Thanksgiving Collectibles Evolve
Around The Bird
This is a hand-painted porcelain turkey made by the Herend Porcelain factory of Hungary. It is about 5 inches tall.
It is pictured in Thanksgiving and Turkey Collectibles.
Thanksgiving is one holiday that has generated relatively few collectibles. Turkeys in one form or another head the list - in fact, in many cases, they are the only item on the list. Pilgrim figurines and postcards may also show up in a Thanksgiving collection, as well as some items such as Indian corn which relate to autumn in general.
For many years, candy container favors were popular on Thanksgiving dinner tables. These were, not surprisingly, usually in the shape of turkeys.
The early ones, produced in Germany in the first few decades of this century, are great additions to a collection. They were made of papi-er-mache, plaster-of-paris or a composition material. These table favors were often sold as sets, with a centerpiece bird as much as a foot high, and enough smaller ones, both hens and gobblers, to place at each table setting. Most of them separated in the middle to insert the candy; a few had heads that came off instead.
The very elaborate ones had glass eyes, and feet of heavy wire or lead. Other variations were also made, and these help to make a collection interesting.
The Japanese also made turkey candy containers for export to this country during the 1930s. Their work was generally painted more brightly than those from Germany, but showed less care with detail.
There were also a number of candy containers produced by American manufacturers during the 1940s and ‘50s. These were made of a rough cardboard material and were painted an overall rust/brown color. Not much attention was given to detail.
The candy containers were not limited strictly to turkeys. You might also find a duck, goose or chicken, and perhaps a Pilgrim man or woman.
Table accessories made of paper may also be included in a collection. The colorful lithography makes them very appealing. Paper napkins, plates, cups and tablecloths were all available from the late 1800s. As the candy containers, most featured the turkey as the central motif.
By their nature, of course, they aren’t easy to find. A paper napkin that was used for a Thanksgiving dinner was rarely kept. The whole point of using them was to be able to throw all the paper away afterwards.
Thanksgiving greeting cards were quite popular during the 1920s and ‘30s. The Germans made most of the early ones, as well as many of the postcards with Thanksgiving themes.
Table centerpieces of cardboard - again, almost always of turkeys - were also popular in the 1930s , and on into the ‘40s. They were usually over a foot in height. If there wasn’t room on the table, they could be hung in a window or taped to a door as a greeting.
Another table accessory produced in Japan in the 1930s featured the turkey as a celluloid place card holder.
There are a few other areas where a collector might find additions to a Thanksgiving collection. A few old toys and games feature this holiday, and turkeys might show up in a variety of other materials.
Thanksgiving and Turkey Collectibles, by John W. Thomas and Sandra L. Thomas (Schiffer Publishing, 2004) offers lots of additional ideas if you decide to collect Thanksgiving turkeys.
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