I thought I’d start the series off with a word we’ve discussed on the blog before, although it was about 2 years ago. But it’s still a good one!! Anthropomorphic collectibles are still very popular.
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Anthropomorphic collectibles are all those fun things you’ve seen for years but maybe didn’t know the name for. Now you do.
According to the dictionary “anthropomorphism” means “ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman things”.
It’s all around you. Really. Anything by Walt Disney. Yup. Mickey…he’s anthropomorphic.
Thomas the train? You got it.
Mr. Peanut? An anthropomorphic classic!
(Anthropomorphic tea rests from my personal collection.)
But really, anthropomorphic items are quite collectible! Kitschy and cute, these salt and pepper shakers, tea bag rests, planters, teapots, jam pots…the list goes on…were found in your local Five and Dime in the 40s and 50s. They were also given out as prizes for games such as Bingo.
Most of these novelty items took the form of vegetables, fruit, animals or utensils with smiling faces.
Or…maybe not so smiley. I think I narrowed this planter down to a turnip…but I’m still not sure if the headscarf is for a particular purpose, like a toothache. I was imagining this planter being given with a cheery plant as a Get Well gift. Hmm. I listed this cutie awhile back and she sold the same day for $24.
As shown earlier with the example of Mr. Peanut, sometimes the anthropomorphic item was for advertising purposes.
These salt and pepper shakers depict “Handy Flame” and were used by the Indianapolis Gas Company (other companies, too, I believe) to promote and spread the word about cooking with Natural Gas. I had the creamer that matched the set but a buyer asked me to separate it out so they could buy it on its own. They sold for a combined total of $26.
So why is this good to know if you sell vintage? Well, because vintage anthropomorphic items sell..and sell quickly. Plus you’ll want to use “anthropomorphic” as a keyword in your listing or as a hashtag in your social media promoting. I’ve also seen #foodwithfaces as a tag on Instagram.
For kicks, I took a look at some of the highest priced kitschy anthropomorphic items and it seems that the maker to look out for is Py / Miyao. There is even a collectible guide I found that may be a bit hard to track down but I found a few copies on Google. The author is Belinda Evans.
Sometimes the pieces are just marked “Japan” and may originally have had a Miyao sticker, so it pays to do your research. As you can see on that book cover above, one of the telltale signs of Py seems to be the shape of the eyes, with that triangular cutout in the black. Just a tip. Py made other designs as well and distributed to companies like UCAGCO and Lefton. You can read a bit more about them here.
Let’s finish up with a look at some items on Etsy that show the range of products that fit under the “anthropomorphic” umbrella.
Enesco Winking Cat teapot by Bob’s Good Junk on Etsy. (One of the biggest shops on Etsy for anthropomorphic items!! Great stuff!)
Snack Plate Set by Brooklyn Street Vintage on Etsy
Not just for the kitchen, anthropomorphic items can also be found in jewelry.
Cat Playing the Accordion pin by Green Kitten Vintage on Etsy
And the anthropormorphic theme also extended to linens and tea towels.
Embroidered Tea Towel by Upswing Vintage on Etsy
And of course, you can DIY your own anthropomorphic items!
Happy Fruits Transfer Pattern by Atomic Dog 67 on Etsy
So the next time you’re strolling the thrift store aisles or scanning the tables at a yard sale and you feel like someone is watching you…you might want to take a closer look!
What about you? Have you collected anthropomorphic items before? Have you bought and sold them? Any favorites?
Thanks for joining me on my first installment of Selling Vintage A to Z. Next up will be another term we’ve discussed here…although again, it was awhile ago.
B is for…..Brutalist