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Antiques and Collectibles Price Guides

June 21, 2014 | Valentina Ciric | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Your collection may be valuable and in need of appraisal. The world of antiques and antique shopping is a deep one with droves of various antiques throughout the world. Aged objects with a stuning degree of craftsmanship, attention to design, a variety of marks and details...but what is it, and more importantly, what is worth? These books can help you find the information you need.


         Warman's Antiques and Collectibles 2014 Price Guide          Kovels' Price Guide 2014                    


  • Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide by Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel. Revised annually.
    Written for the average collector, Kovels is one of the more extensive price guides. It lists items in alphabetical order and cites actual asking prices. You can also view prices at, but the site does require registration.
  • Warman's Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide. Revised annually.
    More than a price guide, Warman's provides other important information about the items it lists— bit of history, collectors' clubs, auctions and resources for future research. Values are estimates based on actual prices.


Miller's Antiques and Price Guide 2014


  • Miller's Collectibles Handbook. Revised annually.
    This photograph-rich volume covers items such as: dolls, toys and games, vintage fashion, pens, sports memorabilia, advertising, character collectibles, and much more! Like Kovels, Miller's also allows you to look up pricing information at The site also requires registration.


Many factors may affect actual prices and people selling to dealers will often get prices below market value. These sources can only give you a general sense of an item's worth.

Silk Embroidered World War I Postcards

June 20, 2014 | Jessica | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

My favourite part of the Toronto Reference Library's postcard collection are its silk embroidered WW1 era postcards.

Tous Unis WW1 silk postcard

With the 100thanniversary of WW1 upon us, they are very timely reminders of earlier times. These unique postcards were sent home by soldiers to their loved ones. Instead of regular post mail, many of these WW1 silks were sent back home via military mail pouches, eliminating the need for postage stamps.

The delicate nature of silk embroidery stands in contrast to the gruesome realities of the First World War.

Greetings From France WW1 sillk postcard Forget me not WW1 silk postcard

Within TRL’s postcard collection, there is a series of embroidered postcards written to a Miss Nellie Earl of 576 Pape Ave. in Toronto. Two of these greetings were sent from France by an individual named Geo in 1918.  Geo, short for George, may have been a relative, a friend, or perhaps more.

Nellie WWI silk postcard blue diagonal overlay

Nellie WWI silk postcard blue diagonal overlay backside

Above is a third postcard addressed to Nellie, and dated May 1917, but this time signed by Reg, a soldier stationed at Witley Military Training Camp in Surrey England.  Could this be the same Nellie? It’s hard to say for sure, but we like to think so.

  A Kiss From France WW1 silk postcard with opened envelope Home sweet home WW1 silk postcard

Some of the silk postcards in our library’s collection also have pouches in front, containing either small printed greetings or handkerchiefs within them. I was excited to see these kinds of embroidered handkerchiefs featured on the popular BBC WW1 drama Crimson Field. In one particular episode, the matron of a field hospital embroidered one for a patient awaiting a court martial trial – a simple gesture which for me helped to drive home the personal nature of these kinds of artifacts.

Good luck black cat WW1 silk postcard with closed envelope

    Good luck black cat WW1 silk postcard with opened envelope

There are many websites that feature collections of WW1 silk postcards. I feel fortunate to have the chance to handle them in person at the Toronto Reference Library. If you have any interest in viewing these, or some of the other gems of our collection, please drop by the Arts Department on the 5th floor to inquire.

Want to learn more about TPL’s extensive and unique postcard collection? Below is a list of blog posts highlighting some of the other items in the Arts Department’s postcard collection:

A Kiss From France WW1 silk postcard   Home sweet home WW1 silk postcard closed
R.I.R. WW1 silk postcard with closed envelope  Happy Christmas WW1 silk postcard


Coin Price Guides and The Toronto Coin Expo

May 30, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

A man came to the Toronto Reference Library today looking for some coin price guides.  I asked him if he knew about the Toronto Coin Expo and he said yes and pulled out the auction catalogue. The Toronto Coin Expo is open to the public and is held at the Appel Salon of the Toronto Reference Library May 30 - 31th, 10-5 pm. It includes 30 dealers, various lectures and buying and selling opportunities. Admission is $6.00 for adults and children 16 and under are free with an adult. 


World Coins 1801-1900


The man was very outgoing and reminded me of my Dad.  We had a good talk about coins,  price guides available at the Library and his coin collecting past as a young teen in Rotterdam. I showed him how to use the computer and search Ebay for coins (this has some advantages over traditional reference books) and he was very pleased. 


2014 North American Coins & Prices  A guide to US, Canadian and Mexican Coins


He mentioned he's part of the North York Coin Club (there's also a Toronto Coin Club).  Like many collectors he was happy to share his passion and knowledge.





If you're interested in identifying your own coin collection then you will find many of these books useful for research and pricing.  The books below are especially useful for Canadian coins and tokens. The Canadian Numismatic Journal is a very helpful magazine about Canadian coins.


A Charlton Standard Catalogue Canadian Coins 2013 Numismatic Issues Canadian Coins Vol 2 Collector & Maple Leaf Issues

Coins of Canada by JA Haxby - Unitrade Press


Canadian Colonial Tokens - 8th Edition - W. K. Cross - Charlton Press


Coin collecting can be a very affordable and exciting hobby. Below are a couple of Canadian coins / tokens I bought for just a couple of bucks at the Sunday St Lawrence Flea Market. Individual banks and even stores could issue tokens as there were serious shortfalls of copper coins during the early 1800s.  Neither is valuable but I find them both really interesting considering they are over 150 years old!

The smaller one is from Lower Canada dated 1837. It's a half penny / un sou Province du Bas Canada "Habitant Token" from the Quebec Bank (name on ribbon - various Lower Canada banks used the same design varying their names on the ribbon). The reverse side shows the arms of the City of Montreal.    The other coin is a Quebec Bank Token from 1852 - one penny / deux sous.  One side again shows the familiar Habitant and the reverse side shows the coast of arms of Quebec City.


Canadian Tokens 1837 half penny and 1852 one penny

Canadian Tokens 1837 half penny and 1852 one penny habitant side



Annie MacDonell Performance: The Bird and the Cup

May 17, 2014 | Brent | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...



On Saturday May 31st, Artist Annie MacDonell in collaboration with Maïder Fortuné will share her findings from a month long project using the Toronto Reference Library Picture Collection. This multi-media event will take place on the new Hinton Learning Theatre on the Third Floor of Toronto Reference Library.


Part of the ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival, MacDonell's ongoing project includes a  photo-mural on the 3rd floor and a display on 5th floor. Visitors to Toronto Reference Library can see both displays change as the month progresses.


And make sure to visit Annie MacDonell performance in the new Hinton Learning Theatre on the third floor, part of the ongoing renovations at Toronto Reference Library. Here's a brief exerpt from Annie's previous collaboration with Maïder "The Dreamlife of Objects":





Toronto Reference Library has a generous supply of CONTACT catalogues to help you catch all of the exiting photography events happening throughout the month.

Contact catalogue

Annie MacDonell Performance:
The Bird and the Cup
3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.  Saturday May 31
Hinton Learning Theatre, Toronto Reference Library




Annie MacDonell at Toronto Reference Library

May 1, 2014 | Brent | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...


Artist Annie MacDonell will present a photo-installation at Toronto Reference Library throughout the month of May, in partnership with the 2014 ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival. Her exhibit "Pictures Become Objects, Objects Become Events" uses the library’s Picture Collection, a huge collection of over a million images taken from magazines, calendars, books, and other media. The images in the collection have been hand selected by library staff for almost 100 years.

During her month long residency at the library, MacDonnell will edit and recombine images from the collection to ask questions about how we organize visual knowledge.

How does the subject coverage in this collection differ from results obtained from Google Image search?

How much does the Picture Collection tell us about the building it occupies and the people who made it?  What does it tell us about the people who assembled the collection?

Is it significant that these selections were mainly done by women? 

          4735_Macdonnell_scans021_med[1]   4737_Macdonnell_scans031_med[1]

MacDonell’s installation will include a continuously changing display on the fifth floor Arts Department, and a collage mural reassembling scanned images from the collection on the third floor Business Science and Technology Department. She will be working in the Picture Collection on Monday through Friday from 10am to 3pm. At the end of the month she will present a performance with French artist Maïder Fortuné based on her experiences with the collection.  A book produced with the Library’s own Espresso Book Machine will follow.

One of the people who inspired the project was the art historian Aby Warburg who created a vast image library he called the Mnemosyne Atlas.  By selecting and recombining images, Warburg attempted to trace how certain ideas spread themselves across time and cultures.  In one way his work anticipates work by comparative religion scholars like Joseph Campbell. In another it’s like an incredible early version of Pinterest.


Warburg has been getting a lot of attention by art scholars. Here are some recent books:

           Art History as Cultural History        Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion      Memory, Metaphor

Both the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star have selected MacDonnell's exhibit as one of the CONTACT Festival's must sees. Over a thousand photographers are appearing at more than 175 venues throughout the Toronto Area. Here are just a few books on this year's featured artists:

      51k90ENHgVL._SL500_     00002021   Position As Desired

          21[1]        Cultivated View

Annie MacDonell: Pictures Become Objects, Objects Become Events

May 1-31 201

Toronto Reference Library

789 Yonge Street






Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty

April 14, 2014 | Brent | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

The Art Gallery of Ontario is presenting Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty from April 5 to July 20, 2014. The show features more than 130 artworks to examine how the trauma and isolation of the Second World War contributed to these two British artists’ work.

 Torontonians have been surrounded by Moore since the installation of The Archer at City Hall in 1966.




The Art Gallery of Ontario opened the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre in 1974 and the iconic Two Large Forms has graced the corner of Dundas and McCall for decades.

James Beechey’s excellent Picasso & Modern British Art shows how numerous British artists, including Moore and Bacon, took aspects of Picasso's work in radically different directions.

Moore Picasso

Moore’s sculpture was monumental. Bacon’s paintings looked traumatized. Moore's work is usually dark bronze or pale bone white. Bacon used peaches, blood reds and mud browns for his figures, disconcertingly played against bright candy pinks and burnt oranges. writing in the Guardian, offers some more intriguing side by side contrasts.

Mary Moore, makes a very eloquent case for her father's work in a recent feature in the Toronto Star. A brief glance at just some of the many titles Toronto Public Library has available underlines just how prolific and varied Moore's output is.


   517-hlxaAsL    Alan_cover_1    Inside Out

  A Shelter Sketchbook    Sheep Sketchbook    Textiles

But Moore’s reputation has taken some blows over the years. In his Infestation Piece (Musselled Moore) Simon Starling sank a reproduction of a Moore sculpture in Toronto Harbor, to give it a pseudo-ancient patina of lichen and zebra muscles. Opinions were sharply divided, even within the same paper, when Moore and Bacon were paired in an earlier version of this show at the University of Oxford. 

The library's books on Bacon includes a fifty year retrospective, extensive interviews, critical essays and a catalogue of his source materials:

      Five Decades      Hammer    In Conversation 


   New Studies   Studio   Incunabula

In addition, Bacon has inspired some truly remarkable film work. DV8 Physical Theatre's "Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men" uses motifs from his paintings to depict extremes of emotional dependency. "Love is the Devil", staring Derek Jacobi and a young Daniel Craig is a very dark skewering of Bacon's public persona.

       D2669-2     Dead Dreams    Devil

Terror and Beauty offers a unique opportuity to see two very important British artist side by side:







Taking Pictures of Dogs

March 28, 2014 | John Elmslie | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...

A woman came into the Reference Library last week and told me she wanted to take pictures of dogs. She was looking for inspiration.

Erwitts to the dogs

Elliot Erwitt's classic collection To The Dogs came immediately to mind.


We don't have William Wegman's Puppies at the Reference Library, but she liked the cover enough to put a hold on the book.

Wegman polaroids

We went to the shelf and found this collection of Wegman's oversized Polaroids. Are you familiar with Wegman's famous portraits of his dog Fay Ray?

Photographing dogs

On the "how to do it" shelf we found an entire book devoted to Photographing Dogs.


Back to inspirational books: The Silence of Dogs in Cars is a recent collection by Martin Usborne. Note: no dogs were left in cars longer than was necessary to take these unsurpassed pictures of pathos.


Here's another picture from The Silence of Dogs in Cars.


In Animal Farm Daniel Naudé evokes a proud and monumental mood.


 Andrew Knapp's Find Momo is playful and surprising.

Saw me

One last suggestion: Animals That Saw Me is a collection by Ed Panar of animals that, well... saw him.


Including these two sweet examples.


Inspired yet?

Need more art in your life?

February 28, 2014 | John Elmslie | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Ever feel that you've lost touch with the world of art? Here are trailers for five stunning documentaries that will help catch you up -- and the library has the DVDs.

Five reasons to get excited about art again.


Pina, DVDPina: the film and the dancers, bookPina by Win Wenders is full of thrilling dance from choreographer Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal (Wuppertal Dance Theatre).

Note: Tanztheater Wuppertal is bringing a superb piece, Kontakthof, to this years Luminato Festival in June.



Gerhard Richter Painting, DVD. If you are not familiar with the work of Gerhard Richter, this documentary will show you why you might want to become better aquanted.



The Artist is Present, DVDThe Artist is Present, book. Performance artist, Marina Abramović made herself a household name with this solo show at the Museum of Modern Art.

If you would like to see Abramović performing seven canonic performance art pieces, I recommend this fine documentary: Seven Easy Pieces, DVD.



The Eye Has to Travel, DVDThe Eye Has to Travel, book. Diana Vreeland worked at Harpers Bazaar and Vogue magazine from 1936 to 1971. Bob Colacello quotes her "She would say, You are not supposed to give people what they want, you're supposed to give them what they don't know they want yet."



Bill Cunningham New York, DVD. Independant photographer Bill Cunningham is still taking fashion pictures on the streets of New York City. Cunningham says, "You see if you don't take money they can't tell you what to do. That's the key to the whole thing."  


Art:21 Season 6, DVDArt:21, DVDs and books. If you've read this far here's an extra treat. There are now six seasons of a very enjoyable series  of mini-documentaries called Art:21. The series features some of the best known and most exciting contemporary artists as well as fascinating artists who were unknown to me.  

2014 New Music 101 junctQin Keyboard Collective

February 26, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Join us for this year's New Music 101 series with The junctQin Keyboard Collective at the Beeton Auditorium, Toronto Reference Library on Monday March 3 2014 from 7 - 8:30 pm.

This is a free event and all are welcome.


The junctQin Keyboard Collective


The members of junctQin will offer an exciting overview of their collaborative history, and the unique instrumentation they use in performance. The presentation will include score samples, and demonstrations of instruments such as music tables and punch-tapes.




The fourth annual series New Music 101: "Pushing the Boundaries of Sound and Performance" is an exciting and unique opportunity to explore new directions in contemporary music!


New Music 101 is a free public education event, presented by members of the Toronto New Music Alliance (TNMA) with the support of the Toronto Public Library.  Hosted by freelance Toronto Star music critic and active blogger John Terauds, the sessions will include engaging presentations that combine discussions, performances, and other demonstrations, in order to highlight different themes in contemporary music while also promoting local concert presenting organizations.

There are two more concerts later in March:



Read more  blog posts about New Music 101 series editions 2011, 2012 and 2013.


If you are interested in learning more about new music and all music - please visit us on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library at the Arts Department. Some of our resources are:

  • Books and journals on all aspects of music
  • 45,000 music scores (classical, popular, musical theatre) - many can be borrowed
  • Over 20,000 LPs and 21,000 CDs for in-library listening
  • Clipping files on Canadian performers and organizations
  • Collection of Toronto area concert programs
  • Free online access to streaming classical music from Naxos Music Library -thousands of recordings (library card required)
  • Arts & Culture blog at
  • Arts reference desk: 416-393-7157 or


At the Reference Library you can also read the Musicworks Magazine (3 times per year) - Canada's new music magazine dedicated to experimental music,


Naxis Music LibraryIf you haven't used Naxos Music Library yet - the Library's streaming music database - why not give it a try. It is  great way to enjoy thousands of recordings at the convenience of your home, by a mobile device (there is a Naxos app that can be easily downloaded) or at any computer with Internet that allows you to login with your valid Toronto Public Library card.


Naxos Music Library JazzAnd attention jazz lovers! Naxos Jazz is here! We have just added one more Naxos edition to the long list of online resources that the Library is subscribing for its users - listen to a comprehensive collection of jazz legends and contemporary  jazz. Includes labels such as Blue Note, EMI, Warner Jazz and Fantasy  Jazz.




Vintage Valentine's Day postcards

February 12, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

There is something a tiny bit voyeuristic in reading the messages on old postcards.

Last year I wrote a detailed blog post on vintage Valentine's Day postcards in the Toronto Public Library collection - showing two of my all time favorites - "My Heart Pants for You" and "Love in a Sausage". 

This year I share one charming image and one image with an interesting Toronto connection.

Below is a vibrantly colored postcard showing two children dressed as clowns or stock characters of pantomine and Commedia dell'Arte. 

Valentine clown

I find the back of this card as equally charming as the front. Hand written by a child in pencil: " To Franklin from Louis Hewer".   The Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City has a very handy online alphabetical list of postcard manufactuers and they tell us about the maker:

International Art Publishing Co. Ltd.   (1895-1914) New York, NY  In 1895 Wolf & Co. and the Art Lithographic Publishing Co. founded this subsidiary (International Art Publishing Co.) to take over production of their holiday and souvenir cards. Samuel Garre, the manager of the Art Lithographic Publishing Company assumed management of this new entity. They would grow into an important publisher of artist signed cards, which were printed in Germany."  They also handily show us the clear mark for the company.

Valentine clown back jpg

More disturbing is the card below mailed February 1910.  A woman in the centre of a spider's net dangling a man on a string - is she the cliche woman ensnaring a man? An odd card to mail to someone - especially to a young woman. Anonymous, we can only imagine was it sent by her beau or by a friend as a joke?  It was kept though, so I like to think it was meant well.  It was produced by the company P. Sanders of New York is done in low relief and includes glitter highlighting the hearts and the figures.


Valentine spider web


The card was mailed to Miss Hazel Pursey of 399 King Street East in Toronto.  Using the online Might's Toronto City Directory you can look this address up and in 1912 find Mrs Susan Pursey (widow of Frank) living there with her daughters, Miss Hazel Pursey (student) and Miss Laura Pursey (stenographer with Jose & Withers - Real Estate and Insurance Brokers 30 Victoria Street). 


Valentine spider postcard back


The Toronto Reference Library and North York Central Library both provide in library only online access to Using this resource we can look into the 1901 Canadian Census and find that Frank Pursey, Hazel's father, was a druggist and of English background. A Francis J. Pearce married Susan (Beale) on August 5, 1891. The family name seems to change or have spelling variants.  Hazel is listed as being born in May 15 1894. By the time of this card it looks like her father has died (see Might's directory above listing Susan as a widow) although there is no firm record of his death.

Susan Pursey was born Susan Beale in 1868 and is listed as a daughter of Francis and Mariah Beale. Francis Beale is listed as Irish born and a bricklayer although builder might be more accurate as in fact he built the buildings at 399-401 and also 403 King Street East. In 1901 and circa 1910/1912 Susan (Beale) Pursey is still living in her family's home at 399 King Street East.  Hazel Pursey is Francis Beale's granddaughter.   In Ancestry Hazel and Susan's last name is listed as Deacy but I think this is a misreading of Pursey and it's been corrected by another user.  

Still using Ancestry we can discover that at age 28 Hazel Beatrice Pursey married Frank Archibald Hamm, a landscape architect, on June 24 1924. They were both Anglican.  Interestingly her sister Laura Pursey marries at age 30 to George William Jose, 39, in 1922.  If you recall she worked for the firm Jose & Withers so she either marries her boss or her boss' son.

If you're interested in Toronto's local history or genealogy then you'll really like the Toronto City directories digitally available from 1797 to 1899.


Having finished with the people what about the history of the actual building at 399 King Street East? Come, gentle reader, let's go on an architectural journey and admire this circa 1932 photo from our digital archive (photographer Dyce Chalmers Saunders).


King St. E., E. Of Jarvis St., s. side, e. of Parliament St.


This area of King and Parliament was part of the Corktown, one of Toronto's oldest areas and home to Irish working class settlements and part of the original City of York.

This rare Georgian architectural gem is quite discreet and elegant. It was built by Francis Beale circa 1852. To the right is 399 King Street East and to the left is 401 King Street East. They were semi-detached but built as one building and not exactly symmetrical or mirror images although the whole is very balanced.  They're built neatly of red brick with yellow brick highlighting the corners decoratively. The window and door lintels are solid stone. Bricklayer/Builder Francis Beale also later built 403 King Street East - a more substantial single family building.  They were originally commercial on the ground floor and residential on the upper floor.

Just east of here is Little Trinity Church and Manse.  Attached to 399 and due south, was the Derby Tavern (torn down in the 1980s and replaced by condos).

These lands are owned by the the Anglican Little Trinity Church Community.  In recent times there they were derelict.  There were several attempts to demolish the buildings that were repeatedly refused by the City of Toronto. Recently they've been part of a revitalization plan put forward by the Church and in 2014 finally realized.

There are extensive historical and architectural notes about the building and also the restoration process in a City of Toronto staff report on it.

Here is what they looked like boarded up.  There's been extensive writing about this project by blogTO , The Grid,  and also Christopher Hume in the Toronto Star.

photo from UrbanToronto article

And here is what they look like restored - the facade was kept - but all the rest behind is completely new. They now serve Little Trinity Church as offices, meeting spaces etc - not the residential / commercial use they originally functioned as.

 toronto beale

 photo from blogto - article by Chris Bateman.

What would Hazel Pursey, who received the Valentine's card in 1910, or Francis Beale, her grandfather and the original builder, think of what happened to her home? Could she imagine her postcard would be kept, donated to the Library and given a fresh life?

I hope she had a good Valentine's Day and I hope you do as well. 

The library's blog devoted to the discovery of diverse artistic and cultural works in the library and Toronto. For more information on what the library has to offer please see our Theatre & Performing Arts page

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