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Lasting influence of Aunt Mary's vintage perfume bottles

It's funny how reading about an upcoming show or viewing an item coming to auction can trigger memories of early introductions to antiques and collectibles. Such was the case for Antoinette Rahn recently.

Have you ever taken a good look at perfume bottles?

I think one of my first memories involving perfume bottles came during visits with my great aunt and uncle. My parents used to play cards with them on Saturday evenings, and going to their house was

Lancome example

"Magie" and "Tresor", Lancôme, circa 1955, realized $37,200 during a past auction of the IPBA. (Photo courtesy Perfume Bottle Auctions)

a bit like stepping back in time. I believe I had an inkling of just how unique their home was at the time, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until decades later.

My Aunt Mary was a quirky character, and always seemed to have a story for just about everything in their home. That included the perfume bottles, which inevitably came into her possession by way of some unique adventure. Like the few examples of Czechoslovakian and Lalique bottles she picked up for ‘mere dollars’ at a rummage sale, because the people selling them didn’t think they were anything special. Their loss, she’d say.

Being the youngest of my family, and born to parents who were 40 and older, my childhood included experiences like flea markets, Saturday night card games, and playing pool at the local pub. Since my sisters were all young adults or teenagers by the time I came around, my folks rarely went anywhere without me. So, my ‘playgrounds’ were a bit different than those of friends my age. I think that helped cultivate my sentiments of being born an ‘old soul’; but I also think it also helped me to understand what my great aunt saw, in things that other people viewed as unimpressive.

My Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary lived on a small farm in Southcentral Wisconsin, and although they did little in the way of operating the farm by the time I came around, it was an adventurous place to visit. In one of the sheds hung dozens of old metal tools, the likes of which I had never seen. However, these days I see similar tools coming to auction, and in some cases selling for far more than my late Uncle Bob could have imagined.

The same holds true for the perfume bottles late Aunt Mary was so fond of. These memories came to mind when we recently received word of the 28th Annual Convention of the International Perfume Bottle Association. The upcoming event is scheduled for April 27 through May 1, in Portland, Oregon. In addition to an exhibition and show, there are education seminars planned, and an auction presented by Ken Leach.

Enjoy this video featuring some of the stunning perfume bottles coming to auction, during this year’s convention…

I know I am not alone in having been influenced by collectors like Aunt Mary, early on in my life. It’s a gift I try and share with younger generations now that I have a few ‘miles on my odometer’, as Aunt Mary would say. If those people who influenced your love of antiques and collectibles are around today, I encourage you to thank them for involving you in antiquing excursions, sharing their collecting tips, and providing opportunities to admire and appreciate the treasures they were drawn to. It’s an incredible gift, and one that can live on in perpetuity.