Q: My Levi's jeans jacket dates from the early 1980s. How do I find value and sell?

- Jack, Tucson

A: Vintage denim, especially the Levi's brand, is popular overseas, especially in Japan. Watching Japanese wholesale buyers shop a flea market for vintage denim is an amazing thing. In a wink, each can flip through racks of vintage jeans like Sherman going through Georgia.

In response to the reader's query, California entrepreneur Greg Banton, owner of www.vintagetrends.com, asked, "Two or four pockets?" He told us that, when it comes to collectible vintage denim, "I'm pretty much the world's largest dealer." His business is so big that he does not buy from individuals, only wholesalers.

Key the site to view pages of photos, prices and descriptions of just denim jackets. Then look at jeans listings. They're overwhelming. Banton also carries vintage wearables from dresses to college tees, belts, kids clothes and more.

Checking particulars of the reader's jacket, Banton ID'd it as a 2-pocket version from the 1970s. "It was the model after the Capital E," he told us. In Levi's collecting, the Capital E - or Big E, as it is alternately known - is a very big deal. Look for a stitched-in small red tag with Levi's in all caps, viewed vertically. Introduced in 1936, the original Big E lasted until 1971.

Based on the popularity of vintage 501 jeans, the company has reintroduced the Big E. But collectors demand vintage for several reasons. Read on.

Smart collectors know that collecting is full of nuances. That goes double for vintage denim, where collectors obsess about details such as single vs. double stitching, a diamond stitched accent or no, rivet placement, the shade of indigo, and if seam selvages are present. And that's just for jeans. Jackets and shirts have their own rules.

"The jacket would retail for $75 to $100," Banton added. Top dollar for a jacket is about $200.

The ultimate for denim collectors, says Banton, are 1950s "Big E, double X Levi's." Meaning, the back patch is marked XX, there are extra rivets at points of wear including hidden rivets inside the pockets, and color is a deep, grainy indigo. Price: $5,000 for a good pair.

"You can't find denim like that anymore," he said. "And the dye cannot be replicated today."

To sell, try a local vintage clothing dealer - or, better, online auction such as eBay.

FYI: Have questions about your Levi's? Consult the Levi Strauss company historian at www.levistrauss.com

Q: My mother-in-law bought this hat in 1966-67, and wonders what it is worth. It is in excellent condition.

- Kim, Richmond, Va.

A: The ladies' hat seen in an image is magenta felt with a brim and a woven ribbon. The hat appears new as today, and the color is a winner.

On the secondary market, the hat qualifies as vintage. Striking as it is, it is the round hat box, original to the hat, that gives it extra value. More than the hat, it has a vintage look about it, considering the 1950s-'60s lettering style and decorative design.

I'd shop it to local vintage clothing sellers or post it on eBay, where a similar hat plus box from the same retailer was listed at $39 when we looked. Be sure to include the box in images.


A wrought-iron solarium that sold recently at Red Baron Antiques measures 11-feet high and 13.4-feet wide. Sixteen-feet deep, the garden fancy features tempered glass and crank windows along the top. Age is indeterminate: Red Baron told us it came to them "used." Wouldn't it look wonderful in a garden setting?

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.