AN OBSESSION IS BORN- MANY PILLBOXES FOLLOWED!
On holiday in Tasmania some years ago, I purchased a sweet little pillbox in an antique store at Evandale. It was gilt, with a beautiful lid of purple, machined enamel. It cost me $40.
Soon afterwards I bought an 18th century patch box at the Victory Antiques Centre, in my village of Blackheath. I happily paid several hundred dollars for this one. I was enchanted with the enamel lid, depicting a gentleman on a wicker seat in a garden. Even better, he was reading! All my obsessions in one.
The most sought after antique enamel pillboxes (and patch boxes) are those produced in Bilston (near Wolverhampton) and Battersea (London). Collectors do need to be aware that there are counterfeits around. Here are some of my favourites;
The box with the flags and military emblems (above, far right) carries a patriotic message ; ‘May British valour conquests gain, and make our foes our friends again’. It was probably produced to commemorate Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815.
There are handy reference works on enamel boxes. My dear friend Cath found this one for me in a charity shop. Pillboxes are ideal to collect while travelling overseas. Both my partner Rob and I enjoy hunting for them as we wander around antique fairs and boot sales in the UK , or at markets throughout Europe. Here is a gilt, basket weave box with a carved ivory top showing cherubs dancing around a tree. It is Italian.
Rob found a very different enamel box in a northern French village. It cost only 5 euros and I love the unusual apple green colour. It is marked CHINA, and was clearly manufactured for the export trade.
This modern box from the Alsace region of France features a wonderful array of woods;
As my collection grew I became increasingly interested in less expensive ‘social history’ containers rather than just pillboxes Many vintage ones can be found for under $10, such as salesmen’s samples from the 1930s and 40s. I love those that still hold some of the original contents; Dunhill pipe cleaning cream, lavender polish, cream perfume, or rouge. Others are simple novelty items. Among those pictured below is a miniature first aid kit, a lady’s shaver, and a tin of French nibs.
This one is quite clever I think; a combined needle holder and screw on thimble from the 1930’s. Plus, one that is a secret container for passing messages to a lover.
Something for the music lover; a miniature harmonica;
By the way, I would love to find some pillboxes with an Australian theme. So far the only one I have was a gift from a house guest. It is a reproduction of a Bilston enamel, decorated with a view of Old Government House at Parramatta, New South Wales. Oddly enough my friend Rita found it in an English antique shop.
This is a very different one made from malachite. Purchased with my first professional speaker’s fee.
OBJECT OF MY DESIRE!
Antique Australian pillboxes are so rare. How I covet this one in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
DO YOU COLLECT ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR? LET ME KNOW IN THE BOX BELOW.