MM Mailbag

MM Mailbag: they don't make nail buffer packaging like this anymore

I received a rather intriguing inquiry from someone trying to identify an object that once belonged to his deceased aunt.  I was up a creek initially but luckily the interwebz allowed me to unravel the mystery. 

First, the object in question.  It's obviously a nail buffing stone, but beyond that I had zero information...

Kopp & Joseph Youpla nail buffing stone

Kopp & Joseph Youpla nail buffing stone box

Kopp & Joseph Youpla nail buffing stone

Kopp & Joseph Youpla nail buffing stone

...until I found this print.  I totally can't remember what search terms I typed into Google to pull this up, but I'm glad I came across it.

Kopp & Joseph nail stone ad by Alfred Boeld, ca. 1911(image from

According to the description, "Stein der Weisen" means "Philosopher's Stone".  The man on the right is turning the woman's nails into gold using this seemingly magical nail buffer.  I wasn't familiar with the lore of the Philosopher's Stone, but the stone apparently possessed alchemic properties, hence the transformation of this lady's nails into gold.  The artist for the ad was Alfred Böld; unfortunately I couldn't find any sort of official bio for him.  This site says that he worked primarily as an advertisement artist and was active till about 1926. 

Just for fun, here are the other two works of his I was able to find online. This one, also from 1911, is for something Google Translate calls "head washing powder", which I'm assuming is shampoo.  In any case it's lovely.

Alfred Böld ad, 1911
(image from

The other image was a poster from 1912 for...well, I have no idea.  Google Translate gave me the exact same words I typed in to translate.  Some kind of event or festival, I guess, since it has specific dates.

Poster by Alfred Bold, 1912
(image from

It's a shame there's not more on Böld, as I'm liking the few works by him that I could access.  To my delight there was more information available on Kopp & Joseph, which I stumbled across in this book (which honestly seems like a depressing read.)  The nail buffing stone was a quite popular item, and the company not only made cosmetic items but was also a wholesaler for them (see p. 80).

Here's a picture of their storefront in Berlin around 1927.  It's so pretty, I wish drugstores still looked like this.

Kopp & Joseph storefront, Berlin, ca. 1927
(image from

What I couldn't figure out is how a German item ended up being sold in the U.S. market and for approximately how long it was sold here.  The original ad dates from 1911, and the person inquiring informed me that his aunt was born in 1912, so the nail buffer had to have been sold in the U.S. at least through the 1930s (I highly doubt she was purchasing such an item as a child.)  At my request, the inquirer kindly unwrapped the insert that I had spotted inside the box so I could hunt for more clues.

Youpla nail buffing stone insert

This was the big break in the case, so to speak.  How an extensive history of a seemingly obscure company ended up online I don't know, but wow was I lucky it exists!  The George Borgfeldt company manufactured many things - they were particularly known for dolls and toys - but I noticed "druggist sundries" was listed among the many departments, so obviously this is the same company that produced the nail stone.  The history also says that the company was known as George Borgfeldt & Co. from 1883 through 1933, and was liquidated and changed to George Borgfeldt Corporation in 1933 and was in operation till 1961.  Given that it's listed as Geo. Borgfeldt & Co. on the inside wrapper and the date of the original German ad is 1911, I initially thought the product had to have been made between 1911 and 1933.  However, I found a 1915 U.S. patent for Geo. Borgfeldt nail items, including "enamel, polish, paste, bleach, pomade and tints for the finger-nails,"  so that means it's unlikely it was sold in the U.S. prior to 1915, as Borgfeldt would have had to secure patents and translate everything on the package into English before selling.  Additionally, the company moved to new headquarters in 1910 and stayed there until 1931. The address for this is the same as the one on the insert:  16th street and Irving Place.

Geo. Borgfeldt & Co. headquarters, ca. 1910 (image from

Given what we know about the patent date and the address, that means the particular nail buffer in the inquirer's possession was sold in the U.S. between 1915 and 1931. So my initial hunch was correct - the item dates to the early '30s.  Also, since the Borgfeldt company was primarily an importer of items outside the U.S. and Kopp & Joseph operated partially as a wholesaler, my best guess as to how this nail buffer ended up being sold in the U.S. is that Borgfeldt scoped out popular items from different countries that they could get wholesale and distributed them here with their name.

The inquirer also asked about the monetary value of the nail buffer.  Unfortunately for him, most vintage cosmetic items, no matter how cool the packaging is, don't go for much.  Sure, there are some rare and in-demand items that fetch several hundred dollars, or even artifacts that go for thousands, but generally speaking these things simply don't carry a high price tag.  I found another example of a Youpla item on e-bay which sold for a whopping $7.99. 

Vintage Youpla nail polish

I'd be curious to see how the polish actually works, since the packaging is so different than the bottle and brush we usually associate with nail polish.  In these pictures it reminds me of a pack of Lifesavers.

Vintage Youpla nail polish(images from

Based on the price of this item, but also taking into consideration the excellent condition of the nail stone, the fact that it was a best-selling item and the packaging was based on actual artwork, I estimated it could be sold for about $20-$25 for the average person browsing vintage beauty items.  If there were someone out there who is either a rabid collector of Philosopher's Stone ephemera or one who focuses exclusively on vintage nail products, it could go for slightly more, maybe high as $50.  But I know I certainly wouldn't pay more than $35 and I'm someone who truly values the historical and artistic significance of objects like these.

To conclude, I'm so glad online searches came through, especially since when I first laid eyes on the piece I had absolutely no clue what I was looking at and was sure it would be impossible to find anything.  While I wish there was more on the artist behind the packaging, I was very pleasantly surprised to come across any information on both Kopp & Joseph and the George Borgfeldt companies.  Given the difficulty I've had with other inquiries in the past (and there are still more I couldn't answer, but those are for another edition of MM Mailbag), I was so very happy to provide some pretty good details about the item.

What do you think? 





MM Mailbag: UMOs (unidentified makeup objects)

You all know how much I love getting inquiries, but boy do I hate it when I don't have an answer.  Today I thought I'd share 2 items that I couldn't identify.  First up is this vintage mirror that was found at a yard sale.  It's an interesting piece - I can't say I've seen a vintage mirror with an inset like that, or faux pearl and rhinestone grapes with gold leaves. 

Vintage makeup mirror

The little flower must be the brand emblem, but I couldn't seem to turn up anything that would point to the specific company that made it.

Vintage makeup mirror

I also can't even tell what decade this is from.  Given the rounded edges and ornate details similar to some vintage lipstick holders, I'd say it's from mid 1950's or early '60s, but I really have no idea.  Sigh.  I hate being so useless!

The second item is at least something that I could say with certainty is from the 1920s or '30s.  The person who wrote said it was her grandmother's, and it still was in the box bearing the name of the Illinois pharmacy where it was purchased. 

Vintage dance purse box

The colorful, abstract enamel piece on the front is quite striking.

Vintage dance purse/wristlet

Vintage dance purse/wristlet

Vintage dance purse/wristlet

Vintage dance purse/wristlet

Vintage dance purse/wristlet

I was able to find a couple of other compacts that looked identical (same clasp, chain, and wavy etchings) except for the design of the enamel piece on the front.  Alas, they were also unmarked.

Vintage dance purse/wristlet

Vintage dance purse/wristlet(images from

Vintage dance purse/wristlet

Vintage dance purse/wristlet(images from

These sorts of compact/bag hybrids, sometimes called "dance purses" were quite popular throughout the '20s and early '30s.  Unfortunately, without a maker's mark on this particular compact, I have no idea what company made it.  I'm always working on building the Museum's library, which includes collector guides - I think this one would have been especially useful for this inquiry, but I still haven't purchased it yet.

Can anyone help identify these?

MM Mailbag: Peggy Sage manicure oil

Let's see what we have in the ol' Makeup Museum mailbag today, shall we?  Actually this inquiry came in about 2 years ago (I know, I can't believe I'm just getting to it now) and allowed me to learn more about Peggy Sage, a brand I wasn't all that familiar with. The person who wrote didn't provide any information about where or how she acquired this vintage manicure oil, but I could tell from her email signature that she is Dutch, so that's pretty cool that I had an inquiry all the way from the Netherlands!  She did give a picture though.

Vintage Peggy Sage manicure oil

So off I went in search of information about the company and to try to find an approximate date for the oil.  Fortunately Peggy Sage is still around and has a website, where I was able to get a little history.  Peggy Sage started in 1925 in the U.S. and was one of the first beauty companies to specialize in nail care.  It soon moved to Paris and was very popular there as well.  In the 1950s it reached peak popularity, holding its own with Cutex and other similar nail care and cosmetic brands.  In 2000 the brand was revived and now has several "concept stores" throughout France and Switzerland.  I wish I could find more about Peggy Sage herself (was she even a real person?) but there was scant information about the founder.

As for the bottle of manicure oil, I'm guessing it dates from anywhere between the early '50s through the early '60s.  I looked at a plethora of ads and it looks like that bottle shape did not appear until about 1951.  Prior to that year, the ads show a more square bottle.

Peggy Sage ad, 1940
(image from

Peggy Sage ad, 1943
(image from

Peggy Sage ad, 1945
(image from

Peggy Sage ad, 1949
(image from

My theory is that a new bottle was introduced in the early '50s to distinguish the brand's new "Crystallin" finish polishes from their regular line of polishes, as the older square bottle shapes were still being used in ads.  Only ads for the Crystallin (or "Cristal", as they were known in France) polishes showed the more flared bottle.

Peggy Sage ad, 1951
(image from

Peggy Sage ad, 1952
(image from

Peggy Sage ad, 1953
(image from

Additionally, this ad from 1953 - most likely related to Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in June of that year - boasts several shades housed in the "new plume bottle", which is the same bottle shape as the manicure oil.

Peggy Sage ad, 1954
(image from

So maybe this shape was also used for the manicure oil to distinguish it from their nail polishes, or the oil was meant to be used specifically with the Crystallin polishes.  In any case, I'm not sure when the "plume" bottle shape was retired, but it was used at least until 1960, when this Australian commercial for "Fiery Pink" aired.  So dramatic!


So that is what I was able to come up with.  Do you agree with my theory?  And which bottle shape do you prefer?  I have to say I'm partial to the "plume" bottle - reminds me of a fancy flared skirt.  :)


MM Mailbag: Another Stila surprise!

Vintage Stila memorabilia

You might remember how overjoyed I was in late 2013 when a mysterious person emailed me and asked to bestow a mighty lot of Stila memorabilia.  Well, back in the spring a different mystery Stila aficionado contacted me and asked if I wanted her vintage Stila ephemera.  As with the previous donor, she refused to accept payment, even for postage, and sent me an enormous package chock full of lovely Stila cards and other goodies.  See, Stila fans are the best!!

Now that I'm done gushing about the extremely generous people who graciously donated these items, let's take an in-depth look.

Stila postcards, ca. late 1990s

Stila postcards, ca. late 1990s

Stila postcards, late 1990s/early 00s

Stila postcards, late 1990s/early 00s

Stila postcards, fall 2001 and 2002

Stila pamphlets

Stila 2001 holiday look book

Stila 2001 holiday look book

Even the outer envelope for this has an adorable illustration:

Stila 2001 holiday lookbook envelope

How adorable is this mini 3-ring binder?!

Stila mini binder

Stila mini binder

I think is from around 2003, since the "Look of the Month" palettes had some of the same illustrations and were released at Nordstrom in January 2004.  For example, the little lady below was used in the April palette.

Stila mini binder

The donor also included some pretty cool Anna Sui postcards. 

Anna Sui postcards

Anna Sui postcard

So wasn't that nice?!  Whoever sent this my way, thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my Stila-loving heart!!  I'm still in awe from the generosity.

Which is your favorite from this glorious batch of rare Stila items?  I love it all, of course, but I think I'm partial to the white postcards, which look to be very early in Stila's history...but the postcard with the girl catching pairs of rouged lips in a butterfly net is pretty spectacular too.


MM Mailbag: vintage compact identification

As you may know I occasionally receive emails from folks needing help identifying vintage makeup items.  Today's post highlights several lovely vintage compacts, pictures of which were sent to me by a woman whose grandmother had passed away and left the compacts to her.   As she would like to hold on to the compacts as keepsakes, she was curious to know more about them. 


Fortunately this inquirer also sent pictures of the compacts open and their reverse side, so for two of the three I was able to identify the company that made them based on the puff that was included.  On the left is a compact by Elmo (no, not the Sesame Street character), the middle one I wasn't sure about, and the compact on the right is by Evans.



At the time I received the inquiry, there was virtually no information available on Elmo Sales Corp., a Philadelphia-based company founded in the early 1900s, and I really had no idea what decade the compact might be from.  So you can imagine I was overjoyed to see that a comprehensive history of the company surfaced at the ever-thorough Collecting Vintage Compacts blog back in May of 2014.  The blog author included a picture of an identical compact in ivory enamel that was dated to 1941, so I'm guessing the black enameled compact is from around the same time. 

Vintage oval Elmo compact
(image from

The middle one was a bit trickier.  By sheer luck I stumbled across a similar-looking compact for sale at One King's Lane by a company called Cara Mia.  The site listed it as being from the '30s.

Cara Mia heart-shaped compact

Based on the interior of the compact, with its two compartments and diamond pattern, I have reason to believe the one in the pictures I was sent is also a Cara Mia.  However, I think it might be a little bit later, circa 1940s.

Vintage Cara Mia heart-shaped compact
(images from

As for the remaining compact, there's a wealth of information on Evans thanks again to Collecting Vintage Compacts.  However, I couldn't find any that looked identical to the one in the picture I was sent, so I had a difficult time dating it.  I found one that was sort of similar in that it had a combination of rosy copper and gold metal tones, and that one, according to the seller, is from the 1940s. 

Evans vintage compact
(image from

The person who emailed me with her inquiry, bless her, was quite grateful to get the meager information I had provided.  I wish I could have given exact dates for all and been able to say with 100% certainty that the heart-shaped compact was by Cara Mia, but even after over 6 years of running the Makeup Museum I'm still getting my feet wet in terms of vintage makeup.  :)

What do you think of these?  And do you agree with my assessments?


MM Mailbag: Makeup ad from the late '90s/early 2000s

I love getting inquiries but I hate when I let the inquirer down by not having an answer!  This one was truly a head-scratcher.  A woman emailed me explaining that she used to collect beauty ads, and sadly her house burned down and she lost the entire collection (one of my biggest fears!) She wanted to know whether I remembered one of her favorites that was lost so that she could try to track it down.  The ad description is as follows:

- Was for a fall collection in 1998, 1999, 2000, or 2001;

- Was for a drugstore company (Cover Girl, Maybelline, etc.);

- Featured a "smoky and myterious" palette, comprised of "dark greens and purples and blues, very autumnal and mystical";

- Was at least 2 pages long, possibly 3;

- In addition to the model, there was also a cat in the ad.

Unfortunately, since I didn't get into collecting until about 2004, I had no memory of this ad.  I scoured the Interwebz for hours trying every imaginable phrase in Google image search and on Pinterest.  But I know not everything is online so I thought, we'll do this the old-fashioned way.  I bought the 1999 and 2001 September issues of Allure as well as the October 1998 and 2000 issues hoping to find it.  Wouldn't it be cool if I could find the actual ad in an old magazine and send it to her to help rebuild her collection?  Alas, nothing fitting her description was in the magazines, nor in any of the earlier ones I had purchased for my failed '90s exhibition - I had kept an eye out for something fitting the description as I went through those.  The closest thing I found was this:

(image from

But that's definitely not it.  While the colors, brand and timeframe fit, there is no cat - a detail the inquirer was sure about.  She has also contacted Maybelline and Cover Girl and did not receive a response (um, nice customer service, jerks.)  I think I may have to buy issues from 2002-2004 just to check those as well. I get plenty of inquiries that most likely will turn out to be unsolvable, but I really thought that with all the information she provided and the fact that this is more recent and not from, say, the '30s, I'd have a pretty good shot at finding the ad.  That's why I'm so frustrated at not being able to unearth it.

So my last resort is to ask fellow makeup addicts:  Do any of you remember this ad and if so, can you please comment on this post or drop me an email?  I would be so happy to have this inquiry solved!


MM Mailbag: Revlon Couturine lipstick

I love when I get an inquiry to which I can actually give a solid response.  A gentleman sent in this picture he had of an old lipstick and asked if I could identify it and provide any sense of its monetary value.


I recognized it immediately as one of the Revlon Couturines doll lipsticks released between 1961 and 1963.  But which one?  The only one I recognize off the top of my head is Liz Taylor as Cleopatra, since it's pretty obvious. 


Fortunately the Revlon Couturines appear in Lips of Luxury (which I highly recommend for any beauty aficionado - check out my review here and in-person pics here.)  According to the photos in the book it's not Marilyn Monroe.


Or Ava Gardner.


So it must be one of these ladies.


Aha!  Looks like it's Jackie Kennedy (last one on the right.)


What's fascinating to me about the submitter's photo is that his doll appears to be wearing a little fur stole around her neck, whereas in the photo from the book she doesn't have one.  As for the value, Revlon Couturines can fetch a pretty hefty price.  Even though the photo is blurry, the one submitted to me looks to be in excellent condition.  And given that she has a stole, which I'm assuming is original (the original Marilyn Monroe figurine has neckwear as well, which isn't shown in the picture in Lips of Luxury), that would probably increase the value.  I think a fair asking price would be $150-$250.  At the moment I don't even see any Jackie figurines for sale. 

What do you think of these?  This post reminds me that I really need to track down at least one for the Museum - I can't believe I don't own any.  Another one (or 8) to add to the old wishlist.


MM Mailbag: Tussy Two-in-One Lipstick

A while ago I received an email from a woman whose son was playing in an abandoned lot and managed to find an old lipstick tube.  What was remarkable about it, she noted, is that it was double-ended.  She asked if I could identify it and see if it was worth anything.  Fortunately I was able to find some information and correctly identify it, although it wasn't too difficult as the brand name of Tussy was etched on one end. 


Tussy was originally owned by perfume and skincare purveyor J. Lesquendieu, which in turn was owned by Lehn & Fink starting in 1929: "Lehn & Fink, a New York based pharmaceutical company established in 1875, was mainly known for household products such as Lysol disinfectant and Pebeco toothpowder. After their purchase of Dorothy Gray, they went on to acquire Lesquendieu (which included Tussy) in 1929."

(images from and

When I was trying to guess the approximate date of this two-sided lipstick I obviously found Tussy ads to be very helpful.  I knew it wasn't any earlier than 1940, but then I was also able to rule out 1941 through 1947 by comparing the tube in the pictures sent to me to the ones in the ads.


(image from




(image from




(image from

By summer of 1948 Tussy Two in One lipsticks had made their debut, as evidenced by these newspaper ads.  Oddly enough I didn't come across any full-sized color magazine ads for these two-in-ones.  These are from May 27, 1948 and June 17, 1948, respectively.

Tussy-news-ad-may 27 1948-june-1948
(images from

Here's another ad from 1949 that better shows the lipstick and available shades.

Tussy-june 9 1949
(image from

And here's what one looks like in mint condition:

(image from

For the holiday season in 1949, Tussy expanded on the double-ended product theme and devised a lipstick and perfume tube, combining their Optimiste perfume with their lipstick of the same name.

(image from

(image from

They repeated the perfume/lipstick combination in late 1952 with their Midnight perfume and lipstick.

(image from

(image from

Interestingly, Dorothy Gray, also owned by Lehn & Fink at this point, released a similar product in 1952 with their Golden Orchid perfume on one end and a lipstick on the other, which was available in four shades.

(images from


Also in 1952, Elizabeth Arden jumped on the double-ended lipstick bandwagon with their "color-over-color" lipstick combinations.

(image from

Tussy was not the first to come up with double-ended products.  Two-sided perfume cases were quite popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, and in the 1920s a company named Ripley & Gowen came up with a "tango" compact (a compact with a lipstick or perfume case attached by a chain) that had a double-ended tube containing lipstick on one end and brow pencil on the other. 


(images from

Brow pencil appears to be an odd choice, but I'm assuming that in order to the maintain the thin, straight brows that were in style in the 20s brow pencil was a necessity - perhaps so important that R & G saw it appropriate to make it the other item besides lipstick in a two-sided case.  While others had produced double-sided products, to my knowledge Tussy was among the first companies to come up with a double-ended lipstick.  And their interest in two-sided products didn't end in the late 40s, as evidenced by their "Flipsticks" that were introduced in 1962:

(image from

With the plethora of double-ended beauty items nowadays, I think it's safe to say that Tussy was a pioneer in helping to make them a commonplace product rather than a novelty.  Getting back to the original lipstick that was submitted, I can't say it's worth very much given the condition, but it's still interesting from a beauty history perspective.  If I found it I would definitely hang onto it.

Do you use double-ended products?  I don't because I like to store everything vertically rather than horizontally and it drives me crazy that I can't see both ends!


MM Mailbag: a Stila surprise

Talk about a RAOK (random act of kindness)!  Last week a very mysterious person emailed me, saying that she had a bunch of vintage Stila memorabilia, and asked if I would like any of it.  She had no room for it anymore but hated the thought of throwing it away.  I eagerly responded that I was interested and inquired about pricing.  Not only did this marvelous mystery person say that she would give it all to me for free, she even refused reimbursement for shipping!  I was, and still am, totally stunned by this act of generosity.  And the quality and quantity of the goodies she bestowed upon the museum left me flabbergasted as well. 

Without further adieu, I introduce the Mystery Stila Lady collection!  Whoever you are, I cannot thank you enough!!

Rock the Vote postcard - on the back it had instructions for voting. 


Pamphlet (from 1999!):




This was one of my favorites - a postcard set from the 2001 fall collection.







Then there were the workbooks/product guides - I'm assuming these were for Stila employees.









You may recognize this Stila girl - she also appeared on the 2013 holiday palettes, albeit in a different outfit.






Some other great items in the bounty included a cute paper box and silver bag:




I loved everything, obviously, but my favorite item was this 2003 calendar.  It's interesting to see how it foreshadows both the 2004 Nordstrom calendar palette collection and the more recent travel palette series.














You may have been wondering where the month of June was.  I had to save the best for last.  Behold, a Stila mermaid!


My mermaid obsession knows no bounds, so I got heart palpitations when I saw this!  Plus, it may be proof that I'm not completely senile in remembering a long-lost Stila paint can that was created in honor of their counters opening in Copenhagen, which I discussed in my post on mermaids in cosmetics ads and packaging.  I said that I could have sworn the mermaid was blonde, and here she is!  I'm almost positive now that paint can existed and this was the same mermaid used.

Which of these images from the very generous Mystery Stila Lady collection is your favorite?  I still can't believe she donated all of this!!  I'm both a collector and Stila fanatic, so naturally this is awesome, but what's more is that the Stila girls were what got me collecting makeup in the first place so having these really means a lot.


MM Mailbag: vintage peacock compact

It's rare, but occasionally I do get inquiries from people who have stumbled across a vintage item, asking me to identify it and give an idea of what it might be worth.  Sometimes I can give a definitive answer, sometimes I can't.  Anyway, I thought I'd dig through my inbox and share one of these items with my readers (all 2 of you, ha) from time to time.  Today I bring you a very pretty green and gold filigree vintage compact with a peacock on it that, unfortunately, I'm still not able to identify.  The person who emailed me with these pictures said it belonged to her great-grandmother, who in her words was a "well-situated lady", so she thinks it may be more high-end (Elizabeth Arden or Estée Lauder). 

I have searched everywhere and can't find a compact that had this same peacock on it.


Many other compacts have a similar inner lid mechanism, but that particular clasp and notch seem to be unique.


To my eye, those details most closely resemble Kigu - a London-based company with roots in Budapest.  (You can read Kigu's history here.)  Here are some examples of this brand's compacts:


(images from

I can't say for sure though, without seeing the top of the inner lid and the bottom of the compact - these may provide additional clues.  There's also the matter of what looks to be a little knob on the upper left of the inside of the lid to help keep it closed:


None of the Kigus I've seen have that.  I've also looked through the catalogs and archives at the Kigu website, and there was no peacock compact. 

Since I really can't say for sure what this is, I'll throw it out to you:  does anyone recognize this compact and know for sure the company that made it?  I'm so curious and would love to have an answer!  I suppose I could submit the pictures to Kigu and see if it's one of theirs.