Carmel Magazine

CM Winter 2016 Issue

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C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 6 89 found outside of private collections. The most impeccably designed piece in my collection was a bronze finish Japanese Oni. The definition of Oni is "imps rather than demons." They have short horns and fangs or short canine teeth. Its head opens backward, revealing the space to hold the matches. The striker is on the bottom. In one hand the Oni holds a small bird, while behind his back a gnarled foot appears. This piece is now valued at $500. The matchsafes began with the explosion of the smoking culture in the mid 1800s. Since those early matches were easily combustible and prone to ignite when rubbing up against one another, special pocket containers with snap-shut covers were designed to house the matches safely. By the turn of the century, it became permissible for women to smoke in public, so match safes designed for this expanding new market reflected more refined elegance. Some of the first match safes were made out of tin and held a cellu- loid panel displaying an adver tisement, a political statement or an image commemorating a world fair. Some manufacturers produced these safes with dual purposes. Since the match safe catered to every segment of society, from nobility on down to the ordinary workingman, the materials ranged from the fabu- lously elegant gold, silver, tortoise, horn and enamel to the simple base met- als of tin and brass or celluloid. Plainly etched silver vestas can still be found for under $100. The inlaid enamels, particularly with sporting dogs, go anywhere from $250-350, the figurals fetch $250-500, while match safes designed by Tiffany, Gorham or Fabergé are priceless. There's passion in collecting. What started with that $5 find, ended with a $500 rare 'Oni.' While my match safe collection has been dispersed over the years into private collections, I have moved on. Time passes and the quest for something different will tug at our heartstrings. As of late, rare books, jeweled dog collars and surfboards are talking to me now. Thank goodness I no longer have an underwear drawer. Marjorie Snow is a writer and photographer with a vast knowledge of antiques and their history. Snow was the owner of Terra Cotta in Las Vegas, an exclusive architectural vintage gallery, which was featured in numerous West Coast magazines. Japanese "oni" are described as imps (sometimes demons) with pointed teeth. This bronze figural match safe features an oni. The case, which has a hinged opening at the head to remove the matches, is very rare and valued at $500.

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