls, such as Bobba Fett, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia began escalating at a breathtaking pace. Dolls that had sold just a few years before at closeout prices suddenly were bringing one hundred, two hundred, or more depending on the character and the condition of the packaging. As the craze continued, the boxed items began petering out and collectors began paying huge sums fot the loose out of package dolls, toys, and items. Demand was high and the supply was somewhat limited. Dealers were scouring garage and yard sales, estates, auctions, flea markets and shows to pick up that one item to sell for a big profit. Then the fire began to cool and the prices started to level off again. Economic news dampened the collector’s ardor, and then reality set in, people had no money to buy those cute toys anymore. Thus we have a mountain (higher price), a valley (lower price), a mountain (higher price), and finally a valley once again. These highs and lows are regulated according to many different factors as I have pointed out, and there are many other things that can shake the markets up. I have always subscribed to the mantra: buy things I like, I want, and I keep, and the price becomes secondary to entire equation. The previous thoughts can be applied to almost any kind of collectible. The hot item of today could very well be the dog of tomorrow. Stop worrying about what is “hot” and concentrate more on what you personally like, and you will not go wrong.