You never know what you're going to find inside the items that you buy at places like Goodwill, thrift stores, and junk shops. I've found dollar bills in coat pockets along with much less desirable things like balled-up power towels, dusty Q-tips, wrinkled Post-it notes, and broken hairclips in bags and furniture drawers.
When I first saw this picnic basket (now housing yarn in my sewing room) in an antiques barn, I was surprised at how heavy it was when I picked it up.
I opened the lid and found that it was stuffed with an assortment of serving items, including some that were just junk--milkshake spoons from Dairy Queen, ugly plastic plates in shades of pink and beige that reminded me of Band-aids, and little plastic skewers for eating corn on the cob.
But mixed in with these destined-for-Goodwill things were two keepers--a set of vintage plastic picnic plates made by Lusterware:
And a set of eight plastic forks, two each of the same colors as the plates, still in the original cardboard package with a cellophane window:
Made by Imperial Plastics in Newark, N.J., the forks originally sold for 10 cents.
The box told me that the forks were not only handy but also washable. That got me wondering about their history. Was the box brand-new, just sitting on someone's pantry shelf--or in someone's picnic basket--waiting to be used? Or were the forks used, over and over, and then carefully washed and dried by a 1950s housewife before being returned to their cute little box?
I was also fascinated by the idea that you could actually buy just 8 forks, 2 in each color. Today, plastic cutlery seems to come mostly in gigantic plastic bags, sold at places like BJs and Sam's Club. And if you want assorted colors, you have to order the items online in individual colors and make your own assortment.
As for the original 10-cent price tag, I tracked down a similar package made by another company on an antiques website for $3. Having them in the original package carries a lot of weight.
I also found some similar plates at a shop last week, selling for $2 each.
That makes my $10 purchase of the picnic basket a really good deal.