Have you noticed how we all jump from Halloween to Christmas with our collectible items? Maybe because the stores do the same thing, but there is a holiday in between, and it's Thanksgiving.
History, markings and more
Did you know that President Lincoln in 1863 proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday and the turkey became the holiday's universal symbol? The turkey is a wild bird, though today, many are found on turkey farms, and this bird could've been in place of the eagle.
The turkey that was once served on a board is now being served on decorative platters. In the late 19th to early 20th centuries, these pieces were expensive and took up quite a bit of space, since the platters had to hold a 24-to 30-pound bird.
In the 1940s, many cooks would find their turkey platters at the local F.W. Woolworth Store. After World War II, turkey platters were very popular and given as holiday hostess gifts or thank-you gifts. Most collectors these days don't have the space to store these large platters, so they concentrate on a particular pattern and may continue with the set, such as the transferware pieces.
English transferware platters and matching plates with Thanksgiving motifs were imported to the U.S. from manufacturers such as Spode, Royal Doulton and Wedgwood. Markings on transferware platters from the 1860s and on show the dates and manufacturer. Condition and rarity are important, as brown and white transferware is affordable compared to my favorite blue and white.
Prices are rising on turkey and any transferware patterns today. Also available are the Johnson Brother platters made from 1955 to 1983.
In the 1930s through 1960s, many large, hand-painted turkey platters were done by artisans at the California Pottery Company. These turkey platters can be found in local antique malls and selling sites. Most are stamped “California USA.” These platters have the colorful large embossed turkey in the center surrounded by fruit and vegetables, selling in the price range of $20 on up.
According to “Price Guide to Pottery and Porcelain” by Joe Rosson: "Since there are so many turkey platters in the marketplace today, they must be in mint condition to have value. Nostalgia is very in right now, so anything that brings back holiday memories is collectible. Platters shouldn't have any cracks or chips, which will decrease the value.”
Hunting for platters
Shayna Dais, of the Rusty Bucket in Winona, has a couple new turkey platters in her shop — "a nice ceramic turkey platter at $7 made in China, and a white platter at $12."
A few shops in the region have vintage platters.
Paul Larsen, of Old Rooster Antiques in Rochester and Mantorville Square: “We have a colorful turkey platter with no painted fruit, at the Old Rooster Antiques, unmarked and is priced at $28. And we have at Mantorville Square a colorful painted turkey platter with the fruit priced at $28.”
Sylvia Bauer, of Country Side Antique Mall in Cannon Falls: “We have turkey platters in our mall. From Johnson Brothers (His Majesty, $175), Johnson Brothers (The Friendly Village, $130), also a rare Desert Rose turkey platter at $135. There are also a few others, such as a flow blue. People buying these are collectors or wanting them for decorating purposes.”
Sarah Kieffer, of Sarah’s Uniques and Jim's “Man”tiques in St. Charles: “I do have several different kinds of turkey platters in the shop! My platters range from about $16 on up to about $26. They make a wonderful way to serve your turkey this Thanksgiving!”
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at email@example.com.