Don't just use an ordinary juice reamer. How about a cute collectible one? A hand-painted juice reamer with a clown insert, for example, would be a nice addition to any kitchen décor.

Also known as an orange juice squeezer or a juicer, the juice reamer is one of the fastest-growing collectibles in America today.

The first reamers were produced in Europe by some major china companies, and the first reamer was patented in the United States around 1867, after the Civil War. It was a hand-held reamer.

Unique reamers started to emerge in 1907, when a co-op called the California Fruit Growers Exchange was formed. This co-op marketed the name Sunkist to sell fruit to the East Coast. Sunkist reamers were produced as a promotional item, but mass production didn't start until 1916. They came in a variety of colors, with white the most common.

There were many variations of the basic colors, as well as pottery reamers and more, which are all sought after by collectors today, but more are looking for the unique Japanese reamers, and you will see why.

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Collectible juice reamers at the Old River Valley Antique Mall in Stewartville. (Contributed photo)
Collectible juice reamers at the Old River Valley Antique Mall in Stewartville. (Contributed photo)

Trade agreements were formed with the Japanese in the mid-1930s. And along came the Japanese goods, including reamers. Some American pottery companies could not compete with the flood of these cheaper Japanese reamers pouring into the dime stores and variety stores, as folks loved how unique they were. Eventually, American pottery companies stopped producing reamers.

The Japanese reamers are found in a variety of shapes, from round, square, oblong, triangular, to figures, such as clowns, animals and people. There are one-piece, two-piece and three-piece reamers in plain, fancy and hand-painted styles. A few pieces are Marutomoware, Mikori ware and others, valued in a price range up to a few hundred dollars for the more rare and in excellent condition.

A vintage Marutomo Ware swan juice reamer at the Old River Valley Antique Mall in Stewartville. (Contributed photo)
A vintage Marutomo Ware swan juice reamer at the Old River Valley Antique Mall in Stewartville. (Contributed photo)

Beginning in 1921, U.S. Customs required country names to be in English, and the word “Japan” was used instead of “Nippon.” Items marked “Made in Occupied Japan” were made between February 1947 and April 1952. After that, the word “Japan” or “Made in Japan” were used again. For more information, check out “The Collector's Guide to Made in Japan Ceramics: Identification & Values” by Carole Bess White.

The popularity of reamer collecting has brought out a number of reproductions made with the same old molds, causing the value to drop off the original pieces and reproductions being sold at a high price. New collectors need to be aware of these pieces, as many dealers unknowingly represent them as old. Membership in the National Reamer Collectors Association (www.reamers.org) can help a reamer collector keep in the know.

One fantastic juice reamer made in Japan is in the shape of a lime with flowers and leaves. The insert is a happy little clown. The piece is porcelain and comes in three pieces — the base, lid and reamer insert. It's hand-painted in green with yellow and green leaves, and orange flowers. The reamer insert is white, yellow and blue for the clown’s hat.

You'll notice a surprise when you take the cover off this hand-painted reamer at the Old River Valley Antique Mall in Stewartville. (Contributed photo)
You'll notice a surprise when you take the cover off this hand-painted reamer at the Old River Valley Antique Mall in Stewartville. (Contributed photo)

The clown has a happy orange smile and nose. His eyes are closed. The piece is signed "Hand painted — Made in Japan" on the bottom. There is a cherry blossom hallmark in the center. This particular reamer can be found at the Old River Valley Antique Mall in Stewartville.

Owner Chris Rand Kujath said: “A new vendor brought in five of the cute and fun juice reamers 'Made in Japan' and selling in a price range from $15-$23. I know we have many more ranging from $8 and up, too. The vendor that brought these is cleaning up her mother's house and just wants to get rid of things.”

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 life@postbulletin.com.