Collecting with Jeff
by Jeff Figler
One collectible item is really a pair. If you have ever had a meal at someone’s home, or at a restaurant, and let’s face it, who has not, you are bound to see a couple of pieces usually in the middle of the table. They usually look similar, but one has an “S” on it, the other a “P”.
Okay, so I’ve given it away. Yes, they are salt and pepper shakers.
Before I continue, please, before you use either one of them, look to see what you are using. Don’t be like my father did several years ago, and then wondered why his food tasted unusual. I don’t actually know the full story as to why salt and pepper were made a pair, but I do know their history.
Before there were salt and pepper shakers as we have come to know them, people in the Victorian period placed their salt in open cellars. The salt came in rock form, and had to be chipped off to be put on food. Seems like a lot of work to have salt on your salad. It sure is much easier to have the waiter help you or just do it yourself.
The early salt shakers actually were salt mills. They had a piece inside the shaker that was used to break the salt into pieces. When salt production became more sophisticated, the pieces used to break the salt were no longer needed. As modern ceramics became popular in the 1940s, salt and pepper shakers took off. They were made of various designs and shapes. The market for the shakers steadily increased as the ability to make the shaker increased.
Collectors are impressed with shakers. But it was not until the advent of ceramics that shakers became more accessible, and unique. As shakers became more varied, the more shaker collectors there are. In addition, the internet has allowed more collectors to be aware of shakers for sale.
Generally, salt and pepper shakers are relatively inexpensive to collect. Of course. There are some shakers that are very expensive, depending on their rarity, condition, and desirability. Most shaker sets can be bought for between $5 and $50, but other sets can sell for several thousand dollars.
There are some collectors who collect vintage salt and pepper shaker sets because of the memories they bring back while they were growing up. As with other types of collectibles, shaker sets will most likely appreciate in value. The sets that are common and mass produced will not appreciate much, but hold on to the vintage sets and the ones that are unique in design.
Shaker sets can vary greatly in value. For example, a pair of American silver gilt and glass salt and pepper shakers made around 1960 were sold around $350. Shaker sets of celebrities have also been auctioned. In 2010, there were 23 shakers owned by Lucille Ball that went for $598.
A pair of painted bisque salt and pepper shakers from around 1920, depicting a prancing black man and woman sold for $717, while a pair of American silver novelty salt and pepper shakers from 1879 were sold at a Heritage Auction in 2008 for $1195.
Naturally, the older and more ornate, the more valuable the shakers will be. A pair of Steuben Glass Works blue aurene salt and pepper shakers from 1912-1922 were sold for $2400 at auction. It really must take a collector who really is excited about the items to purchase a salt and pepper shaker set for that much money. Of course, each collector’s reasons for buying any item is different.
My wife would have probably kicked me out of the house.
Jeff Figler has authored more than 600 published articles about collecting. He is one of the world’s leading experts on collectibles and is a former sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch/STL Today, and San Diego Union Tribune. Jeff’s most recent book is Picker’s Pocket Guide to Baseball Memorabilia published by Krause Publications. You can learn more about Jeff by visiting his website www.collectingwithjeff.com. He can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.