Pin-Up Girl Glasses and Bakelite Galore: A de la Garza-Crouch Family Collection

Pin-Up Girl Glasses and Bakelite Galore: A de la Garza-Crouch Family Collection
Photos by Claire Lawton

True collectors rarely have one collection, and each member of the de la Garza-Crouch family is no exception. In fact, every time Gilda, Jeremy and their two daughters each thought they had landed on their favorites, they turned around.

Jeremy says he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't collecting something. And in the corner of the living room in a glass case is an assortment of pin-up girl memorabilia. Most of the items are from the 1940s, 50s, and early 60s -- "I don't like to collect anything that's made after '65," he says.

He spreads matchbooks, paperback novels, ashtrays and 12 ounce glasses on the counter. Gilda takes their daughters into the other room to work on a Japanese cartoon pinata for one of the girl's birthday party. (The Japanese cartoon thing is another collection.)

"I'm sure these glasses were gag gifts during their time," he says as he dusts each glass. The front side has an appliqué of a girl in a fashionably designed dress. The inside of the glass reveals the backside of the appliqué -- the same girl with a lot less clothing.

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"It was a tease, a sign of the innocence of that time," Jeremy says. "I just think they're a lot of fun."

Oh yes, a whole lot of Bakelite is after the jump ...

Gilda comes back from the toy collection and with a few stands of Bakelite bracelets and necklaces that she's collected over the years.

She says her husband has a sixth sense for knowing when there's going to be some kind of treasure at an antique store or garage sale.

Bakelite was invented in the early 1900s as a new kind of varnish for bowling alleys. It was a combination of two chemicals, carbolic acid (phenol) and formaldehyde (yes, formaldehyde). Officially, it's called polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, but it was introduced to pop american culture in the 1920s as Bakelite.

The secret to telling if it's real -- Gilda says if you rub the bracelets or necklace pendants and smell them, they should give off a scent of formaldehyde.

The Bakelite-formed jewelry is mostly collected by retro jewelry fanatics and the occasional rockabilly, Gilda says. After it was taken off the market for chemical concerns, the jewelry's value skyrocketed. Prices range from a few to a few hundred dollars, depending on the piece's opacity, shape, size and who happens to be selling it.

Fair warning: If you happen upon Gilda, Jeremy and their two daughters in an antique store or garage sale with Bakelite on display -- they're ready to put up a pretty good, yet very diplomatic fight.

We're on the hunt! If you have an unusual collection or know someone who does, leave the info in the comments section ...

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