Black Memorabilia - Ceramic Kitchen Items
Although there are reproductions of black memorabilia in just about every category of collecting, this article will focus only on ceramic kitchen items (except cookie jars).
There are three broad tests for separating new from old:
1) New pieces cast from old originals are almost always smaller and show less detail. Compare the sizes of the string holders (Fig. 1) and the Pearl China range shakers (Figs. 8-9). Molded details are generally much sharper in the original than the copy. Facial features are a particularly good area to examine.
2) Most old kitchen items carry some type of permanent markings. Look for under glaze or impressed marks of factory names or country of origin marks such as "Made in Japan." The mass produced reproductions are generally marked with only removable paper labels.
3) Overglaze paint and decoration on ceramics are generally signs of older pieces. Eyes, lips and other trim on older pieces is almost always applied as over glaze decoration. Some wear on over glaze paint is normal and should be expected on genuine items used daily in a kitchen. Eyes and other facial details on the great majority of reproductions are under glaze. The under glaze decorations never show any paint wear.
Keep in mind, though, there is no one test that will conclusively prove a piece is old or new. But every reproduction generally fails more than one test.
Fig. 1 Will the real kitchen string holder please step forward? Good quality ceramic reproductions like string holders are causing problems among collectors.
Figs. 2-4 Left: reproduction string holder 6 ¼", back unglazed, front glazed, all paint under the glaze, no mark. Middle: ca. 1930s string holder 6 ¾", marked "Made In Japan", unglazed front and back, painted decoration over the glaze and showing normal wear. Right: ca. 1935- 45 string holder, 6 ¾", glazed front and inside back, underglaze painted brown hands but with overglaze painted trim and facial details, unfired paint showing normal wear, marked USA-NS (National Silver).
Fig. 5 Normal paint wear of overglaze paint on head of old piece right; underglaze painted reproduction on left shows no wear.
Fig. 6 -7 Old string holder, right, has a raised ridges along the bottom edge and fairly small opening in the back so the ball of string can't fall out. Back of a typical new holder, left, has a very low rim along the bottom and a large opening in the back.
Fig. 8 Most reproductions are smaller than originals. The reproduction Pearl China range shaker, left, is shorter and the openings between arms (arrow) are smaller. Old shaker, right, is 6¾".
Fig. 9 The lips, spoon and whites of the eyes on the reproductions, left, are very crudely painted. Old trim is more realistic.
Fig 10. Filling holes in the reproductions are only one-half inch. Holes in original are one-inch. Bottom of new pieces are painted and glazed; original unpainted and unglazed.
Fig. 11 Closeup of sharply molded creases in the orignal clothing. The similar area in the reproduction in Fig. 8 is nearly perfectly smooth.
Fig. 12 Closeup showing lack of molded detail and poorly painted features in new face of Pearl China range shaker.
Fig. 13 Close up of old face. Note more expressive face, better quality painting.
Fig. 14 New lookalike shakers copied from old. All decoration under glaze, no country or factory mark. Made in a variety of sizes.
Fig. 15 Typical old shakers show sharp detail in face and over glaze painted trim with normal wear. This old pair is marked "Made in Japan."
Fig. 16 New wall stringholder, no mark, all under glaze paint, 5x5x3". No known old original.
Fig.17 New ceramic chef jar, under glaze decoration.
Fig. 18 New ceramic spoon holder, under glaze decoration, 7 x 5".
Fig. 19 New ceramic shakers, under glaze decoration.
Fig. 20 New ceramic shakers, under glaze decoration. Similar to vintage shakers made of thick chalkware.
Fig. 21 New Mammy and Uncle Mose ceramic figures. Including 3½" shakers, center, (also made as toothpick holders, see Fig. 22). Small figures are 1½" bisque finish thimbles.
Fig. 22 The new shaker shapes in Fig. 21 are also sold with holes in the backs as toothpick holders. No old counterparts.
Figs. 22-23 New ceramic 8" nodder-head bank, head on coiled wire spring; all under glaze paint.
Fig. 24 New canister style ceramic kitchen jar; under glaze decoration.
Fig. 25 New 6x8x4" covered box made of cast resin. A somewhat similar original is made of majolica-type pottery.
Fig. 26 New ceramic teapot, under glaze decoration.