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Planning Retirement Online

Family Treasures - Edition 5
May 2004


Family Treasures

Jill Churchill, who writes on antiques and collectables for YOURS magazine, continues her series     

Powder compacts

Remember the powder compact that your mother had on her dressing table? The big names were Coty and Houbigant, and they were in their heyday in the 1920s, when they emerged as a must-have among the Bright Young Things. 

In the Edwardian era, the powder compact, was known as a vanity case, and wasn’t something to be used by nice gels. But the Roaring Twenties changed all that.



If you have a French compact from the 20s, it could be worth 30. A British Yardley’s compact could fetch 25, especially if the original puff is still  there and not too grotty. 


Magical combinations

Bigger ‘vanities’ from the 30s had compartments for lipstick and (very chic) cigarette holders - if yours is still all in one piece you’re looking at upwards of 100.

And a silver or gold hallmark, especially if combined with enamelled decoration, should have you rushing for a proper jeweller’s valuation - check, though,  whether any coloured decoration is really enamel rather than simply lacquer: enamel looks glassy and is heavier, more easily chipped.  An enamelled compact from the 20s could reach 550. A lacquered one of the same age, maybe 50.


End of an era  (and in with the new)

Production stopped in WW2, then boomed again in the 50s, by then more likely to contain pressed or ‘cream’ powder rather than the looser stuff. Plastics came into their own and collectors prefer the earliest ones, where hinges were still metal and the plastic moulding a bit uneven: 180 is a fair price.

From the 50s on, virtually every jewellery maker and fashion house got in on the act. A silver compact by Danish silversmith Georg Jensen fetched 100 at Sotheby’s a few years ago and would be more today.

In Britain, Stratton became the big post-war brand, but they made so many that values haven’t peaked (yet). A simple Stratton might be 20, although a ‘special’ merits more: a 1977 Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee commemorative could fetch 55, an early 60s Beatles 125

Maybe a girl doesn’t  ‘go to powder her nose’ any more, but if she goes to an internet website (eg eBay) she’ll see a hundred compacts up for sale, priced in dollars as well as sterling: Americans just love to collect them. 

Previous editions:

Family Treasures - 1

Family Treasures - 2

Family Treasures - 3

Family Treasures - 4

Family Treasures - 5

For subsequent editions - see the laterlife interest index



laterlife interest

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