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Spicing Up the World of Collectibles

Is there any novelty item more popular to collect than salt n’ peppers?

Salt and pepper shakers are found on just about every kitchen table but in the home of a collector, they do more than season food — they provide spice to decor and are at the heart of an entertaining hobby.

Novelty shakers are found in all sorts of shapes and themes. Produced as advertising pieces or in shapes like birds, fish and animals, there are thousands of shakers found in this broad category.

Some collectors get into salt n’ peppers because they are great souvenirs, easily picked up while traveling and perfect as a small gift.

Naturally there is a collectors’ club for novelty shakers where enthusiasts can learn and trade, attend conventions and share information. Located at saltandpepperclub.com, members primarily collect figural character shakers like people, animals, fruits and vegetables and objects.

Victorian glass shakers are less common in the world of collecting and classify as antiques since these are at least 100 years old. These shakers first came about in the 1870s when salt became refined and moved from an open saltcellar with a spoon to the new-fangled shaker with a perforated top.

Invented by John Mason in 1858, these common shaker tops were only feasible after salt became processed and free flowing. Imagine the difference to everyday food that the simple saltshaker brought about.

Created in lovely Victorian art glass, these truly antique shakers are found in hand-painted cranberry and ruby glass, opalescent colors and custard glass designs. All are desirable to collectors.

Antique shakers are generally bigger than the standards for today’s home. The Victorian glass example shown in today’s column stands over 5 inches tall and would take a prominent place on the table.

Large saltcellars predated this type of shaker and were also big — but these types of open dishes for salt were accompanied by smaller individual saltcellars, filled from the master salt. At a formal dinner, the host passed the saltcellar to each diner who would then take some for their own small saltcellar.

According to Kovels’ Price Guide, collectors are very interested in the novelty type of figural salt and pepper pairs made after World War I.

One pair that I’ve included in today’s column was produced by the famous German company, Goebel, and is in the shape of charming little monks. Goebel introduced its first three sets in 1925 and these older versions are desirable.

Salt and pepper shakers from the 20th century include endless novelty versions made out of Bakelite, ceramic, plastic, celluloid and wood. Huggers are a silly type of salt and pepper shakers that appear to embrace each other and link together in such a way to appear as one piece.

The genuine antique open saltcellars are harder to find and are therefore priced higher. Some of the unique shapes that these larger open salts include are a bandmaster’s cap, chickens, a dog pulling a cart, swans and sleighs.

Even Tiffany’s made a ruffled edge blue art glass and a clear ruffled edge salt cellar that are signed and marked. These examples sell for hundreds of dollars at auction.

Cut glass, porcelain, pressed glass, silverplate, sterling and enamel saltcellars were also beautiful examples of this quaint dining accessory from yesterday.


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