I have a confession. Those tacky vintage turkey salt and pepper shakers aren’t the oddest things in my kitchen. The turkeys have company. The turkeys were, in fact, the start of what people on ebay would call a “collection”…but what others might call “temporary insanity.” You see, once I bought the tacky turkeys, it just seemed, well, sort of normal to buy these.
I was at a flea* market when my normal taste went right out the window and I somehow thought it would be cute to have a pepper shaker named “Pepe.” (*I initially typed this as “flee.” Freudian?) I’m not sure if Salte and Pepe are supposed to be Mexican or Italian. They were made in Japan, by people who had most likely never been to either Mexico or Italy. Among other things, while Pepe is usually a male name, this Pepe seems to be the girl of the pair.
Japan has long been known for its porcelain and ceramic production. High quality Noritaki china is still coveted. But on the other hand, the country also produced a bewildering array of salt and pepper shakers, figurines and other kitschy items, primarily in the ’40s and ’50s. All my vintage salt and pepper shakers come from Japan. (Yes, I said “all”. There are more. I know.)
After buying Salte and Pepe, I was shocked to learn that one of my friends (who shall remain nameless) had a huge collection of vintage salt and pepper shakers. He explained to me that the Made in Japan items were more collectible than non-stamped or North American ones (due to the Japanese reputation for quality porcelain), and those stamped “made in Occupied Japan” were more coveted still. Japan was occupied by the U.S. and its allies from 1945 to 1952. Americans boycotted Japanese products during the war, but the post-war “Occupied Japan” labels assured Americans that part of the proceeds from items made in the country of their former enemy would go toward war reparations.
(These shakers may make a full-on appearance later.)
I’ve been trying to figure out why salt and pepper shakers became collectible. More specifically, why I temporary got caught up in it (it was a long time ago—I promise). The best I can figure is that it has something to do with the sheer variety of them. Go on ebay or any collectible site and look up “vintage salt and pepper shakers.” Hundreds of them. All different. It’s like hockey cards. Once you have a few that are different, it becomes an obsession to find all the others that are unique from the ones you have. There’s always another out there that’s better than the one you just got. Luckily, I managed to stop before it became interventionable.
If there’s any interest, maybe I’ll pull out the rest. We can have Kitsch Week! Yay or Nay? Will you think less of me if you see what’s really hiding in my cupboard?