Antique Purse Collector's Society



How did you get started collecting antique purses?
Years ago, I was at a flea market and a man was selling an entire collection of about 200 beaded purses. This was way back in the 80's and I was fascinated with all of the varieties and their beauty. And being an antiques dealer as well, I just couldn't resist buying "the load".

How many do you have?
Boy, that's a loaded question! Talk about getting me in trouble! LOL Let's just leave it at several hundred. Of course, as a dealer, I am constantly selling as well as buying, so oftentimes I consider myself a temporary caretaker for these beautiful items. I will buy them to enjoy for a time and then pass them along to someone else to enjoy. So I am guardian to more than I actually keep for myself, although I have a few hundred in my own collection as well … those ones that really speak to me and I just can't bear to part with.

Which are your favorites and why?
My very, very favorite purse is the girl with the goat on the beach. I don't know why, exactly, but that scene just pulls at my heart strings. And a fabulous steel-beaded purse with giant bugs all over it … talk about strange! But I love it because it's so different. I tend to prefer figurals with lots of fancy jewels on the frames but any purse that I run across that I haven't seen somewhere before … and when you've been in the business for almost 30 years, that's a lot of purses! … I tend to "have to have it".

What types do you collect?
All types! I love the mesh purses as well as beaded, but only the very fine baby mesh or the finest of Dresden meshes. Mandalian lustro-pearls with lots of dangles and mosaic frames are my favorites but some of the W & D Dresdens find their way to my collection. I particularly love pastel colors … pinks and blues have always been my favorite colors so my own collection tends to reflect that.

Why do you love antique purses?
Don't laugh … but I think I must have a past life during the Titanic era because whenever I'm around ladies' items from this time period, including compacts and vanity items, I just feel like I "belong". Just holding these items gives me such a sense of familiarity and pleasure! And I love to imagine the history of each piece … who owned it? Where has it been? Who else held it? Did someone cherish it as much as I do now?

How do you display them?
In my house, I have them hanging everywhere. We have a loft off of our bedroom and I have a three-part cheval mirror from an old dress store that I have purses hanging on and above amongst antique fans (also a love of mine and another item I collect). I also have them on walls and furniture throughout the house. I have a large chest of drawers that I bought with velvet-lined drawers just to hold purses! In my store, I have several places where they are displayed … in showcases and behind a curved glass counter (you can see them behind me in my photo).

Purses in Loft - Click for Enlarged Image






You may click on images to enlargePurses Behind Curved Glass Counter in Store - Click for Enlarged Image


You may click on images to enlarge

Purses Behind Glass in Store - Click for Enlarged Image

What's the best deal you've ever gotten on one?
I'd probably have to say the collection of purses I bought back in the 80's that I mentioned above. I can't remember the exact number of purses, but I think it was something like 200 of them and the price for all of them was $450! Believe it or not, I had to think about it for a while before I bought them! Of course, they're all long gone and I ended up selling them for just a little more than I paid as purses were not the hot items they are today and none of them were the higher-end ones that I now seek out. Since my own tastes and collection advanced, I don't think I even have one left from that batch.

What's the worst deal you've ever gotten on one?
Several years ago on Ebay I bought a mesh purse that was described as "perfect, like new condition" and paid over $400 for it. When it arrived, it was about as un-perfect and un-like new that it could be! About 1/3 of the enameling was worn down to the base metal and the hinge was broken. The seller refused to take it back and after filing an insurance claim against it, I ended up losing about $300.

What do your family / friends think about your obsession?
My partner at Tri-State Antiques (Ed) and my hubby (Mike) both are supportive about it. I think my family enjoys getting to see all the pretty items, particularly my daughter Amberly. And Ed majored in art, so he appreciates them from an artistic standpoint. Let's face it … these beautiful pieces of history are works of art … of course, we already know that, don't we?

What do you do besides antique purses?
I also collect enamel guilloche ladies' items (vanity sets, compacts, etc.), antique fans, antique porcelain dolls, and tiny stuffed bears. My partner, Ed, and I run Tri-State Antique Center (since 1983), a full-time antique business which specializes in mid-century modern items as well as antiques making it a rather unique antique store. In addition to that, I do websites for about two dozen clients under my side business, CompuTrends Web Design.

Where do you live?
We live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (go Steelers!) I was born and raised here in a big family with four sisters. My husband and I were transferred to California in the 70's for his job and we loved it there. That's where our daughter was born and where I opened my first antique store back in 1977, so part of me still feels like that is home. I would love to move back out there, but since my family is all here, I would really miss them. We do have lots of fun, especially around the holidays and all the birthdays.

Tell me a little bit about your family.
My hubby and I have been married for 35 wonderful years and have a daughter, Amberly, and two sons, Bryan and Cris. Sadly, we lost our son Bryan two years ago and, although he is no longer with us here, we still feel he is one of our children, just living elsewhere. His presence is felt every day in our lives and his passing has been an incredible learning experience for our entire family. He has given us so many signs that he is still a part of our life and I have been documenting these occurrences in his Journal of Miracles on a website dedicated to his memory ( I've received emails from people all over the world who have found his site and were helped by it even though they never met us or Bryan.

We also have a house full of animals: a Yellow Lab who goes to work with me every day (Sandy), Cris' Golden Retriever (Stella), our cat Moses, and three cockatiels. When Amberly comes to visit, she brings her Papillon and her boyfriend's English Setter, so we're a regular zoo! But we love them all.

Anything else you want to say?

I would just like to take this opportunity to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the people I have met who love purses as I do. I would also like to thank those of you who have been customers of mine over the past years … being able to place my purses with people who will cherish them as I do makes me very happy. Being in the antiques business just makes it easier to feed my own obsession and allows me to enjoy collecting and owning many more of these beautiful items, even if only for a short time, than I would be able to afford otherwise. So I thank you for being a part of the Tri-State family :)

-Kat B.

For more information about the Antique Purse Collector's Society, you can visit their website for more information or email Melissa at