22 February 2016

Guest Post - What Should We Consider a Vintage Filofax? - Alan

Thank you to Alan for writing this excellent post on the subject of 'Vintage Filofax' organisers. Several times I have tried to get people to set some definitive guidelines on what should be considered Vintage and what isn't. 

There is a Facebook group for the discussion of Vintage Filofax models, and a couple of times each year, the question of what constitutes a “vintage” Filofax comes up.  The group description says, “For users, collectors and appreciators of the "Golden Age" of Filofax, the 1980s and early 1990s when they were hand made in England from the best quality materials to a quality not a price.” 
In past discussions, people have proposed a number of “vintage” criteria or borderlines:

Some specific number of years, such as 20 or 25 – This embodies one dimension of the context of the word “vintage” – age – and it is dynamic, in that more models would start to be considered vintage, as time passes.

Made in England – In 1991, Filofax started to move a lot of its production off-shore and “Made in England” was either dropped or replaced by “The British Filofax System” in models destined for the U.S. This would omit a number of high-quality, harder to find classics such as the Ascot, Connaught and Dorchester, all made in the U.S. Obviously, no one would want to include the recent “Original” model which Filofax trumpeted as returning to U.K. manufacturing.  

Ring protectors – One feature of some older, classic Filofax binders (Winchester, Carmarthen, Grosvenor) was the presence of ring protectors.  However, many models produced in this era did not have them, such as the Argyle (2CLF), Buckingham  (2MLF, 2HLF, etc.), Durham (0CLF) and Gloucester (6CLF).  Furthermore, quite a few models after the Winchester era have had them, such as the Eton.  Ring protectors are an element of quality, but not an indicator of vintageness. 

Name stamped or embossed – Another change that happened at some point in the early 1990s was the appearance of model names stamped or embossed, usually inside the cover.  Names had existed for years, but during the Winchester era, only model codes were stamped or embossed.  Early production of the Sherwood and Lincoln models did not have their names anywhere in the binders, but at some point, the names appeared.  

Filofax “f” logo on the spine – at some point during the Winchester era, the Filofax trademark “f” started to appear on the spine. 

Stamping on the ring cover-plate – Older Filofax have plain ring cover-plates.  Some are stamped with “fILOFAX” and others, the “f” logo.

Alphanumeric codes – At one point, all Filofax models had alphanumeric model codes, which I have referred to liberally so far. I have been referring to this time as the Winchester era.  Winchesters continued to be made as late as 1993, after most production had been moved out of England, after cheaper models such as the Windsor and Lincoln had gone into production, after names had started to be embossed or stamped in the binders, and after the “f” logo had appeared on spines and cover-plates.  

Clearly, it is difficult, if not impossible, to delineate a specific point between vintage and non-vintage.
In my view, a vintage Filofax needs at least two of four characteristics:  1. Quality, 2. Age, 3. Rarity or uniqueness, and 4. Historical Significance.  I have leather-cloth storage binders (0L 7/8) bought relatively inexpensively in the Filofax shop in 1986, which I consider vintage, based on age and historical significance.  The Grace Scurr Anniversary Duplex is vintage, likely on all four factors, although “age” – it was produced in 1996 – would depend on whether you chose 20 or 25 years as the criterion.  I have no problem discussing Ascots, Connaughts, and Dorchesters, in the Vintage group as they are high quality items, somewhat rare, and some might argue, historically significant, despite their scandalously recent vintage, being from the second half of the 1990s. While they date back as far as 25 years and were initially made in England and did not have the model name stamped in them, I do not consider the Lincoln to be a vintage model as it was cheaply made, are not very scarce, and their only historical significance could be a new low for the quality of leather binders.

How do you define vintage when it comes to Filofax?

24 comments:

  1. So nice to see someone else use the word 'criterion'!

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    1. That year of Latin in high school paid off!

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  2. Alan,

    Very good and thoughtful overview and lots of good info about Filofax.

    As for the issue of defining vintage Filofaxes, I can see that this can easily become a very complicated one.

    When I looked up the word 'vintage' at Merriam-Webster dictionary online, two of the definitions listed think could apply and are relatively simple ideas:



    —used to describe something that is not new but that is valued because of its good condition, attractive design, etc.

    —used to describe something that has the best qualities or characteristics of the things made or done by a particular person, organization, etc.

    Question is who becomes the arbiter of the criteria as applied to specific FF models.

    The more I think about this the more I think this could easily be a quagmire if you want to try and nail this down very specifically.....

    Could have some very lively discussion about it I'm sure......

    Sorry I can be of more help...

    Mark

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    1. I'm contemplating a perceptual map graph with age on one dimension and quality on the second, which might help sort out this question a bit.

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  3. Excellent post Alan, thank you. I agree on your perception of what constitutes 'vintage'. I have a number of Winchesters, I think the only weak point to them was the popper cover frequently comes off. I would have to include some of the B-5 desk fax as vintage also, tho I 'm not sure if any of those were off shore or not. Also to be considered are some that were made in Italy of Italian leather. Those that I have feature top quality leather, and still have the Krause rings. Anxious to see this thread develop! Again, thanks Alan

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    1. Yes, however another weakness can be the leather cracking near the spine (I have returned two purchases with this fault) and at times the thread used in the stitching was somewhat suspect. I plan to work with Robert to get more specific information, such as Italian leather, documented on Filowiki.

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  4. Well done Alan - a brave attempt to tackle a subject that has no answer!

    As you describe, 1991 was the watershed year for Filofax. It was then (following a change of ownership) that the decision was taken to move the brand downmarket, cut costs by shifting manufacturing overseas, price the product at a much smaller premium to it's competitors and drastically cull the range of inserts. Yes, there was a period of transition (e.g: Winchesters continued to be made in the UK for a couple of years). However, whether a Filofax is vintage or not, to my mind, depends on whether it is a product from the pre-1991 era (even if it was actually manufactured shortly afterwards) or not. Whilst the company finances improved after the changes, in cultural and quality terms, the brand was never the same again.

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    1. While I agree with much of what you say, I think there are many examples of very well-made binders post-1991. The American range of Dorchester, Connaught and Ascot, the Italian Leather ones crofter referred to (Buckingham, Belmont, etc.) some more recent yet classic like the Kendal and Kensington, plus some very nice premium low-volume models like the Burlington and Rochester.

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    2. .. Maybe - but surely it's much more about the purpose and tradition of the company than the quality of the binders. None of the binders you mention were even made by Filofax! Prior to 1991 everything was manufactured by Filofax themselves in their own premises, by their own staff and that's surely what makes the products vintage. Lovely as my Kendal is, it was made on the other side of the world by a different company and purely marketed by Filofax. That's the clear difference. To my mind these recent products will never be vintage!

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    3. After considering your thoughts on this Tim, I have to change my opinion on my Italian Filos from Vintage to just a nice well made organizer.

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  5. Hi Alan, excellent post to read. I really enjoyed looking thru your collection of vintage Filofaxes at our meet-up in Toronto last year.

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    1. Thank you Anita. I'm thinking it is time to cull the collection somewhat.

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    2. I meant Michele! I used to work with an Anita Citrin!

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  6. It's an interesting conundrum. I am lucky enough to own a (very worn) early tan Sherwood with the gilt corners on the front cover and despite its age it has held up really well. There are also Winchesters and Deskfaxes in my collection - including a 6 ring Deskfax. But I have to wonder what your position might be with regard to the exotic leather models - the lizard skin, pigskin, ostrich, even the near mythical sharkskin? Many were made in the U.S. as I understand it, thus failing the Made in UK criterion, but are clearly of an age, quality and rarity which would qualify them as vintage in my mind at least. Thoughts?

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    1. Using the criteria laid out in the penultimate paragraph, the Sherwood, particularly the gilt cornered version, would qualify. They are old enough, roughly 25 years; are well-made with fine Scottish leather, and are somewhat rare. They were also made in the UK, at least initially. Likewise the exotics, are rare, have the quality, and are either marginally there or close, in terms of age. BTW, a friend recently bought a "mythical sharkskin".

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  7. I hope people are not misreading. My purpose is to encourage a discussion of what constitutes "vintage" and maybe implicitly, if "vintage" should be used differently from "classic". I tried to suggest a number of criteria, demonstrating that there is no definitive demarcation.

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    1. Vintage is about the age or era an item is from. It's not about qualitative impressions or value judgments.

      I think using the term 'vintage' to ascribe qualitative aspects to an item is asking for confusion....

      Better to use a term like 'classic' to denote qualitative aspects such as it's design or other physical or perceived attributes.

      Just my 2¢....



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    2. I actually pulled out my Lizard to check if it met specs for vintage. It only had the ring protectors, but I have to say it is the best made of my collection even more so than my Tejus.

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  8. Alan, I can only hope that some of the sellers on e bay are reading this. They have no clue about either 'vintage' or 'rare'. Even more, I would hope that their potential victims are reading this!

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  9. Enjoyed the post thanks Alan.
    The Facebook group description you mentioned coincides with my own particular interpretation of "vintage" Filofax, but perhaps there are grounds for having two groupings under the term vintage - "Golden Age" vintage (i.e everything up to around 1991), and "Declared" vintage, where a majority of the Facebook group agrees that certain, particular, later models are of a level of quality and refinement to match the "golden" oldies?

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  10. Did Filofax manufacture non leather binders before the move in production?

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    1. Hi Be - yes there were very sturdy non-leather binders finished in canvas and leather-cloth, as well as vinyl ones. And there was also a ribbed rubber model called Wellington.

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    2. Gmax, thank you for the reply. I was unsure since the leather binders were discussed in this post.

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    3. I have a couple of the leathercloth ones that gmax refers to. I have seen that vinyl and rubber ones on eBay. I have a Deskfax that is rubber.

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