Good Guys 23rd Heartland Nationals -- Rat Fink, Rat Rods & More!

by mary July 6, 2014

Steve & I had a great time Friday, July 4 at the Good Guys hot rod & custom car show at the Iowa State Fairgrounds!  The weather was perfect -- and there were over 4200 custom cars & hot rods cruising & parked around the fairgrounds!  In fact, we had such a good time that we went back Sunday, July 6!

We've gotten especially fond of "rat rods" -- a hot rod or custom car that imitates or exaggerates the early hot rods of the 1940s - early 1960s, but generally is "unfinished".  Here are some of our favorites from this year's show. 

This first one has a Rat Fink type character for a shift.

I really like the hood ornament on this one!

This one has it's visor held on with a clothespin!

This next one has several rats both inside & outside the rat rod!

And here are 4 more we liked . . .

And this next one has a metal spider on the engine & spider webs on the wheels!

I like the flames & skull & crossbones on this one . . .

And on this one, I like the contrast between the custom painted top & grill & the rusted out rest of the rat rod!


And this next one has big bolts for really big external door hinges & an outdoor boat motor cover over the engine!

Some pretty amazing rat rods!

We also found a 1969 Mustang fastback -- which was my very first car!  My dad bought it new while I was in high school & sold it to me in 1974 when I moved to Iowa for my first post-college job.  The only difference is the color -- this one was red with black racing, while mine was maroon (& no racing stripes).  I sure do wish I still had that car!

We also saw 2 '57 Chevy trucks like ours -- one painted in the original green color.

The other one was "in process", like ours.

There's also a model car exhibit at the show -- Steve entered 2 dioramas -- the first is a reproduction he did of an old store display for Rat Fink. 

The 2nd features 2 slot cars he built -- Rat Fink in his Lotus & Mr. Gasser in his BRM.

So what does all of this have to do with jewelry??  Well, first it gave me an opportunity to wear the Rat Fink charm bracelet & earrings I made.

And, 2nd, I was able to purchase more Rat Fink charms -- a bit larger than those on the charm bracelet & earrings & in 6 different colors -- they'll be perfect for necklaces.

I also picked up 2 shirts to wear to the Good Guys & to go with my jewelry.

The Good Guys show is always one of our favorite events every summer -- and this one did not disappoint!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Chain of Fools

by mary June 25, 2014

Do you remember the Aretha Franklin song "Chain of Fools"?  The song started with  "Chain, chain, chain, (Chain, chain, chain), Chain, chain, chain, (Chain, chain, chain), Chain, chain, chain, (Chain, chain, chain), Chain of fools. 

That song kept running through my head when I picked up another big bag of vintage/scrap chain at the June Fairgrounds Flea Market.

I use a lot of vintage chain when I make jewelry & my husband keeps telling me you just can't have too much chain.  I guess I really am a fool for chain!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

June 8 Valley Junction Antique Jamboree

by mary June 18, 2014

I had a great time treasure hunting at this year's spring Valley Junction Antique Jamboree!  The weather was great -- cloudy & 60s, after rain most of the day before & in contrast to last year when it rained all through the event.

And, best of all, I found several fun things!

First, I found these really cool vintage cards!  Even though I really liked them, I walked away from them at first.  But after about 50 feet, I turned around & came back for them.  I think they will make great back-drops for jewelry!

Next, I found this great dress form.  I have one already, so again I hesitated at first & kept walking.  But this one was in great shape & a good price, so a bit later I went back & she was mine!  She's so little, I'm thinking of naming her Twiggy -- here she is modeling one of my necklaces (available on the website at

Then, I found a bag of dice -- including a great mix of colors & sizes -- as well as jumping jacks & tiddleywinks, so this time there was no hesitation!

Here's one of the charm bracelets I've made with dice -- also available on the website,

Lastly, I found this chain of silver hearts, I really like the detail on these -- can't wait to use them, perhaps on one of my steampunk pieces!

Sometimes I haven't found anything of interest at the Valley Junction Antique Jamboree, but this time I felt like I hit the jackpot! 

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Someone Else's Trash is My Treasure!

by mary June 15, 2014

Another fun find -- this time, someone else's trash becomes my treasure! 

Earlier this week, my husband Steve & I found these cool wire mesh pieces out on the curb while we were out walking our beagle, Belle. 

Steve immediately recognized their potential & starting picking them up -- there were 11 in all -- & carried them home!  Fortunately, we didn't have that far to go.

After we got home, he found some black ties to hook them together; & I tied a few of my smaller frames to them & hung a necklace & a couple bracelets in the frames.

This was only a test run, but I can tell already that they're going to work great for displaying jewelry! 

The best part of this find is that I've been looking for something like this & wasn't sure where I could find them -- turns out the best place was on the curb!


As always, thanks for reading & thanks for supporting small businesses . . .



Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Treasure Hunting at Garage Sales

by mary June 5, 2014

I love going to garage sales -- like flea markets, you never know what you'll find.  I started out today helping my mother-in-law & father-in-law with their garage sale, & picked up a couple of fun things for jewelry-making while I was there -- including this road atlas & silver knife & ladle.  I'll use pages from the road atlas for resin & silver foil frame pieces, as well as background for photos of other jewelry.  The silver pieces will work for either a necklace or bracelet.  I love the graphics on the atlas cover too, so will have to think of something fun to do with that!

On my way home, I stopped at a garage sale just around the corner; & picked up this vintage set of dominoes & another old frame for my "collection".  The dominoes will be great for necklaces & maybe a charm bracelet.  I'll use the frame to display one of my charm bracelets, & possibly as a back-drop for photos. 

I still had a little time, so checked out 2 more garage sales on the way home.  At the first, I didn't find anything for myself, but I did find 18 jello molds for a friend that makes whirleythings out of them, so picked those up for him.

Then on to my last garage sale for today -- this time, I found some vintage black beads (possibly jet, although I'm not sure), & a really cool beaded purse that I think is from the early 1900s - 1920s & possibly hand-made.  The lining is shattered, but I just loved the bead pattern!  At first, I wasn't sure I should buy it & drove away; but by the time I got a few blocks away, I knew I had to have it so I turned around & hurried back before someone else discovered what a great bag it was!

I won't use the purse for jewelry-making, although I may try using it as a back-drop for photos.  For now, it looks lovely hanging around the "neck" of one of my mannequins that is wearing a 1920s dress.

That makes a grand total of 4 garage sales today, & I found one or more fun treasures at every stop -- it doesn't get much better than that!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Another Treasure Hunt -- May 3rd Fairgrounds Flea Market

by mary May 23, 2014

As I said in a previous blog post, one of the things I love about making jewelry out of damaged vintage jewelry & other found objects is the "thrill of the hunt".  May 2014 was an especially good month for treasure hunting at flea markets -- just one day after the What Cheer flea market, the hunt took us to the flea market at the 4-H building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds flea market is held once a month on a Saturday-Sunday year-round (except for July when the fairgounds hosts the Good Guys Car Show & in August when it hosts the Iowa State Fair).  Dealers come from across the state & bring anything from Fuller Brush products to vintage toys to reference books to past-sale-date canned goods to jewelry & buttons, etc.  As with most flea markets, you never know what you're going to find there!

One of the things we especially like about the fairgrounds flea market is that it's held inside so you don't have to worry about weather (other than getting there).  Another is that there is a mix of dealers that come regularly (so you get to know who is most likely to bring "good" stuff) & those that come only once (which can result in some fun surprises!)  We try to get there early on Saturday morning & usually make 2 rounds, checking things out & visiting with the dealers we've come to know.

So . . . as we do most every day, we started our day by taking Belle (our beagle) to Friedrich's Coffee Shop to get coffee (for us) & a biscuit (for her), then dropped her off at home & set off for the Fairgrounds.

As I said, we usually try to make 2 rounds -- the first pretty quickly to scope out what people have & anything that really catches our eye & is a "must have".  Then a 2nd round to look at things more closely & check out any dealers that weren't fully set up when we went around the first time.

What we find varies from month to month -- sometimes it's just a few little things, occasionally we go home empty-handed, & sometimes we really luck out & find something really special!  This month, Steve found a couple of small cars he thought he could do something with, & I picked up some fairly good finds . . .

As I mentioned in another post, I've been keeping my eyes out for old frames to use to display my jewelry & found some nice ones at 2 different dealers. I especially like the different sizes & textures!

Another dealer had a box of old chips like you might use in a game of royal rummy -- I'm not sure yet just what I will do with them, but I'm sure I'll think of something.  Maybe some earrings or on a charm bracelet with other game pieces.

One of the dealers that regularly brings jewelry odds & ends (& often chain) came through for me again & I was able to pick up a huge bag of tangled vintage chain!  She mentioned, though, that is was getting harder & harder for them to find, so it's hard to say if I'll be able to get more at future flea markets.

My last find was a Scrabble game from the 1950s.  I love to use the old Scrabble times in charm bracelets & earrings, so I was thrilled with this.  I've picked up 3 sets now from different flea markets & garage sales, but for some letters there are only 1 or 2 tiles per set -- for example, I seem to use a lot of "C's" & "M's", & there are only 2 of each per set -- so you can't really have too many sets.

So, all in all, another successful day at the Fairgrounds Flea Market -- a good time visiting with friends & hunting for treasures & several fun finds!  Now to start sorting that chain & getting to work making jewelry!

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Treasure Hunting at What Cheer Flea Market

by mary May 18, 2014

One of the things I love about making jewelry out of broken vintage jewelry & found objects is the "thrill of the hunt" -- especially when it takes me to flea markets like the one at What Cheer, Iowa.  The What Cheer flea market is held at the county fairgrounds & draws vendors from across the midwest who bring a wide range of interesting things -- from fairly high end jewelry to furniture to boxes & boxes of "everything's a dollar" junk -- so you never know what you're going to find there!  It's held 3 times a year -- May, July & October -- & because it's mainly outside, you also never know what the weather will hold -- from snow to rain to steamy hot to dust!

Last year, we ended up only going to the July one, since there was still snow on the ground in May & in October it rained every day.  We try to get there fairly early in the morning on the first day & generally make a day of it, arriving home late in the afternoon.  We love to just walk around & poke through the boxes of odds & ends to see if there is some treasure just waiting for us to find it!

The first What Cheer flea market this year was May 2 - 4, so we dropped Belle (our beagle) off for a day of play-care & headed down around 7 a.m.  The day was fairly promising -- temps in the upper 50s/low 60s & a partly sunny/partly cloudy sky.

So . . . here's what we found . . .

One of the things I had my eyes out for were old frames -- I want to get a whole bunch of different frames & replace the pictures with material & then hang them on a metal framework to display necklaces on.  So, I was excited to find 4 frames at different dealers at good prices.  Once I have enough frames & get the framework figured out, I'll do another blog showing the final product!

Another dealer had a box of old watches.  Although I didn't really want the watches themselves, I could see a bunch of watch parts at the bottom of the box, so I asked him what he wanted for just the odds & ends -- here's what I ended up with -- can't wait to use them in one of my next resin projects!

Another dealer had a huge tray of old dice at a pretty good price -- I picked out these because they were so different from what I had at home.  After I got home, I wished I'd picked out more so I could make both a bracelet (or 2) & several pairs of earrings with different combinations!

At still another dealer, I found this key ring -- I thought it was really funky & could make a fun pendant.

I thought this space needle might be fun to display with my space-themed charm bracelets & earrings.

These last 2 finds are just for me.  The Knickerbocker bunny will join my vintage Easter decorations (while I already have 2 like him, he's a different color) -- he's a bit worse for wear -- missing his glasses (although Steve can make new ones for him) & has a slightly damaged foot (that hardly shows), but he was only $1 so I couldn't pass him up!  I'm not sure what I'll do with the fiberglass lamp shade -- but like the bunny, he was only $1 & who can pass up fiberglass!

So, that's what we found at the first What Cheer of 2014 -- overall, a great day, nice weather & several fun finds -- not bad for our first outdoor flea market for this year!

And remember, to see my jewelry, check out my website at 

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Claddagh, Celtic Symbol for Friendship

by mary August 25, 2013

One of my favorite finds is this claddagh, a celtic symbol for friendship.  I "found" it (or really, it found me), when a friend offered me "first refusal" of some vintage jewelry that she was planning to sell, and among a number of lovely pieces was the claddagh.  At the time, I'd never heard of this symbol, but I was intrigued by the beauty of the piece.  Through research on the internet, I learned that this traditional Irish symbol of love, loyalty & friendship dates back to the 17th century.  The symbol consists of 2 hands holding a heart, upon which rests a crown.  According to legend, the hands stand for trust & friendship, the heart for love, & the crown for loyalty/fidelity.  I debated for some time on how best to use the claddagh -- whether to use it in an Irish charm bracelet or make something focused on friendship.  Ultimately, I decided to make this charm bracelet celebrating friendship; in part because like a good friend, the claddaghwas a rare & treasured find.  Shown here are pictures of the vintage jewelry I purchased (including the claddagh), the claddagh by itself, and the charm bracelet I made using the claddagh & other charms & gemstones that symbolized friendship or an aspect of friendship.  The bracelet is available on my website at


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Does anybody else remember Rat Fink?

by mary June 18, 2013

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth created Rat Fink in the 1960s, supposedly as an anti-hero response to Mickey Mouse.

These charms are new old stock (NOS) produced in the 1960s by Henal Corporation of Brooklyn NY, and sold in capsules in vending and gumball machines.  These particular Rat Finks could be used as charms, or added to a ring base.

Rat Fink was very popular in the Hot Rod/Kustom Kulture scene, and was featured on t-shirts and in models created and sold by the Revell model company.  I never had a Rat Fink model as a child, but I did have a Mr. Gasser (another of Roth's weird creatures), as well as a Weird-Oh (created by Hawk Model Company, inspired by Roth creations).  I have no idea what happened to either of them, but sure wish I had them now! 

Rat Fink remains popular and is the subject of a website and an annual car show and reunion.  I found an assortment of Rat Fink charms on eBay awhile ago, and decided they made for a fun pair of earrings & a keychain.  I also used one of them as part of a 1960s themed charm bracelet.  All are available on my website at 


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Dumpster Diving Yields Treasures

by mary April 29, 2013

Another of my favorite finds was a broken chandelier that I found in a dumpster thanks to my dog, Belle. 

My husband (Steve), Belle and I were out walking to Friedrich's for coffee (for us) and a biscuit (for Belle).  I stopped at the dumpster behind the shops to make a "deposit" and saw that someone had thrown out a broken chandelier including all the beautiful crystal glass pieces!  I called over to Steve and we proceeded to strip the chandelier of all the crystal, while my imagination was racing, thinking of all the things I might be able to do with the different shapes & sizes.  Since then, I've made at least 5 necklaces from various pieces -- including the 2 most recent ones shown here.  Three have sold, but these two are on my website. 


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

About the author

Pauline's Jewelry Box was founded by Mary Nelson in 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.  I chose the name Pauline's Jewelry Box because my mother's name was Pauline & I have many fond memories of looking through jewelry box & playing with her jewelry

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