Are you an antique shop browser? Do you gladly subject yourself to hours of scanning shelves and peering into a motley assortment of old, glass display cabinets in the hope of finding that certain “thing” that can be reasonably purchased and which has the potential to “make your day?”
I cannot resist perusing antique shops, those repositories of our cultural past, for any “thing” that piques my interest. That “thing” could be any item that I consider attractive, well-made, unique, historically interesting ….and not very expensive. Mostly, I come up empty-handed for my efforts, tired of seeing the same genre of knick-knacks from the 1950’s time after time (seems like all the shops have those in abundance!).
A few years ago, my luck changed in the little town of Fillmore. We were traveling along California route 126 on our way back to the San Francisco Bay Area from Southern Calif. and stopped briefly for a rest-stop. I told Linda I wanted to take a quick look around the little antique shop on the town’s main drag, one we had not visited for some time. After making my usual luckless rounds through the store, I was almost out the front door when I noticed a display of several wristwatches on mannequin hands. This display included a typical array of watches from the 1950’s and later, some with Disney themes such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. One watch caught my eye because I recognized it as an early version of Disney’s ubiquitous Mickey Mouse Watch. I asked to see it and promptly noticed the $250 price tag when the sales-lady handed it to me – considerably more than the other watch prices!
I gingerly wound the watch-stem once or twice around, but the little rotating minute dial at the bottom of the watch-face did not seem to be rotating – not good! In the process of handing it back, I fortunately noticed it was now moving, apparently needing just a slight jar to get going on such little spring tension. The watch clearly was in working order! I got pretty excited at that point.
I could see that the watch seemed completely original and without the tell-tale signs of being disassembled for repair or parts replacement. I left without buying it because of the non-trivial price. On the way home, with my wife driving, I did some research on my iPhone. I determined that $250 was half the value of a similarly nice, all-original 1933/34 Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Watch. I called the shop and asked the sales-lady more about it. She told me it was consigned by a local woman whose grandfather had bought it at the 1933 Chicago Exposition. My quickie internet research had verified that the first-ever Mickey Mouse Watch made its debut at that fair in 1933, marketed by Disney and Ingersoll. This particular early 1934 version is akin to the second printing of a first edition book – and quite scarce in nice, original condition. Furthermore, the owner confirmed my suspicions via telephone call that the watch had never needed repair and was completely original in all respects – including the cute and unique leather band.
I called back to the shop and bought it over the phone while still driving home and have enjoyed it ever since. I am a big fan of Disney, and the Mickey Mouse Watch is truly a cultural icon.
I still recall the thrill of receiving a brand-new Mickey Mouse Watch at Christmas, 1948. An old photograph shows me proudly showing off my new watch. I still have it, it works, and it seems altogether fitting that I should stumble across that related treasure on my lucky afternoon of antique sleuthing.