Vintage McCoy Pottery – Green Planters

I’m back! I’ll leave my absence unexplained but let’s just say it involved espionage and sports car chases through exotic locales. It was definitely not due to tax preparation.

I thought I might dip my toe back into blog writing by introducing yet another of my collections – vintage McCoy pottery. Vintage McCoy planters to be exact, and in this entry at least, green planters. Here’s the small assortment I have right now:

Green McCoy planters

Those colours are a bit brighter than normal. Guess who has two thumbs and recently discovered all the settings on her new camera? This girl!

As you can see, I haven’t actually planted anything in my planters, but rest assured these vintage beauties are fully functional. I hope to install narrow glass shelves on our dining room window and display some of my McCoy collection with plants. I love the idea of having partial privacy from the planters, while at the same time allowing light to filter into the room. The plants should do well in the light and the shelves will be in a corner so they won’t be in the way. I know this type of window shelving was more popular in the 1950s but there’s no reason not to revive the trend today if it fits your space! Even Martha Stewart is a fan, as you can see from this photo I found on her website:

Glass shelves in window

Mmmmm. That's tasteful.

Even if you’re not at the point of renovating the windows, McCoy pottery is still a very approachable and affordable brand to collect. McCoy started back in 1910 in as a sanitary and stoneware company in clay rich Zanesville, Ohio. The wares first made by the company were more utilitarian in nature, but then in the 1930s they began to market more decorative pieces for the home. Much like the Shiny Brite company, McCoy pottery became very popular with middle class families in the 1950s due to their quality workmanship and mass-produced price. McCoy branched out from mugs and kitchen ware to include planters, cookie jars, jardines, wall pockets and vases. The items came in a huge variety of shape, colour and glaze. I collect pretty much exclusively the planters, but even in this one area I can easily find shapes ranging from flowers to animals, birds, fish and even boots. Take a look at the variety in my small collection of green, standard shaped planters:

Notice the glazing on the bamboo planter (vintage from the 1960s):

The beautiful variations in colour and glaze make every piece unique. The more common shapes and colours are still found for affordable prices. For instance I found this chalice inspired planter at my local thrift store for $10:

Try to find something this nice at Walmart for ten bucks.

You ever hear the expression “the real McCoy”? Well, that’s actually a very old Scottish saying and nothing to do with pottery at all, but it does serve as a memorable warning about McCoy knock offs. The brand is so popular that newly made reproductions have been found in many styles. Collectors who buy pieces worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars must carefully inspect the mark and the quality of the clay before purchase. The marks varied throughout the years, and some items were never marked in the first place. Marks can be convincingly replicated on reproductions, but what is harder to replicate is the heavy clay used in real vintage McCoy. New pottery is more brittle and less dense. The glazing might not be as expertly applied, or cover the proper amount of the surface as well. In general, the knock offs look and feel cheaper than their authentic counterparts. Try to get your hands on some real ones and inspect them carefully to know what feels right.

McCoy pottery marks

You can see the variety of McCoy marks on even this small selection of items.

Don’t let the fear of knock-offs stop you from picking up one of these delightful pieces if you find one at an antique show or in your local SallyAnne. Online sales can be a bit tricky, but this is where feedback and reputation are important. I’ve bought from reputable dealers online with no problems at all. The real McCoys are still available and affordable in many styles. If you are in doubt about making a substantial purchase, you can use the links below to help guide your decision. I’ll profile more of my McCoy pottery later, as well as any updates on those dreamy glass shelves ūüôā

Real McCoy Links (about real McCoys!):
Chiquita’s McCoy Pottery – Chiquita likes McCoy a LOT. Great photos of her vast collection, as well as collecting tips and historical information.
McCoy Pottery Online – Marks, history, photos, auctions and all things McCoy.

My Favourite Mountie Painting

I’m back! For all my readers (hi mom!), I should explain that I was on vacation last week in lovely, sunny Cuba. It was a wonderful break from our mild but dreary Toronto winter. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a photo I took looking out my home office window a few weeks ago:

Toronto winter

Yipee.

Now here’s a photo of the sunset on our last evening in Cuba:

Cuba sunset

That's more like it.

Although it’s good to be home I still feel sluggish. Therefore, today I’m going to¬†lazily post some photos tell you about my favourite Mountie painting. I can’t believe I forgot to mention it when I wrote about my Mountie collection before, since this painting has been on my walls since I was sixteen. If I remember correctly, my dad picked it up at a yard sale. He knew I liked Mounties, and he was smitten by the painting’s iconic image and overly dramatic staging. For me, it was love at first site:

Mountie painting

The Mountie and his noble steed.

She’s a beaut, ain’t she? Everything art critics would tell you – that the figures are too rigid, the setting clich√©, the whole thing is kitchy – is true. I don’t think that this is a particularly good painting. But, BUT, what it lacks in artistic sophistication it makes up for in enthusiasm. There’s a signature on the bottom that says “J. Hamilton”. I’d like to believe the artist was an older man who was a hobby painter. One day he decided to paint the most noble, upright (very upright – he’s almost jumping off his horse) Mountie he could imagine. He put his subject in the classic Canadian wilderness where grass, meadows, mountains and clouds meet sky.

mountie painting close up

I love how the clouds arrange themselves with almost heavenly reverence around the Mountie. I love how the horse is restless, but the Mountie sits with complete poise and control. It’s all pretty great. You might not respect me for admiring this painting so much, but that is the risk we all take when we find original art and put it on our walls. At the end of the day, I think it’s much more interesting to have questionable but well loved original art, versus bland and mass produced consumer art.

Mountie painting close up

You sir, are a true Canadian hero.

My Mountie painting is not so loved by my husband, but then again he once bought a frame to properly display an “A-Team” poster so I take his opinion with a grain of salt. He really likes other folk art, and I admit this particular piece has a niche appeal. For the RCMP fan, however, it’s the Mona Lisa of Mountie art. If my hallway were the Louvre, this baby would be the star attraction.

Miniature Horse Head

Happy New Year! I hope 2012 is treating you well so far. Back at work and all that. So you may have noticed that my epic quest to write exhaustively about my vintage¬†Christmas was a little thin in execution. I am still pretty happy with what I managed to write, but perhaps the lesson for next time is not to commit to¬†blogging at the busiest time of the year. Or maybe the lesson is learn how to write faster and with greater discipline. If the lesson is to watch all 8 Harry Potter films and eat gingerbread cookies for a week then I’m pretty solid.

Anyway, this Christmas I was very blessed in the gift department. I received many nerdy toys like Nintendo Wii games and this crazy future alarm clock that promises to make waking up a glowing and bird call filled experience. I also received a few pieces of really amazing vintage folk art. My parents are folk art dealers so it’s not unusual to benefit from their knowledge and collections. Sill, I was really touched by their generosity. One piece I received was a miniature horse head by noted Ontario artist Albert Hoto:

This amazingly detailed horse head is from the Hoto family collection, and dated from about 1960. I just love the character and grace Hoto was able to achieve in such a small piece of carved and painted wood. Albert Hoto lived and worked on a farm, so I would like to think this tiny plaque is a testament to a particularly helpful and prized farm horse.



It may be difficult to tell from the photographs, but the piece is only about 5″ tall. Check it out next to a standard mechanical pencil:


Pretty great, right? Hoto started his creative work after retiring from farm life because he was bored and wanted something to pass the time. In his retirement years he created many wonderful small carvings that earned him prizes and praise from collectors. You can read more about Albert Hoto on my dad’s blog Shadfly Guy. His recent posts about Hoto include a short biography, the transcript of a 1953 newspaper article about Hoto, and a newspaper photograph of his work.¬†Albert Hoto was a truly talented folk artist and I am so happy to have one of his pieces in our collection.

Vintage Mounties

Mountie Collection

A few of the vintage Mounties in my collection

As a Canadian, not to mention a general fan of square-jawed, stoic men in uniform, I’ve always been fond of the classic RCMP officer. Red coats, Stetson hats, a hair cut you can set your watch to, and a noble steed to ride. The classic RCMP ¬†(Royal Canadian Mounted Police) or “Mountie” has it all. The Mountie is an icon of Canadian culture. When you say “Canadian” in other parts of the world, the Mountie is probably an image that comes to mind (maybe along with a hockey player, snow and¬†the general¬†idea of trees). He might be¬†a clich√©¬†and not at all representative of the diverse people who comprise the modern RCMP force, but the image endures thanks in large part to the plethora of items made in his image. Some of these items are souvenirs and some are advertising to capitalize on a Canadian association with certain products. As a kid, for instance,¬†I remember being in France and seeing Canada Dry commercials featuring a friendly, fully uniformed Mountie sitting in a bar pushing ginger ale. It was silly, but darned if it didn’t make me feel patriotic.

Since the RCMP formed in 1920, the image of the ‚ÄúRed Serge‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúReview Order‚ÄĚ uniformed Mountie became so popular it actually became a problem. By 1995 there were so many shoddy, illegal¬†copies of¬† the RCMP image running rampant on everything from pro wrestlers to cartoons that they famously struck a deal with the Walt Disney corporation to help control their copyright.¬†In 2000 the RCMP decided¬† not to¬†renew their Disney contract, saying they now had enough knowledge and experience with commercial licensing to protect the image on their own.¬†Today the RCMP sell their own lines of souvenirs with reproduction images.

While new RCMP merchandise is actually really nice, there’s nothing stopping you from collecting the real vintage stuff. By and large, because there was so much made with Mounties, you can pick and choose different types of objects to collect depending on your space and budget. Let’s take a look at some of my items to give you an idea:

Reliable Plastic Mountie

This handsome fellow makes sure the plants are well protected.

This is one of my plastic Mountie figures. These were made in Toronto, Canada by the Reliable Plastic Company. The Reliable Company made, well, pretty reliable toys and these figures have held up well over the years. They have varying degrees of ware and tear. Some of them still say “R.C.M.P Canada” on the base, but on mine the letters have worn off. The back of the base is stamped with the words “RELIABLE MADE IN CANADA”. They are 8″ tall,¬†and sell for around $15 – $30 depending on condition. These figures were made between the 1950s and 1960s, and can be quite easily found today in antique shops and online.

The following two plaster figures are vintage advertisements for Drewrys beer featuring RCMP officers and real glass beer bottles. The Redwood brewery (not the Drewry brewery for reasons one can only assume had to do with alliteration), was founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1877. The company also opened a brewery in South Bend, Indiana in the 1930s following the end of prohibition. By 1936 all actual beer production took place on US soil.

Even when the beer was made in the USA, the Mountie was still used to advertise Drewrys beer. The figures that feature the trio of a Mountie, horse and beer bottle are especially sought after by collectors. Most of these figures were made in the 1940s and sell for $100 – $200 dollars today. I bought both my Drewry Mounties at the same time from the same dealer, and made a deal for both. The first one is smaller and has a miniature glass bottle. The second¬†figure¬†(with horse) has a full size bottle and a flat back for easy mounting on a wall. It’s a great item for a¬†kitchen or bar area.¬†¬†The Drewry Mounties are a collectible that straddles two fairly¬†large areas of collecting: RCMP and beer. For that reason they are a good investment for the money.

Drewrys Mountie #1Drewrys Mountie #2

Mountie Salt & Pepper shakers

Finally, I’d like to show off two little men who make salt and pepper a charming addition to any table. I don’t know what company made these salt and pepper shakers. I can guess that they are from the 1950s but I’m not sure. They have small chips and discolourations.¬†These are not prize pieces but I like them and they probably cost less than $20.

My point is that even if you don’t pay much, or expect to recoup your investment, vintage RCMP pieces can add charm and interest to your home. Plus who¬†can resist a man in uniform?¬†I’ll show you more items from my vintage Mountie collection later. If you have any comments I’d love to hear them!

Oh, and remember that deal the RCMP made with Disney to stop fraudulent but perhaps hilarious use of their image? Thank goodness it didn’t take effect until after Monty Python¬†gave us¬†this: