Discover Vintage America - FEBRUARY 2018
The Pixieware created by Holt Howard Co. enchants collectors
Q: I have been seeing these funny looking condiment jars all over the place with what I consider to be outlandish prices. Some are marked on the bottom "Holt Howard" and others are not marked at all. Can you please shed some light on them for me?
A: Pixieware, oh how I love thee. The 1950s were a time of whimsical, anthropomorphic, kitsch items for the home. People were moving out of the cities and into the suburbs they had more living space than ever before. BBQ grills were in most backyards and the public wanted cute, yet small, condiment wares that were easy to take out of the house and on to the grill and picnic area. That is exactly what the Holt Howard Co. had in mind when creating their pieces.
The 1950s to early 1960s was a transitional time for America, think about the TV lamps and spaghetti poodles. Rock 'n' Roll was playing on the radio and cars were sleek with big tail fins that looked out of this world. Along came Holt-Howard and their designs.
Holt-Howard began in 1948 in Stamford, CN, by John and Robert Howard and A. Grant Holt. The first few years at Holt-Howard focused on Christmas ceramics.
Among the more popular holiday items:
- The Winking Santa and Merry Whiskers beverage sets, which included pitchers and mugs with designs changing each year
- Starry-Eyed Santa party ware, which included pitchers, mugs, salt and pepper shakers, candy dishes and ashtrays (a refreshing combo)
- Christmas-motif cookie jars
- Various candle holders and candelabras
Animal themes quickly made their way into the design, with rooster egg cups and cat string holders. Holt-Howard made other iconic character items yet "Pixieware" is what the company is best remembered for, produced from the 1950s to the early 1960s.
Pixieware condiment jars and other pieces are immediately recognizable by the topknot on the head and the bizarre little ears. All pieces are painted with bright colors and clever facial expressions from happy to sad. The condiment jarheads are attached to a spoon or fork to remove the contents from the jar/bottom. Condiment jars are particularly collectible and are white with colorful vertical stripes, and the name of the condiment is painted in black letters on the jar. For other pieces like liquor decanters, the name more commonly appears on the figure's head.
The Pixieware collection includes around 12 different condiment jars, salt and pepper shakers, liquor decanters, cruets, and specialty items like ashtrays and ice cream sundae dishes. During its heyday – the 1950s and 1960s – Holt Howard was the king of whimsical ceramics. Copycat ceramic studios came close, but none could compare, which is why its Pixieware have $3,000 asking prices on eBay and other online auction sites. I want to emphasis "asking" price, as this is not a normal resale value for the majority of HH wares.
Due to its popularity it wasn't long before other manufacturers started copying Holt-Howard Pixieware. Some of the companies to look for, which have become collected in their own right, are Davar, Lefton, Norcrest, M-G, and Lipper Mann. As with most collectibles, some pieces of Pixieware are more common and less expensive than others. For Pixieware, the standard ketchup and mustard jars and other common condiments tend to be the easiest to find. Rare Pixieware includes specialty condiments such as honey or chili sauce, or a variation like instant coffee. Holt-Howard Pixieware still command the best prices.
Holt-Howard items are marked Holt-Howard © followed by the year of manufacture and often the word Japan. If you would like to read more on the Pixieware line visit - www.antiquetrader.com/features/holt-howard_pixieware_and_collectibles/
As for resale value, the prices run the gamut. The main thing is to look for damage such as chips on the rims and repaired spoons/forks. Garage sales and thrift stores are your best bet to find affordable pieces.
Is there a topic you are interested in? Please let me know.
Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.
Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to www.michelleknowsantiques.com for a one-on-one appraisal.