Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Well I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle...


After a veritable drought of vintage finds lately, last Friday I finally struck gold!  At an estate sale near my house, I discovered a pristine vintage 1930s/1940s Colobus monkey fur coat!  It made my jaw drop!  

 
 

I have never, ever, seen a vintage monkey fur coat in person before (only pictures of very expensive ones on the internet).  It was just amazing - seriously, there are no words.  Monkey fur coats are rare and expensive.  Back in the 1930s and 1940s, when this coat was made, monkey fur was something only the very rich could afford.  That's why skunk fur (dyed all black) was often called the "poor woman's monkey."



I didn't even think - I grabbed that coat and purchased it right then and there!  The asking price wasn't even a tenth of its retail value, so I decided it was a good buy.  Sadly, when I tried the coat on after getting home, it was far too big for me.  Now, I realize that bulky coats were the style of that era, but the coat was so big that I felt rather like a little girl playing dress-up in her mother's clothing!  All I needed were the too-big shoes and string of pearls...


 

Plus, even though I have no problems with vintage fur, I don't think I would have the balls to wear an actual monkey fur coat out in public.  So, I decided I needed to sell it.  One of the problems with selling such a valuable piece is that it is difficult to "move" the item quickly - there just aren't many people out there willing to drop a grand on a coat instantaneously.  I knew the coat would eventually sell, but I just don't have the storage facilities for such a valuable piece.  I contacted a vintage clothing seller I knew up in Portland with some questions about the coat, and before I knew it, we were talking about a part cash part trade deal!  She has been looking for a monkey fur coat for ages in her size, but couldn't afford to pay full price in cash.  I wanted someone who would love and appreciate the coat, due to its AMAZING history (more on that in a minute!), and was definitely on-board with the idea of a large shopping spree at one of my favorite stores!  Still working on negotiations, but it looks like I may be taking a weekend trip to Portland next month.  Fun!


Now, about the history of the coat, and why I think it is so amazing (and why it breaks my heart to part with it): when I inspected the coat, the only issues with it were superficial (and easy to repair with some handstitching).  The biggest issue was that the stitching had come loose along the hemline, separating the lining from the pelts at the bottom of the coat.  When I looked closer, I found a handwritten ownership tag underneath the lining, which read: "This coat belongs to Ann Konar, 43482 Merril, Utica, Mich."  I had purchased the coat from the estate of the late Mrs. Likely.  Further research revealed that the mysterious Ann(a) Konar was Mrs. Likely's mother!!!  Anna was born Anna Blondel in 1910 in Yugoslavia.  I'm not sure when she emigrated to America, but she married her husband, Otto Konar, in Detroit, Michigan, in 1934.  Sometime after that, they moved to Utica.  Otto died in the 1960s, and in 1973 or 1974, Mrs. Likely moved to Oregon with her husband, and Anna came with them.  Anna and her daughter were apparently very close, and both loved gardening.  Anna passed away in 2001, at the age of 91.  Clearly, both mother and daughter treasured the coat - you can tell because it is in absolutely incredible condition for its age.  It's SO rare to find out the history of a vintage piece, let alone be able to trace its history back two generations!  For that reason alone I would keep it, but it doesn't seem fair to keep it simply to stare at it adoringly as it hangs in my closet.  It deserves to go to a loving home where it will be worn and adored.  This is why I agreed to do a trade, because I know this woman will absolutely cherish the coat.


Sometimes you find the darnedest things...

3 comments:

Susan said...

I have a monkey coat too! Mine was a gift from my husband who bought it from a Melrose Avenue vintage/antique clothes shop in Los Angeles that I used to frequent. They had the most magnificent period pieces but have long since been out of business. I have not seen another monkey coat like mine. it is collarless, about the same shape and length as yours, attaches with four furrier frogs but mine is black on top and the bottom layer is the white. If you Google "colobus monkey" you'll see the type of monkey that was used.

I loved it instantaneously when I saw it and wore it often back in the 70s. People would ask what kind of fur it was, some hostilely; some merely curious. They guessed pony, yak but never monkey, except for Cher, who passed by me one night at a restaurant and stopped to say she too had a monkey coat and loved mine.

It has been in my closet pretty much since then. It's in excellent condition and I'm only now considering selling it. If you don't mind my asking what was the price range offered to you?

Apothecary Inn said...

Salutations! Thank you for the comment! :) To answer your question, I purchased the coat for $75 at an estate sale. They did actually know what type of fur it was, but this is a poorer region, so you often find amazing deals like this. I have seen a range of retail values on vintage monkey fur coats. Seems like, in pristine condition, they go anywhere from $800-$2,000. Of course, the lower end of that price spectrum sells more quickly...

mallory haas said...

I have been looking for a money fur coat for years, if you ever run a cross one again I would be very interested in buying it. or if you know of one for sale. What a great find though !