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  • Debra Palmen

The 3 Most Popular Vintage Birds

Can you guess the three top sellers of vintage bird images for us? Perhaps your favourite bird is one of them. They’re peacocks, flamingos, and owls. People really love vintage images of these birds.

For that reason, and because I also like each of these birds, I researched all three to see if they were suitable candidates for inclusion in my book series Fabulous Beasts & How to Collect Them.

To make the cut, a real or mythical creature must have an interesting social history (that is, their history with humanity), and a good range of high-quality vintage and antique collectables.

Fortunately, all three were suitable, so flamingos and owls will feature in Volume 2, but Volume 1 includes a peacocks chapter. It includes a bunch of interesting, sometimes bizarre, and often amusing stories about how different cultures have incorporated peacocks into their myths and legends.

For example, before Alexander the Great, peacocks were unknown to the Greeks. Aristotle, Alexander’s tutor, referred to them as “the Persian bird”. But once they were familiar with them, the Greeks embraced peacocks into their mythology and linked them with the goddess Hera.

The main Greek legend involving peacocks goes like this:

  • Zeus, King of the Gods and Hera’s faithless husband, showed an amorous interest in the lovely mortal woman Io. So Hera turned Io into a cow. As you would.

  • Hera instructed her servant Argus, the hundred-eyed giant, to guard Io so she would forever remain a cow. And not a very attractive cow. A downright ugly cow.

  • Zeus had Argus killed, to free Io from a life of bovine tranquillity.

  • Hera was distraught. To commemorate her faithful servant she took Argus’ hundred eyes and preserved them in peacocks’ tails, where they immediately developed the power to see the past, present, and future.

  • From then on, Hera always had peacocks pull her chariot. This not only looked cool, it had the added advantage of protecting her from her enemies because the birds had all-seeing knowledge to forewarn her of danger.

There are many odd stories from around the world that incorporate peacocks, but that Greek myth is a particular favourite of mine.

If you’re someone who collects vintage peacock-related pieces and think you have everything, what about this: in a more genteel era, ceramic place markers were used when people held dinner parties and being placed below the salt in the seating plan was social death. The earliest place markers featuring peacocks date to the late 1700s. They’re very beautiful but expensive, starting at around $500 each.

Fortunately, there are many other really nice pieces, from art, to glass to fabric to metalware, that are available at far more accessible prices. You just need to know what you’re looking at and how much you should be paying. And I can help you with that.

My good news this week is that Fabulous Beasts & How to Collect Them (Vol 1) has been printed and copies are on their way to me right now. Just in time for Christmas!

As subscribers to the Newsletter, don’t forget the two benefits you’ll receive if you order a book from me on the website, or buy in person at Peregian Beach Market or Collectorama Antiques Fair:

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 to this Newsletter, when you buy the book you can request the image of your choice from the book, and receive it for free. This is an offer only for Newsletter subscribers. Naturally, featured today is the image from the Peacocks 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 ask for more than one free file. When the book itself is only $20 it’s a pretty sweet deal, don’t you think?

Pre-orders are open now if you like to buy from the website. There's plenty of time to get it to you (or to someone you love as a gift) before the Christmas mail rush. If you would prefer to buy in person, the first opportunity will be at the next Collectorama Antiques Fair, on Saturday 5 November and then at Peregian Beach Market on Sunday 6 November.

Thanks for your support!

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