There’s no denying that I have a love of hyperbole, but J’Antiques in Tokyo is definitely one the of the top vintage stores in the world if not the greatest. Just look at the photos — no exxageration needed. This past summer I met the owners (and took their photos) at Brimfield and later when I was making my travel plans to Tokyo I knew I had to make the trip over to Nakameguro to see the store. Needless to say, It was worth the trip. I even lucked out that co-owner Hitoshi Uchida (the gent pictured below) was around to chat and he was kind enough to let me take photos of the store.
Part of me thinks Etsy was deliberately designed to repel men. I know reading that must make the Etsy people cringe, but you have to agree that it is not the most “rugged” of places. With all of that said, I clean up over there on vintage stuff. Everything pictured here I bought in the last two weeks. It’s like fishing with dynamite over there.
All of this Etsy shopping makes me realize what a shit show eBay can be. Everyone is trying to snipe you on eBay and if you do happen to win you get ripped off on the shipping. It definitely still has an amazing power to deliver you anything you could possibly want at anytime, but the bay sure ain’t what it used to be.
One of my early collectable items were war ration books from WWII. During the war, the U.S. government set up roughly 8000 war ration boards to control the consumption of strategic materials like gasoline, rubber, sugar, meat, butter and so on. The ration boards issued every family ration books to ensure equality and control those crucial items. It is those types of civilian war time ephemera that has long been a source of interest and intrigue for me. In college I took a lot of classes centered around the second world war and the home front was frequently discussed. V-Mail was another favorite WWII collectable. I still have deadstock boxes of V-Mail forms that I own to this day. For my most recent birthday my grandmother (knowing of my interest in old WWII stuff) sent me an old leather war ration envelope that she found. The soft leather envelope is still embossed with the initials “J.B.S” in gold lettering and fits two ration books perfectly. Sort of a funny thing to use, a leather ration envelope. It makes you think that during those days the war was not a short term thing and government rationing was a real part of daily life.
Tucked at the end of Extra Place — an alley off of Bowery — sits New York’s coolest new shop Extra. If you don’t take care and pay special attention the shop can be difficult to find, but it is certainly worth it. To be honest, when I saw the address for the first time I didn’t even think it was in Manhattan. The shop’s proprietor is a very nice man named Koji Kusakabe who’s a long time (and much respected) vintage hunter. This fact becomes very obvious when you step foot in the modest space and see all of the treasures that are on offer. In addition to a whole host of vintage gems and collectibles, Koji stocks new goods from Engineered Garments and Post Overalls. The man has a knack for vintage and workwear, it’s a beautiful thing.
Last week during my visit to Terrapin / Stationers Engraving & Printing Co. I had a chance to watch the engraving process first hand — something truly amazing to see in person. It was equally amazing to take a trip back in time via the Terrapin archive. The company has 50+ years of old business cards, stationery and other printed goods sitting around. The good news is, they didn’t mind letting me look through it.
This was my prize acquisition from this year’s Brimfield show — a U.S. Army field desk. I have seen a few of these (and some of the larger versions) around on the internet, but never in real life and never at a reasonable price. The markings on the side seem to indicate that this mobile desk — which was most likely used for a clerk — was probably issued for the Korean War and not WWII. All of the drawers are intact and there is a perfect place for your typewriter, pen / pencils, paper and other supplies. All of the wood is original and worn-in nicely. The leather carry handles are even in pretty good shape. This desk is definitely something I have wanted forever and something I will own for a long time to come.
A few friends and I are up in Brimfield, Mass. this week for the massive antique / flea market and the potential purchases are everywhere. I was amazed at all of the industrial salvage everywhere. That sort of interior aesthetic is going at full speed. Below are some of the things I saw on our relatively short first day. Americana overload — great stuff.