What Is It? November 2014


We only had one correct answer to November’s What Is It. Our reliable guesser Charles Pheasant properly identified the object as a lady’s evening bag circa 1920’s. He added, “Hard to tell about scale, but my guess is small. Suitable for a lipstick and a derringer.”

This item is a purse! This tiny party bag is of the 1920s era. It is made of silk covered with tinted ostrich feathers. Pretty fancy. The purse could hold lit- tle more than a compact.

In 1978, at an auction in Massachusetts, seven small handbags—needlework purses and pocketbooks— dating from the 18th and early 19th Centuries were sold for $1,100. Some of these purses measured only a few inches across. The price paid for them is an indication of the rarity of early American handbags. Fortunately for collectors, however, the prices paid for some of the more common handbags, while increasing, have not yet soared into the four-figure range.

Congratulations, Charles, you have won a year’s subscription to The Moun- tain States Collector.

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