Dear Helaine and Joe:
My mother purchased this purse many years ago. A label is stitched on the interior pocket, which reads “Designed by Lily-Bet” and “sold at beach resorts, Filbert Imports of the Palm Beaches.” Does the purse have sufficient value to sell, or should I gift it to my niece?
Dear J. S.:
In the not-too-distant past, collectors eagerly sought out handbags made from such materials as Lucite, and hand-painted beach bags were popular. And right now, when some vintage handbags made by Prada, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Burberry, Givenchy, Judith Leiber or Valentino come up for sale, they can bring prices in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Lily-Bet handbags are really a Florida phenomenon. The enterprise was part of Filbert Imports of Palm Beach, Fla., and they are thought to have purchased plain, undecorated purses from Stylecraft Miami, JR Florida and other foreign and domestic sources.
Lily-Bet took the plain bags and embellished them in a variety of methods that included hand-painting and appliques. Some of the bags decorated by the Lily-Bet work force — who have been likened to the china painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — were Lucite, some were made from vinyl and some were a combination of both materials, such as a vinyl body with a Lucite handle.
The Lily-Bet example in today’s question appears to have a vinyl-covered body with a brown tortoiseshell Lucite handle. The vinyl purses tended to be white, frosted white or black. Other than box bags like this one, Lily-Bet produced clutch bags, totes and some that looked like briefcases with handles.
J. S.’s box purse appears to be lined with a madras or perhaps paisley-esque material that is reminiscent of the late 1950s/early ’60s. The cream/yellow roses with green leaves are boldly painted. It’s the sort of bag a fashionable lady might have carried while visiting a Florida resort on that state’s east coast (the bags were also sold in the resort areas of Clearwater and Sarasota on Florida’s west coast).
The inset mirror affixed to the top of the bag has a wire twist surround that is both a tad exotic to match the lining, and rather attractive. The pocket might once have held a comb or a face powder compact. Beach bags, as they are sometimes called, have fallen in value rather dramatically in the past decade or so.
At one time the piece would have retailed in the $225 to $275 range, but there are now so many of these available for sale on the internet and elsewhere that prices have fallen considerably. Right now the range in value on a bag such as this is in the neighborhood of $25 to $75. Negative factors that impact the value are stains, signs of wear and odors that unpleasantly remind the nose of a house full of felines.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.
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