Tina McReynolds' Little Plastic Obsession


No, McReynolds isn't hot for this year's Kate Spade, nor does she obsess over Gucci, Prada or Fendi. She collects vintage box purses manufactured from the '40s to the '60s.

McReynolds pulls up to MacAlpine's Soda Fountain & Restaurant, where she sells some of her purses, holding a small oval-shaped white box purse containing her wallet and some touch-up makeup. In her trunk are seven boxes brimming with more Lucite, Bakelite and acetate purses in all shapes, sizes and colors. And that's only a small piece of her collection.

It all started with a silver metallic basketweave purse that McReynolds spotted at the now-defunct Sandra's Thrift in Phoenix. "I knew nothing about it," she says. "But whenever I like something, I start to research and look up information on it."

The curious McReynolds bought the purse and started researching its origin. It turned out to be a circa 1950's Dorset-Rex originally sold in New York.   

Now she can look at one and determine with reasonable accuracy the designer, the material and the era. Think of her like a "vintage purse savant." McReynolds became so knowledgeable about purses in part because of her vast collection, but also because she now markets and sells her vintage finds. 

"The funny thing is, I'm not a purse person!" McReynolds quips. "I'd been looking to gain business skills. So I took the purses to a new level and started a business with them."

At last count, this purse diva owned about 160-180 vintage bags -- though only about 20 were reserved for her personal use. The others are sold through MacAlpine's, her Etsy shop or online at (a private joke about her day job's ideal working hours). "I've limited myself to a cabinet. I'm cramming [them] in the cabinet and every once in a while I say well, if it fits on top of the cabinet, it's ok," she sheepishly tells New Times.

So what is the monetary value of a vintage purse? "The value is in the eye of the beholder," McReynolds says cryptically. A small acrylic purse with flaws or damage might go for $25 or $30, while some of the rare and highly decorated ones can easily fetch $600.

But for McReynolds, it's not about how much money she makes from selling her plastic friends. It's about the business experience and contacts she gained, and ultimately about the experience of owning and enjoying a fun little accessory. "It's a purse. It should be used and enjoyed, taken out on the town and danced with." 

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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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden