by Jessica Kosinski
Today, we are all familiar with home parties such as The Pampered Chef, Touchstone Crystal, Jafra, PartyLite, and more. But who can forget those great vintage home parties like Tupperware, Mary Kay, and Stan Home that brought great products to the home and that we are all chasing after today? You may have thought they came from stores, but where they mostly came from is home parties.
Making Home Parties the Homemaker’s Cash Cow
Home parties are fun opportunities to get together with friends and family members, and for party hosts to earn money in their own homes. Home parties are direct sales techniques. Direct sales is a process by which sellers purchase products from companies and sell them directly to buyers using various techniques, such as demonstrations of how the products work. Such demonstrations often take place in front of large groups in the homes of sales associates who market the products. In some cases, sales associates also receive incentives for recruiting new sales associates. That process is called network or multi-level marketing (MLM).
In its early years, direct sales in the United States were left up to traveling salesmen. They peddled their wares from door to door all across the country. That all changed in the early 1900s, when the concept of holding parties to peddle products to multiple people at once began to take off.
The concept was simple: the person hosting the party, traditionally a woman, would invite several friends and family members to attend. The guests would enjoy food, drinks, and conversation as products were demonstrated.
Companies like Avon and Tupperware have built large followings through the use of home parties ever since and have evolved over the years. Today, many home parties include various party games which were not that common in the early days. Many of the items sold at those early parties are now widely sought by collectors.
The origins of home parties for product sales can be traced back, at least partially, to the Fuller Brush Company, founded in 1906 by Alfred Fuller. Fuller sold multiple household products. In the early days, traveling salesmen sold those products door-to-door, and today the company is still in existence, though it has changed hands several times and now relies heavily on online advertising.
The reason the Fuller Brush Company was instrumental in the development of home parties can be traced to one Fuller Brush salesman. His name was Frank Stanley Beveridge, and he was so successful as a Fuller Brush salesman, he managed to amass enough money to open his own business. The company, Stanley Home Products, opened in 1931.
As the owner, Beveridge used the Fuller Brush business model of having salesmen sell his products door-to-door. However, one of his salesmen took it upon himself to reduce his workload by obtaining the services of a local housewife. The woman called all her friends to her home for a “Stanley party.” At the party, the Stanley products were demonstrated and shown to many buyers at one time. In exchange for her assistance, the hostess received free Stanley products.
Mr. Beveridge soon heard about the success his salesman was having with these home parties and by 1940, all his products were sold exclusively at home parties hosted by housewives. Jobs for women were scarce during that time. The concept of the housewife” was the new vocation for American women but when it came to having their “own” money, they were often out of luck. Beveridge used that to his advantage by offering hostesses monetary compensation for sales made at their parties. The idea was a complete success.
Stanley Home Products
Stanley Home Products, or SHP, has produced many products for the home and the homemaker over the years. They are still in business today, but their original products have long since been discontinued and are now quite collectible. For example, a vintage bottle of SHP Legend of Love cologne in its original box recently sold for $30. Stanley Home Products vintage hairbrushes are also popular items for the collector. They regularly sell for $20 to $30 each.
More impressive than Stanley Home Products collectibles is the legacy the company created through its employees. Brownie Wise started at SHP before eventually selling Tupperware, which is one of the most well-known home party sales product lines in the United States. Another famous home party company founder who trained with SHP before starting her own business was Mary Kay Ash of Mary Kay Cosmetics fame.
Tupperware was invented by Earl Tupper. It was first marketed to the American public in 1946. In the post-war environment, housewives loved it because it was long-lasting and durable, and soon found its way into many American homes. One of its most successful saleswomen was Brownie Wise, who later became Vice President of Tupperware Home Parties. Ms. Wise, whose given name was Brownie Mae Humphrey, was largely responsible for the establishment of incentives for successful sales representatives, such as trips, speedboats, and appliances. She also started the annual 4-day meetings or conventions where ideas were shared, prizes and contests were rampant, and motivational talks took place.
When collecting Tupperware, there are two types of collectibles to watch for. They are the products themselves and the Tupperware sales incentives. For example, in 1957, Jubilee commemorative ceramic plates were issued to certain Tupperware sales representatives. Today, one of those plates is housed at the Smithsonian in the National Museum of American History. Among the most popular collectible Tupperware product lines are the nesting bowls. Various sets were produced over the years, including the 1960s Wonderlier nesting bowls.
The color of Tupperware also makes a difference. Some colors used were more enduring than others. For example, pink Tupperware tends to lose its color over time so if you find a pink piece, it may have a higher price tag. Other Tupperware products are popular for their unique styles or due to limited production runs or the difficulty of trying to find complete sets. Tupperware produced salt and pepper shakers with stands, that are still in high demand today, especially when they are complete.
Mary Kay Products
Mary Kay is one of the most successful and popular companies producing beauty products today, but the company had humble beginnings. Mary Kay Ash, founded the company in 1963 in Dallas, Texas with help from her son, Richard. She only had $5,000 to use to launch the business, which started with only nine sales representatives. The business also had the benefit of her years of experience working for other direct sales companies.
The pink Cadillac became a trademark car for Mary Kay and even became a sales incentive prize for her salespeople. Mary Kay marketed many products in her almost 50years leading the company and passed away in 2001, but the company is still going strong. Some of its most popular products are those produced in its early years.
Among the most popular Mary Kay vintage products sought after today are the perfume bottles, often used just for display. Each bottle has a unique design, making them fun to collect. Full bottles with their original boxes are often worth more. For example, a full bottle of vintage Mary Kay Acapella in its original box recently sold for $55.
As with Tupperware, some of the most collectible Mary Kay items are not products. They are incentives and advertising tools. For example, in the 1960s Mary Kay used several promotional Santa Claus dolls to advertise company products at events. The Santa Claus dolls were often dressed in pink. Pink clad Mary Kay Santa dolls in good condition routinely sell for $100 to $200.
“Ding dong! Avon calling!” is the well-known tag line first popularized in 1954 as part of the first Avon television marketing campaign. Today, Avon is one of the most popular and well-known cosmetic companies in the world. It began as the California Cosmetics Company – somewhat of a misnomer, since it was founded in New York City. Its founder, David H. McConnell, mixed many of the scents that became favorites of its customers and kick-started the business.
McConnell founded the company in 1886. That same year, a woman named Mrs. Albee created a direct marketing system to sell Avon products, but that system did not originally involve hosting home parties to sell products. Instead, Avon products were sold using the same door-to-door strategies employed by many other companies at that time. Ten years later, in 1896, the company produced its first catalog to help its saleswomen sell Avon’s products. The first catalog to feature color images was not issued until 1905.
The Little Dot Perfume Set was the first product line released by the California Cosmetics Company. Several other products were released between 1886 and 1939 when the company changed names. That was one of many changes made after McConnell’s son took over the business in 1937, following his father’s death. As those changes took place, Mrs. Albee’s original direct marketing system changed. Soon, the company expanded to include many different sales representatives employing several sales tactics that included the ever popular home parties.
Originally known for its perfumes and cosmetics, Avon is now famous worldwide for many product lines. Among its most popular products are jewelry and collectible Christmas ornaments. Avon is also well-known for the whimsical designs of its men’s and women’s decanters, which are now highly collectible. They were first produced in the 1960s and the early designs included antique cars, with many whimsical designs, such as animals.
Avon scent decanters are among the easiest home party collectibles to find because they were produced in such large numbers. The bulk of them were produced between 1965 and 1980, but there are others that were produced after 1980 and can still be collectible. The decanters with the highest values are typically full, unopened, and undamaged, with intact boxes. Even in excellent condition, the market is saturated with these bottles, but collectors enjoy their whimsical designs. Bottles that span multiple areas of interest may have slightly higher values.
The Sarah Coventry jewelry line took its name from the granddaughter of the founder, Charles Stuart, and the English town from which the Stuart family originated, and was founded by Stuart in the United States in 1949. At that time, many women were suddenly out of work due to the end of the war, allowing Stuart to have Sarah Coventry jewelry sold solely a home party-based business.
The Sarah Coventry house party sales method served the company well and was supplemented by clever marketing techniques. For example, many game show contestants received Sarah Coventry jewelry as prizes, and beauty pagent contestants wore the jewelry during competition. Stuart used the unique approach of not having an in-house jewelry designer but a number of firms and freelance jewelry designers to create its unique costume style.
By the 1980s, the Sarah Coventry Company filed for bankruptcy. It managed a few minor recoveries in the years that followed, but eventually in 2008 it shut down. Unlike many of the above mentioned companies still producing products today, there is a finite amount of Sarah Coventry jewelry in circulation. That may help contribute to the popularity of collecting it and to raising the values of some Sarah Coventry jewelry pieces.
When collecting Sarah Coventry jewelry, you may find the pieces produced in the 1960s and 70s have the highest values. Sets that were produced in limited amounts as hostess incentives are also highly prized by collectors. Others popular sets include color-based collections like the Straw-berry Ice and Blue Lagoon jewelry sets. Sarah Coventry jewelry is often flashy, fun, and certainly noticeable, with quirky additions like images of famous works of art on some pieces. With all these options it is easy to find Sarah Coventry jewelry to suit your personality.