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  • Debra Palmen

Does Your Cat Rule Your Household?

This week I’m featuring the Cats chapter from my new book Fabulous Beasts & How to Collect Them. And that’s because the time has come to introduce Tauriel, the newest member of our family.

Some of you know that we unexpectedly lost our beautiful Calypso last year. She’s the clever puss who stars in the illustrated picture book series A Cat’s Tale. I miss her terribly and don’t think that pain will ever go away.

Tauriel is Calypso’s little (half) sister. She’s a boisterous, sassy little kitten who is named after the beautiful, brave elfin warrior in the movie version of The Hobbit. She’s only eight weeks old right now, but when she’s a little older she'll join us at the Peregian Beach Market to be the marketing manager for her big sister’s books. I've included a number of shots of her here, but you'll be able to meet her in person very soon.

As a cat-lover myself, I really enjoyed researching and writing the Cats chapter for Fabulous Beasts & How to Collect Them. As the author Terry Pratchett noted, “In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” That’s certainly the case at my house.

Many people are familiar with the Egyptian’s attachment to cats. They had thirteen Goddesses represented as full or partial cats. Sekhmet and Bastet, daughters of the Sun God Ra, are the most famous.

Sekhmet saved the universe every day. She was depicted as a shapely woman with a lioness head. Each night her feline eyes gave her night vision, allowing her to see and destroy Ra’s enemies before they could slaughter him and prevent the sun from ever rising again. “Now that’s something worth worshipping”, thought the Egyptians.

Bastet wasn’t the Saviour of the Universe, but she was still kick-ass as Deliverer of Wrath to all evil doers. She also blessed the good and was the official protector of household cats. To those who cared for cats, she granted joy and pleasure, which many cat owners think she still provides today.

Book 4 of Calypso’s series A Cat’s Tale is called Curse of the Cat Mummy. It features a trip to Egypt in the 1920s, and accidentally summoning Bastet. Here’s a sneak peek of that book’s cover. We're working on it, and it’s coming soon.

The Cat Goddesses were so popular in Egypt that many women permanently wore utchats around their necks and wrists. These small cat-shaped amulets were supposed to increase fertility, with the number of kittens illustrated indicating how many children were desired.

Fast forward a few thousand years, and today cats are the world’s most popular household pet. Their images are used to sell almost everything, cute cat videos are among the most viewed internet footage, and the top-selling calendars every year are those featuring felines.

And look at that sweet little face. She's the very picture of innocence. And yet, cats' have a reputation for arrogance and superiority. Their association with evil also lingers, as is shown repeatedly in modern popular culture, particularly in movies. Consider Bond villain Dr No, and more recently Austin Powers’ nemesis Dr Evil, who both have cat companions. Not poodle companions. Even Cruella de Ville has a Persian cat, and Don Corleone plays with a kitten in the opening scenes of The Godfather. Catwoman, from the Batman saga, is not a good girl.

So cats are the sidekick of choice for movie bad guys. Why? The reason is completely practical. Modern depictions often show dogs as loyal companions and furry heroes, dragging little Timmy from the well. Even bad dogs tend to be portrayed as scamps and loveable rascals (Cujo aside).

But dogs are easily trained, while cats are not quite so keen to please. No matter how hard you try, you probably won’t get a cat to drag little Timmy from the well. So the best roles are ones where they can sit and be petted. It’s just a theory, but it rings true. To see cats truly perform, you need to dress up people to act and sing on Broadway as pretend Cats.

In terms of antique cat collectables, almost anything you can name is marketed with cat images. So putting together a high-quality vintage collection needs a narrow search focus, no matter what category you’re interested in.

Egyptian bronze cat figures from the 26th Dynasty (664-525BC) are the most commonly found of all Egyptian Dynasties. But even these are very rare, and when they’re offered they’ll cost about $10,000 at auction. It will be even more if you’re bidding against Egyptian antiquities collectors, including museums; then get ready for a battle that will end in a high number.

But most people don’t find themselves bidding against the Victoria & Albert Museum for Egyptian antiquities. And fortunately, there are plenty of cat-related antiques on offer in every type of material. For example, if you like ceramics, there’s a huge – really huge – choice of moggies. You could go mad and purchase every single thing you like, in which case it’s happy days; your home can literally be jammed full of pussycat figurines. Your only concern will be all that dusting.

Much harder to find are vintage tins with elegant cat images. Sure, there are chocolate-box kitties and if you like cutesy-cute images on old chocolate, toffee, and biscuit tins, many are available at only a few dollars each. But let’s assume you have taste, shall we? In that case, your choice is limited to almost zero. Sorry, but other than one Peak Freen tin featuring a reclining tiger – beautiful but super rare - there are exactly zero vintage tins featuring cats that are anything other than OMG-that’s-so-cute!

Okay, maybe things aren’t as extreme as “exactly zero”. But it’s close! If you own a lovely vintage tin featuring a stylish cat design you have something unusual and desirable, so take care of it. It’s probably valuable. Exactly how valuable will depend on the brand, the design, and the condition, but suffice it to say considerably more valuable than all those cutesy-cute cat tins. The only time I have seen the Peak Freen reclining tiger tin other than in photos, it sold for over $50. And it was snapped up. By me.

If you’re looking for named brands, or you want your antique cat-related collection to be carefully curated and appreciating in value, there’s a wide choice. As with all animal-related antiques and collectables, you just need to know what you’re looking at and how much you should expect to pay for it. And I can help you with that.

Fabulous Beasts & How to Collect Them (Vol 1) is now available on the website and in person from me at Collectorama Antiques Fair and Peregian Beach Market. Just in time for Christmas! In due course, I might release an electronic version, but there’s nothing like a good book in your hand, don’t you think?

Don’t forget the two benefits you receive because you’re subscribers to the Newsletter:

1. When buying directly from the author (that’s me), you receive 40% off the recommended retail price. That means it will be $20, plus $8 postage to anywhere in Australia. Just go to:

2. Because you’re a subscriber, when you buy the book you can request the image of your choice from the book, and I will email that file to you for free. This is a gift only available to Newsletter subscribers. Featured at the top of this Newsletter is the image from the Cat chapter. It will be available to buy in print for $15. But you can have the electronic file for free. Buy more than one book, and you can have more than one free file. When the book itself is only $20 it’s a pretty sweet deal, don’t you think?

If you buy now, there’s plenty of time to get it to you (or to someone as a gift) before the Christmas mail rush. But if you’d prefer to buy in person, the first time you’ll be able to do that will be at Collectorama Antiques Fair, on Saturday 5 November, and then at Peregian Beach Market on 6 November.

As long as she’s comfortable coming along, from early December you’ll be able to meet Tauriel at the Peregian Beach Market. You can inspect her sister’s beautiful books and if she selects you as a Chosen One she might even let you have a selfie with her.

Thanks for your support!

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