Salt & Pepper Shakers

By Paula Kirwan


If ever there was a collectible category that allowed people to pick and choose any theme that tickles their fancy, it’s that of salt and pepper shakers.  With thousands of shapes, materials and subjects to choose from, this hobby caters to the do-your-own-thing style of collecting.  Salt and pepper shakers abound in antique shops and flea markets such as GasLamp and GasLamp Too. And the shapes run the gamut from architecture to zebras. 


New collectors may want to narrow their search to a particular theme that appeals to them.  For instance, one could choose S&P’s made from materials such as celluloid, Bakelite, wood, metal (including pewter and silver), glass, ceramic, plastic or bone china. 


Or perhaps a collection of dogs, cats or other animals might catch one’s fancy.  What about advertising sets?  Companies such as Coca-Cola, Planter’s Peanuts and Campbell Soup once gave out shakers as premium giveaways or souvenirs.  Cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat or Raggedy Ann are also popular, as are story characters like Snow White or Little Red Riding Hood. 


Sports lovers will find S&P sets such as a football and helmet, golf bag and ball, fishing reel and fish, or baseball batter and catcher.  And of course, holiday themes such as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are amply represented in S&P shakers and make wonderful holiday displays (photo, left, Santa S&P from Japan T-357 $28). 


There are huggers, where two shakers rest on a base and “hug” each other.  These pieces can be mirror images embracing each other, or different figures such as a donkey hugging a bale of hay or a bear hugging a fish.


Another category is “go-withs”, where the two pieces are different from one another, but they relate or complement each other, like a dog and a fire hydrant, a chef and a stove, or a lock and a key. One-piece sets are also popular. These have two chambers, each with their own stopper, and when shaken one way will dispense the salt, and when shaken in the other direction, the pepper will come out. 


There are even S&P shakers in food shapes.  There are chocolate sundaes, carrots, eggs, ice cream cones, fish, baked potatoes, or fast food items such as hamburgers or hot dogs, to name a few.  Avid travelers might want to collect S&P shakers that depict architectural landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower or London Bridge, or more generic attractions such as windmills, churches and lighthouses.  Or perhaps they will want to collect souvenir S&P shakers from the places they have visited.


How about people?  Children, brides and grooms, hillbillies, chefs, hobos and nuns are popular S&P subjects.  There are likenesses of presidents, celebrities or historic figures, as well as pop images such as Popeye or Betty Boop.  Ship’s captains, bellhops, geisha girls, pirates, Eskimos, policemen, Spanish senoritas, clowns, firemen, nuns . . . all of these and many, many more figures are depicted in salt and pepper shakers. (Above left, Chinese boy and girl S&P; T-357. Right, ceramic man and woman; T-182, $12).


Others that make a wonderful collection are shakers from prestigious artisan companies such as Lalique and Stuben, as well as sterling silver shakers from Gorham, Duchin or Cartier and from fine china manufacturers such as Noritake and Lenox.  These may be more expensive than other S&P shakers, but the beauty and quality of these pieces are well worth it. 


Like all collections, quality and scarcity will dictate price.  There are many reproductions of vintage shakers being made, but serious collectors interested in a collection that will grow in value are probably better off purchasing original shaker sets.  Look for manufacturer names, logos or insignia on the bottom of the shakers.  Some of the more prolific U.S. manufacturers were NAPCO, Lenox, Ceramic Arts Studio, Whapeton Pottery Company, Shawnee Pottery Company, Shafford and Hull China. 


English Bone China companies such as Aynsley or Royal Albert, or German company William Goebel Company, famous for its Hummel figurines, manufactured beautiful shakers as well.  (Photo,above left, red transferware S&P on tray'; T-714, $24).

Japanese companies include Osuga Ware and Noritake, but a vast majority of S&P shakers were made by Japanese manufacturers that can no longer be identified.  They are unmarked or simply marked “Made in Japan” or “Japan”, so quality or subject matter should be the determining factors in those cases.  “Occupied Japan” markings on S&P sets also increase their value. 


While collecting vintage S&P shakers is a great way to go, keep in mind that collecting merely for pleasure is important as well.  If you’re interested in a certain theme, you should certainly include new sets.  You can collect pieces that will appreciate in value, and you can collect pieces that you will appreciate personally.  The goal is to have fun and enjoy!












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