FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve heard about faked compacts. What are these?
Please beware of compacts with colourful plaques applied to the lid. You may see compacts with “pin-up” girl images on the lid. These “girlie” pictures are on plaques applied to the lid and are likely to have been added at a much later date to boost the value of an otherwise plain compact. Often the compacts are silver or otherwise plain gold-tone. Inspect any compacts with applied decorations. Original applied decorations would have been firmly riveted to the lid and not glued and no company made compacts with plaques showing “pin-up” girls. Such plaques are NOT original to the compact, so for a collector the compact is de-valued. We strongly advise you NOT to buy them.
I have an old powder compact. What is it worth?
The British Compact Collectors’ Society (BCCS) cannot give valuations. It goes beyond the responsibility of a Society, so please don’t ask us.
However, there are a number of things to keep in mind when looking at your powder compact:
Is it made of precious metal? Gold and silver items require specialist valuations, as the metal alone has a market value, irrespective of the workmanship. Take your item to a reputable jeweller or auctioneer.
The majority of compacts are made of base metal and some brands, such as Elgin American, Stratton and Kigu were in business for many years and made thousands of compacts, so most compacts are unlikely to be unique items.
The condition of a compact always affects its value. Has it ever been used? Does it have its original box? Is the enamel or is the mirror scratched or marked? These things are often of importance to collectors, although many of us don’t mind some damage if the item adds interest to our collections.
Value depends on trends among collectors, but certain types of compacts excite collectors. These may include compacts with a strong style that defines their era of manufacture. For example, compacts from the 1930s in the Art Deco style are highly collectable. Novelty compacts such as Kigu’s “Flying Saucer”, Pygmalion’s “Piano”, Coty’s “Sleigh Bells” and the rare Elgin American’s “Bird-in-Hand” will be desirable to a collector.
Current market values may be guided by following prices achieved on eBay or other auction websites. But beware that items may be undersold or sold above expectations in any auction.
Certain compact reference books give guide prices, for example, the book by BCCS founder Juliette Edwards, which you will find on the Link to BOOKS. Remember that these prices are for the year of publication and may not now be applicable.
There is no substitute for gradually learning about compacts and meeting other collectors through the British Compact Collectors’ Society.
I have an old powder compact. How do I start a collection?
Welcome to the fun of compact collecting! First of all, if you are not already a member, please consider joining the BCCS, as then you will have full access to this website, receive 3 informative newsletters each year and opportunities to meet other collectors through local groups and our annual Convention.
Give a little thought to what you like about your old powder compact. Do you love it just because it’s so pretty? Does it fill you with nostalgia for an earlier era? Does it have some sort of unusual mechanism for dispensing powder that really intrigues you?
We all have our own likes and dislikes and there are compacts to collect that suit a variety of tastes and interests. Many of us may always buy whatever takes our fancy, but some collectors like to specialise in a particular period, such as the 1930s, or a particular manufacturer. Compacts with novel mechanisms can be very intriguing to collect. Does your compact appeal because of other interests you may have, such as fashion, royal or military history, art, travel, bird watching, ballet? Such interests may inspire you to collect on a theme.
Where do I find compacts?
Once you start looking you will find them! Many collectors like to search local antiques and collectables’ fairs or on-line auctions such as eBay. If you are lucky you might find compacts in charity shops or car boot fairs. Some BCCS members meet in local groups to buy, sell and swop compacts and our dealer members have wonderful items for sale at our Annual Conventions.
How do I clean my compact?
The main rule is never let water anywhere near a powder compact!
Don’t use metal polish! Metal polish, including silver polish, will ruin the lacquer that protects the finish of most powder compacts!
If, and only if, you are sure your compact is made of silver, then a special silver polish may be used with care following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Brush out old loose powder with a small, soft, dry brush. Don’t remove pans of solid powder, as these are often integral to early compacts.
An idea found to be helpful is to obtain some damaged compacts and try out different cleaning methods on them. Then there is no risk of a special compact being spoilt.
Powder Compacts: A Collector's Guide by Juliette Edwards (see the Link to BOOKS) contains more advice on cleaning compacts safely.
I would like a replacement sifter for my old compact
It is important when collecting to maintain the integrity of the original, so replacing old with new is not recommended. If you want to use one of your vintage compacts, then some retailers of modern Stratton compacts sell a size of sifter (and replacement puffs), which may fit the dimensions of certain older compacts
Is it possible to replace the mirror in my old compact?
It is very difficult to obtain mirror glass in the UK which is thin enough to fit into compacts. Using thicker glass can cause the compact to bend. It is also difficult with compacts with frames round the mirror to remove and replace the frame without damaging it. Follow the Link to REPAIRS and there may be help on hand, although the BCCS is not responsible for links to external websites. The best solution would be not to buy a compact with a broken or missing mirror, unless it is important for your collection even in its damaged state.
Are there display stands suitable for compacts?
Some of the larger antique fairs have stalls selling small display stands suitable for compacts and similar stands may be found in shops selling picture frames and framed pictures. You may find some for sale on eBay. BCCS members are able to buy small wire stands as part of a selection of merchandise available to members.