From a slash of bright red lipstick to a puff of floral perfume from a classic atomizer, there's nothing better to bring your mid-century vanity set together than a vintage mirror perfume tray. Whether you like yours with gilded lattice work or with a simple golden frame, these easy-to-find collectibles will add a touch of class to even the messiest bedrooms.
Vintage Mirror Perfume Tray Designs to Dazzle Everyone
While accessory trays have been around for a long time, the iconic mirror-lined ones that you can find featured in the sexy leading ladies' rooms of countless 1970s films first began being manufactured during the Victorian period. However, they really came into vogue in the pre-war and post-war period, culminating when they were considered at their height of popularity in the 1950s/1960s. Used to fashionably contain and display various cosmetic and perfume products, you can still find these mirror trays at home goods stores around the world.
Different Types of Shapes
One of the most appealing things about vintage mirror perfume trays is that over the years, there have been so many different styles of them. Not only does this make the trays themselves a fun item to collect, but it makes them a perfect gift for even pickiest person in your life. Never fear, because these perfume trays can be classed up or down and can be decorated to match just about anyone's aesthetic. Some of the more common shapes for these trays include:
Different Types of Frames
Almost all of these vintage mirror perfume trays were framed in some way to either keep the bottles from falling off or to protect the mirror from cracking. These vintage mirror trays were almost always framed in some type of metal, most commonly gold, brass, or pewter. In just the same amount of variety that these trays came in in terms of shapes, so too did they come with a myriad of unique frames. In spite of the changing design trends between the 1920s-1970s, these trays seemed to always have an abundance of stylistic options, some of which include:
- Lattice-work frames - One of the most popular - particularly during the mid-century - types of metal frames were raised frames than extended above the tray's edge to encase the items in a type of decorative fence. These patterns could resemble lattices, laces, and floral motifs, to name but a few of the designs.
- Claw-foot frames - Another decorative frame that some trays had was claw-feet that kept the trays raised up a few centimeters above whatever surface they were resting on.
- Ornamental metal handles - A minimalist approach to framing these mirror perfume trays was to encase them in a simple metal frame that sat flush against the tray itself and then extended slightly out for two small handles on either side of the tray.
- Raised bar frames - These frames are a little less common to come across, but they use the same logic as the lattice-work frames do in that they have metal bars (often just a single bar, but sometimes more) encircling the tray to keep the items secure.
How Much Do Vintage Mirror Perfume Trays Cost?
Prices for vintage perfume trays greatly vary. Don't let the mystery fool you, though; on the whole, they're actually very affordable. You can find them in thrift shops and consignment stores for as little as a few bucks. This has a lot to do with the fact that they were such a staple household item a couple of decades ago that these retailers have an abundance of them and can afford to sell them for pretty cheap.
That being said, prices depend on their manufacturer (if there's a known one), size, age, design, and the materials that the trays are made out of. Of course, basic condition matters but general wear and tear doesn't make much of a difference in the long run.
How to Determine Value
Generally, these trays aren't big-ticket items, so if you find your grandmother trying to pawn one off to pay for her next big vacation, try to discourage her before she gets to the front desk. However, there are a couple of indicators you can look at to see if you have something that's particularly special and worth investing more time into researching and protecting:
- Check for manufacturer's marks - On rare occasions, you might have a perfume tray made by a reputable maker and not just a department store manufacturer. Look to see if you can find any maker's marks and investigate their origins.
- Look for precious metals - If you pick up a mirror perfume tray at a consignment shop or an estate sale, then you might find a rare example of one made out of precious metals. Look on the back and edges of the metal frame to see if you can find any purity stamps there. Legally, items with a certain purity content of various metals has to be stamped before sale, and if you can find one made out of gold or sterling silver, its metal content makes it worth more than the two dollar price tag that's added to it at the thrift shop.
The Price of Vintage Mirror Perfume Trays at Auction
Thankfully, you can get the classic vintage aesthetic of your favorite old Hollywood star without having to liquidate all of your assets and selling your first born. In fact, these trays sell for about $15-$50, on average, with only rare examples selling for higher amounts. Take a look at these vintage mirror perfume trays that've recently sold at auction to see this stark difference in common vs. uncommon prices:
- Small Avon bar-frame mirror perfume tray - Sold for around $11.95
- Oval gilt decorative handle mirror perfume tray - Sold for $24.99
- Geometric lattice-frame mirror perfume tray - Sold for $29
- Gold lattice-frame mirror perfume tray - Listed for $350
- Art Deco Murano glass mirror perfume tray - Listed for $2,200
Where to Find Vintage Mirror Perfume Trays
There are a lot of good options for places to look for vintage mirror perfume trays. Pawn shops, yard sales, estate sales, and consignment shops are a good place to start. If you're out of luck with these in-person locations, then the internet is just buzzing with tons of vintage vanity trays for you to shuffle through:
- eBay - The classic titan of the online auction community, eBay is full of every type of vintage vanity you might be interested in. From large to small, and usually under $50, this website is your go-to to find that perfect item.
- More Than McCoy - More Than McCoy is a specific online retailer that specializes in all sorts of collectible goods. While you'll get a kick out of the blast from the past when it comes to the site's unique '90s design, you'll absolutely stay for the loads of great offers they have available.
- Etsy - Another great online retailer to check out it Esty. With Etsy you can get all of the benefits of eBay, but with vintage goods relating to fashion and cosmetics, Etsy sellers tend to upcharge a bit. So, if you're going to scour Etsy's listings, make sure that you're comparing prices with an outside source to ensure that you don't get swindled.
- 1st Dibs - If you're looking for a vintage mirror perfume tray that's a bit more upscale than the ones you can find at Sears in the '60s, then you should check out 1st Dibs. While the online auction retailer has a smaller collection than sites like Etsy and eBay, it tends to carry items that're more luxurious and exclusive than those everyday sellers might add to their e-commerce accounts.
How to Mix Modern With Vintage in Your Home
Unless you're the proverbial teenager testing out the newest body spray scents from their favorite clothing retailer, the chances are high that you probably don't have an extensive perfume collection that you need to display in your bathroom or bedroom. Thankfully, you don't actually need one to incorporate these mirror trays into your everyday life, and these are a few of the ways that you can do so:
- Create a wall hanging - One idea for how to use your vintage mirror perfume tray is to hang it on the wall for an unusual decoration. You can also create a collage effect of these by hanging a group of different styles of mirror perfume trays throughout your favorite space.
- Gussy up your guzzling spot - You could use your tray on a coffee table and put a stack of vintage drink coasters and swizzle sticks in a tall shot glass on it so guests can easily grab one for their drink. A collection of shot glasses would also work. Take your dinner party servings to a whole new level.
- Upgrade your charcuterie board - Once you give your mirror tray a good rub down, you can use it to create a new social media worthy way to display your next charcuterie board.
- Artfully display your delicate jewels - Use your tray to display your favorite pieces of vintage jewelry from the period like bakelite bracelets.
- Add some botanicals to your boudoir - A vintage mirror perfume tray can also look great as a dining table centerpiece with a small vase of silk flowers on it, reflecting the satiny petals back to all of your guests.
Every Bedroom Deserves a Little Sparkle and Shine
A fun and fashionable way to organize your vanity space, vintage mirror perfume trays have a multitude of uses and are one of the rare affordable cosmetics items that you can find among the vintage-loving community. Thanks to their immense popularity and wide variety of designs, there's definitely a mirror tray out there made with you in mind.