Salt and Pepper Collecting
Collecting salt and pepper shakers is still a hobby to many, but it is not as popular as it was during the middle of the 20th century. Shaker sets are everywhere: yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores, and on-line. The ubiquity of this popular collectible means it is still possible to create a collection at a modest cost.
Vintage sets really took off in the 1940's with the birth of modern ceramics. Designs, styles and shapes became easy to make. As the mid-century progressed so did collecting. The market for souvenir shakers and novelty items grew with the capacity to produce items that most everyone could afford. The collecting frenzy reached its peak during the 1970's, with an explosion of collectors that started to specialize in particular materials such as plastic, glass, ceramic, or makers such as Red Wing, Shawnee, or Occupied Japan. Most began to collect either certain subject matters such as animals, animation characters, vegetables, or whimsical imaginative creations.
There are hundreds of people who collect quality shakers that have details or are considered novelty pieces. Today's avid collector looks for two things when contemplating a purchase: markings and uniqueness. Appropriate markings are the real thing and are not foreign made reproductions; and uniqueness is the whimsical, the different, and the set that brings a smile to that special category the collector owns. There is an on-line club that is filled with specialized information and club activities: saltandpepperclub.com with the Arizona chapter listed as Grand Canyon Chapter and its president's contact email.
Shakers can be categorized in a number of general groups or categories: nodders, huggers or kissers, go-withs or themes, snow domes, condiments, mechanicals, hangers, nesters or stackers, and anthropomorphic to name just a few. A couple of examples might help understand a few of the categories: theme shakers or go-withs share a commonality such as a hat and a shoe; or a nester is when one shaker fits into another such as a kitten in a basket; and an anthropomorphic is when a shaker takes on a human form, but not human shapes like a happy face apple. Most collectors are drawn to strange forms and bright colors.
Prices are as variable as the sets themselves. A set can be as little as fifty cents at a yard sale to several hundred dollars or more at a shop or auction. Besides rarity, condition should always be mint with no cracks, chips, flaking, or missing parts. The values reflect the market: up and down, static for the average and maintaining for the rare to the specialized collector. A Shawnee Puss ‘n Boots salt and pepper shaker sold for $35.00 ten years ago, and today the average value is $22.00. Most vintage salt and pepper sets sell for $3.50 to $15.00 which makes for a fairly reasonable hobby.
Most important: don't confuse collecting vintage salt and pepper shakers with the more expensive collecting of 1880 to 1930 Victorian art glass and antique shakers. Pairpoint, Mt. Washington, Moser, Tiffany and McKee are just a few of the makers that take a collection to a higher level. For the average collector looking to stay in a budget, stick to Donald Duck or a bull dog head.