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Head Hunters Seek Fun Vases From the Past

Head vases always draw interest in the collectible world. Made in the mid-20th century, these charming oddities peaked in popularity in the 1950s and ’60s, about the same time Barbie made her entrance onto the American pop culture stage.

The pottery vases were often imported from Japan and used by florists for gift arrangements, though early examples might be made in the U.S.A. and the earliest examples date to the 1930s.

Generally showing a woman from the shoulders up, head vases remain popular with collectors today.

Even my grandchildren ask about the pretty lady vase in my china closet!

Collectors enjoy seeking all the known examples of a particular manufacturer or all the vases they can amass of a certain size or theme, like blondes or those with hats. There are a wide variety of hairdos, eyes, jewelry, gloves, hats, eyeglasses and necklines to be found.

Values vary according to size, manufacturer and model. Generally, these little ladies are between 4 and 8 inches tall.

According to Kovels’ Komments newsletter, a 1964 Jacqueline Kennedy head vase by Inarco sold for as high as $985. Of course, this is one that most people would hold onto, making it hard to find.

You can get into the head hunting hobby easily, since these vases can be found at many antique shops or online and priced well under $100. Or you could get lucky and find one for far less at a yard sale or second-hand shop.

Besides fashionable ladies, head vases have been made to look like clowns, children, babies, animals and characters like Uncle Sam, a graduate or a nurse or bride. Inarco, Napco, Relpo, Enesco and Rubens are some of the most popular names of manufacturers.

Many have manufacturer’s marks but some head vases are unmarked. All are collectible.

The head vase shown in today’s column is the one I found in a neighborhood yard sale years ago.

Made by Napco, it is marked with the company label and stamp.

At just under five inches tall, the brown-haired lady has her long lashed eyes lowered and her lips painted a deep red.

At her neckline are three white flowers with rhinestone centers.

She’s in perfect shape, and I’ve seen her listed at around $50, though I only paid a quarter.

Head vases, like all collectibles, go up and down in value and are down some from a few years back. That could mean it’s a good time to buy since they will no doubt go up again eventually. Buy those that are in good shape, with little or no crazing, no chips or breaks since condition adds to value.

There are several good collectors’ guides available that list the vases by number, manufacturer and approximate value. One is the 2003 paperback by David Barron showing several thousand vases and another is a Schiffer Collectors book by Kathleen Cole with 2002 values.

Both have hundreds of color photos and explanations.

For comments or suggestions on treasures that you are interested in seeing featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at: zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of this newspaper.


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