5 Fun Ideas for Kitschy Collections
Kitsch is a playful, poppy and specialty category of retro fun. It offers an approachable, lighthearted view into the trends and fashions of decades past. Sure, kitsch isn’t necessarily high art, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t cultural significance, aesthetic appeal, or value. If you have a love for the charm of unique objects, check out some of our favorite collectibles of vintage kitsch. This might be the perfect inspiration for your next off the wall collection.
1. Pulp Sci-Fi
The 1950s and ‘60s were an era marked with an almost obsessive focus on the future and outer space. A lot of retro kitsch focuses on themes relating to this obsession, but pulp sci-fi novels, magazines, and comic books are particularly interesting subjects for collection because they can actually be quite valuable in addition to being fun to collect. Whether you focus on high-value entries into the pulp sci-fi canon or not, the cover designs and stories inside reveal a somewhat quaint vision of the future that’s both entertaining and highly revealing from a historical perspective.
Hall Pottery Ceramic Airflow Ball Teapot, and Other Tableware, Mid-20th Century
Pyrex "Butterfly Gold" Glass Nesting Bowls, 1972–1978
Silver to Bronze Age Comics "Archie", "Richie Rich", "Eager Beaver" and Others
"Wonder Woman", "Action Comics", "Superboy" and More Comic Books
2. Salt and Pepper Shakers
The balance of utility and kitsch reach new heights with vintage salt and pepper shakers. Add a little charm and color to your kitchen or dining room with a handful of these classic collectors items or fill your hutch with a large selection. From cartoonish figures to replicas of famous landmarks in materials ranging from ceramic to plastic and glass, collectible salt and pepper shakers offer a wealth of opportunity, are often affordable, and don’t take up much space.
3. Cigarette Lighters
These days we know that smoking isn’t the harmless, glamorous activity it was portrayed as in the past, but smoking culture is inextricably linked with kitsch and vintage sensibility. Vintage cigarette lighters were often particularly inventive; they were made into decorative objects that could be kept on display on coffee tables and desks. These range from the artistic to the silly and are easy to collect and show off on shelves and tabletops. Smoking was so commonplace that lighters were also used as a means of advertisement; businesses placed their logos on lighters and matchbooks making them a souvenir for those who traveled.
4. Lunch Boxes
Whether you grew up in the 1950s or the 1990s, your lunch box was likely a way you showed off your personality in grade school. From Lone Ranger to Star Wars to The Ninja Turtles, the history of kids’ pop culture can be encapsulated with a collection that spans decades. This is a particularly fun collection for anyone who loves TV, movies or toys from the mid to late 20th century. Many lunch boxes took a beating throughout their lifetime so finding ones in good condition makes them even more collectible and valuable; finding a lunch box accompanied by the original thermos adds value as well. With their bright colors and fun designs these metal boxes fully encompass childhood nostalgia.
5. Printed Glassware
Vintage printed glassware is often one of the best ways to enjoy different motifs, emblems, and design elements from the past. Atomic Age design, retro tourism, abstract patterns, historical events, popular culture, and bright colors can also get their due exposure in this category of collectibles. Pyrex glass cookware has become widely collected and appreciated by people due to the many different printed designs the company produced over the years. Pyrex has recently reintroduced vintage patterns that you can buy new today, however collectors covet original vintage pieces. Another great way to inject printed glass into your home is through barware. With so many beautiful designs, shapes, and styles out there it’s a fun way to add some color to your space without breaking the bank. One important thing to keep in mind if you plan to serve drinks in retro glassware is that most of the printing on these glasses isn’t dishwasher safe. Even if it’s labeled as such, you still might want to wash by hand. Dishwashers and detergents are a lot more powerful now than they were even in the ’80s and ’90s.