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Lapel whimsies, a unique category of collectible costume jewelry, have garnered a significant following. But what are “whimsies?” Simply put, they are figurals—A term that Longcraft of Thomas Long Company used to describe its various collections of figurals. The company produced dozens of whimsies or frolic pins in addition to its standard catalog of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. We will be adding these designs as time permits as an educational resource.
While not all Longcraft jewelry was marked, the company created numerous pins that were apparent reproductions of famous designs. For example, they produced pins reminiscent of Boucher’s “Ballet of Jewels,” a collection of jewelry patented in June 1949, and Coro duette designs from the 1940s.
Of the myriad of designs produced over this company’s history, one design has intrigued collectors for a long time. Collectors have used various names to describe the piece that appears as a three-dimensional picture frame or diorama. These pieces were intricately hand-wrought, hand-painted, and sometimes embellished with vibrant jewel-tone rhinestones. The “Cactus Cowboy” was one of three “Whimsy” designs mentioned in a 1948 advertisement featured in Woman’s Wear Daily. Two non-picture-framed designs in the same line included “The Drummer Boy” and “My Heart’s Calling.” In addition, an “Indian and Wigwam” design was mentioned in the advertisement but not showcased.
Carole Tanenbaum, owner of Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection, recently shared a nautical-themed example of a picture-framed lapel whimsy.
Originally, these whimsies were sold at a wholesale cost of $18.00 per dozen, indicating their affordability and popularity. However, today, a single pin from this collection can be quite valuable, ranging in price from $100 to $345 retail. While it remains unclear if Longcraft was the sole producer of these three-dimensional pins, particularly the diorama pins, the advertisements provide a starting point for identifying and appreciating these delightful and imaginative pieces.