Antiques & Collectibles: A whole lot of shakin’

Sure, you’ve got salt and pepper shakers. Are they cute vintage shakers? Get them out on the table and show off your collection this summer.

Whether they are shaped like fruits, barnyard animals or little barrels, novelty shakers are a lot of fun.

Martha Stewart ( is a fan: “These cute shakers were the hit of dinner parties and ladies luncheons back in the 1940s and ’50s, and you could find sets of fruit shakers at each place setting,” she said. “The vegetables came onto the scene as competition. Most of the shakers were ceramic and made in Japan as an export to stores like the five-and-dime stores and selling under $1, and today these sets sell in thrift stores, flea markets, antique shops and online with some as little as $5 to a dollar with a lost mate.”

As Mark Moran states in his book, “Antique Trader Salt and Pepper Shaker Price Guide,” “Shakers are abundant, colorful and fun. Best of all, they are inexpensive. Most were mass-produced in quantities so you can generally find a set of whimsical shakers around that $10 range, so collecting is not out of reach for anyone. Some people have collections into the thousands.”

Finding shakers

Neil Hunt, A-Z Collectibles, Winona: “I have for sale romaine lettuce and squash. Both of these salt and peppers are single units. That is where the salt comes out one side and the pepper the other. About $15 each.”

Brenda Jannsen, Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, Winona: “We have hundreds of salt and pepper shakers. That includes fruit and veggie shakers. Some are part of a few large collections we acquired from private parties. Most of our sets are priced from $2-$10 with a select few rare sets priced higher. Salt and pepper shakers appeal to many people as they come in so many unique shapes, sizes, materials and colors. Shaker collections don’t take up a lot of space and sets can be added for only a few dollars at a time.”

Joan Thilges, New Generations of Harmony, Harmony: “We easily have a couple dozen different fruit or vegetable salt and pepper shakers scattered throughout the mall. The majority are by unknown makers and typically range from $4 to $12 per set. We do have some by Lefton, Maruhon and Rosemeade. The sets of Rosemeade peppers and cucumbers are $29 per set. Some of the more interesting pairs are “anthropomorphic” — human features have been added.”

A few tips on the hunt

Considering condition, those collectible shakers should not be filled with salt or pepper. Salt, especially when damp, can be highly corrosive and could harm the finish, as pepper, which also absorbs moisture, can result in a caked-on mess almost impossible to remove from the interior of the shaker.

Don’t overlook “singles.” Many unusual shakers have popped up on yard sale tables or on the shelves at thrift shops because its mate had been broken and thrown away. You may not need or want that lonely shaker, but somewhere out there is a collector with a matching piece who would love to complete the set. On the other hand, if you already have a matched set, you might want to consider keeping the piece as a possible replacement should one of yours ever have a mishap.

Last, look for shakers that are stamped “Japan” on the bottom (most shakers these days are made in China or Taiwan). After World War II, the United States occupied Japan, so anything that left the country had to be stamped, “Made in Occupied Japan.” This was displeasing to the Japanese, so whenever they thought they could get away with not using the stamp, they did, and any goods that left Japan simply said, “Made in Japan.” As a result of this, not too many items were stamped with the “Made In Occupied Japan” stamp, and the ones that were are extremely rare and very collectible.

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