Mail-Order Catalogs: So 'This Century'

I consider myself a tech savvy gal but I just can't resist a good mail-order catalog. So "last century," I know. Don't get me wrong, I'll online shop with the best of them but I love sitting down with a good catalog and reading the descriptions of products and studying their pictures. Sometimes it's like a reading a good magazine for me. Here are some of my favorites:

SkyMall is packed full of stuff that you never see anywhere else. It's the best thing to read on airplanes, as soon as you read the safety card, of course. The catalog is a collection of other catalogs such as Brookstone and Hammacher Schlemmer. But it seems as though they pick out the most interesting things from those catalogs and pack them into SkyMall. You'll find stuff like a spy camera the size of a pack of gum for $150, a rug that looks like a set of patio stones for $40 to $150 depending on the size and a pet-sensing doorbell that chimes when your pet wants to be let in or out of the house for $80.

Levenger sells "tools for serious readers." You'll find everything from pens and notepads to leather totes and lap desks. The catalog was started in the late '80s by a husband and wife team who were avid readers distraught with the poor reading light in their new home. What resulted was a catalog full of neat things for not just people who like to read but also those who like nice tote bags and fancy pens. The catalog has clip-on book lights for $24, fountain pens for $88, as well as a wide selection of wallets and briefcases. Levenger also has a handful of stores, including one in Tysons Corner.

Herrington, known as the "enthusiasts' catalog," is another fun one to browse. They sell everything from golf accessories and tools and gadgets to cell phone accessories and women and men's clothing. You can get authentic Aloha shirts for $85, a set of 16 Minnesota fire cones for starting fireplace fires for $40 and a laptop briefcase with a fancy compartment that doesn't force you to take out the computer when going through airport security for $120. Each item has a lengthy description of its origin and why it was chosen for the catalog.

What are your favorite catalogs? Are mail-order catalogs better than online shopping?

By Tania Anderson |  January 29, 2009; 12:00 AM ET General Interest
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Comments

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I like looking through some catalogs too but then I always go on line to shop! Some of my favorites are Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, CB2, Giam, Chiasso, Garnet Hill.

Posted by: MILW | January 29, 2009 8:54 AM

I like Wireless and Signals, the catalogs from PBS and NPR. They also have unusual items, plus good websites for ordering after reading the catalogs.

Posted by: Domesticrat | January 29, 2009 9:11 AM

There's a new catalog out that I love. Kotula's: The Guys With The Goods. Very cool stuff, much better prices than Hammacher, and free shipping on everything! The products aren't as techy as Hammacher but much more useful. They're online at kotulas.com

Posted by: JonT2 | January 29, 2009 10:13 AM

Until a laptop can be used in the bathroom, the catalog will always be great. Besides, most well known online stores are really catalog companies anyway. I found another place to find catalogs and other interesting products; the National Mail Order Association has a consumer section for locating catalogs. It's at the bottom of this page: http://www.nmoa.org/retail.asp

Posted by: schulte1 | January 29, 2009 10:45 AM

Thanks JonT2 for the Kotulas recommendation. I love the flair hair visor.

Posted by: ShopToIt | January 29, 2009 10:47 AM

White Flower Farms!... the catalog and the products always make you feel good about yourself and the earth!

Posted by: yoschoharo | January 29, 2009 11:59 AM

The holiday LL Bean catalog is a favorite of mine. It somehow feels so comforting. Maybe that's from all of the pictures of wool sweaters, fleece pullovers, and flannel-lined pants set in snowy scenes. One of my favorite movie quotes is from "Best in Show": "We are *so* lucky. We are *so* lucky to have been raised amongst catalogs".

Posted by: ahaberm | January 29, 2009 12:04 PM

The holiday LL Bean catalog is a favorite of mine. It somehow feels so comforting. Maybe that's from all of the pictures of wool sweaters, fleece pullovers, and flannel-lined pants set in snowy scenes. One of my favorite movie quotes is from "Best in Show": "We are *so* lucky. We are *so* lucky to have been raised amongst catalogs".

Posted by: ahaberm | January 29, 2009 12:06 PM

Archie McPhee and Thinkgeek are two of the silliest time-suck catalogs out there but I love them and support both companies. Great for gifts.

Posted by: mallemployee | January 29, 2009 12:12 PM

Anyone who likes tools (especially for woodworking) should not miss the Garrett Wade catalog. Their merchandise is terrific and the quality of the catalog itself is first rate.

Posted by: smalltowngirl | January 29, 2009 1:24 PM

Love SkyMall - it adds to my wish list.

A good catalog is as good as a good book. Peterman - just for the stories since they don't have my size.

Posted by: rlj1 | January 29, 2009 1:28 PM

I love a variety of mail order catalogs: I agree with Signals and Wireless. For children's items, FAO Schwarz, Sensational Beginnings, Land of Nod are great. Calyx and 1800flowers catalogs are beautiful. Williamsburg Marketplace catalog makes me want to visit the historical town once more. FeMail has some interesting and inspirational items for moms, sisters, daughters, friends, etc.

I love them all!

Posted by: patann | January 29, 2009 2:32 PM

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