I was introduced to Mr. Pauli’s wares when I linked to his beautiful vintage opera glasses in last week’s Etsy Holiday Gift Guide. He wrote me a lovely note of thanks and suggested I check out another of his Etsy shops, TheCompassCollector. As someone obsessed with all things aquatic, I am always interested in vintage navigational tools, so I checked it out, not expecting much. But when I clapped eyes on this collection of pretties, I was in love! The sheer variety of compasses in this shop really impressed me. The artistry and diversity of the pieces was really surprising.
The seller so intrigued me, I thought an interview was in order.
Mr. Pauli, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. Your compasses are amazing! Tell us about your shop, The Compass Collector. Do you sell exclusively on Etsy, or do you have a brick-and-mortar store as well?
TheCompassCollector is an online-only operation, specializing in 19th and 20th Century European pocket compasses and compass jewelry.
How did you begin collecting compasses? Did you grow up with them? Did your family use or collect them?
My grandfather worked in Belgium and loved to travel around the EU. He collected compasses, scientific instruments and other collectible items for over 60 years. He is now 96 years old, very wise and generous, and everyday throughout my life he has given me love, support, and courage. Not only has he passed his collection on to me, he also taught me to respect the soul of vintage objects. Without his influence and guidance, I would certainly not be the person I am today. For me, collecting is an addiction.
How many compasses are in your personal collection?
I haven’t counted them recently, but I would assume my collection is around 300 items. The core of my collection however, compasses that I wouldn’t sell under any circumstances (even if I needed the money) are about 100.
Do you repair the compasses you acquire before selling them?
Antique and vintage compasses were built to last and they can withstand hundreds of years of use. Of course, over time, brass, silver, and gold develop a patina. There is much discussion as to whether it should be removed. Compasses are very much like wrist or pocket watches, made to be used and loved, so if there is excessive patina due to neglect, I carefully clean the item. When needed, I have the glass replaced by a professional watchmaker. I am proud to sell working, safe items only. Some compasses contain Radium paint, and 19th Century green dial compasses get their color from arsenic. Those aren’t safe to open without the proper techniques and protection, so I don’t sell them.
Which is your favorite era for compass design?
My favorite eras are Art Nouveau and Art Deco (1900s through 1930s), but my personal favorites are antique Georgian or Victorian silver long-neck compasses. I love the way they look.
You have a few other Etsy shops, as well. Can you tell us a little about them?
I welcome you to visit them on Etsy and Rubylane as well, I have six shops with over 1000 transactions and lots of very positive feedback:
Grandpa’s Market on Etsy
Grandpa’s Market on Rubylane
The Gentleman’s Blade on Etsy
Old Print Loft on Etsy
The Compass Collector on Etsy
Do you have any advice for new sellers looking to make their mark on Etsy?
It is important to have good photos, fast shipping, quick responses to questions and a quality product. I am always learning, growing and improving my Etsy shop. Like any community, Etsy is all about engagement. The more you interact and give your time to other users, the more they will do the same for you. Real success can be achieved only through hard work!