A Vintage Napkin Holder Guide For Collectors

July 12th, 2010

orange lucite vintage napkin holder

A vintage napkin holder was a fixture in a 50s, 60s, and 70s vintage kitchen. Because they were made in such quantity, many have survived, making them affordable collectibles. But where do you start when you want to begin collecting? Read on to become a vintage napkin holder expert.

Lucite Vintage Napkin Holder

Okay, disclosure here. I LOVE a good lucite vintage napkin holder. I have a regular family of them.

Lucite was big in the 60s and 70s and these retro colored, semi-transparent pieces will behave a bit like stained glass if light shines through them.

You can generally find a vintage napkin holder in the shape of an owl, mushroom or flower. Butterflies and roosters are also around. And then there are some eco looking holders with natural seeds or flowers pressed inside them.

My favorite is my orange lucite vintage napkin holder at the top of the post. It was made by Crystal Craft and I have not yet seen another one.

Ceramic Vintage Napkin Holder

A ceramic vintage napkin holder will frequently have more enduring value if was manufactured by a well known name.  Holt Howard pieces are popular. The company produced roosters and the currently pricey Cozy Kitten line. You can also find a nice vintage Lefton Christmas tree napkin holder from the 50s.

Davar made a blue kitchen maid vintage napkin holder in a similar style to the Holt Howard pieces. It has other matching pieces if you like to collect sets of items.

Enesco made many a vintage napkin holder. You can find them in the shape of an anthropomorphic lime or grape, Missy Mouse, and an old time style lady with a dinner prayer printed on her skirt. The latter came with matching salt and pepper shakers. They also made owl, dog, and independence day napkin holders among many others. Enesco did continue producing napkin holders throughout the years although I’m personally not as fond of the newer ones.

And I couldn’t forget to mention the Sears Merry Mushroom ceramic vintage napkin holder. Sears and other manufacturers churned out a huge array of ceramic mushroom napkin holder options and one in prime condition can still be found after a little hunting.

butterfly plastic vintage napkin holder

Plastic Vintage Napkin Holder

I personally classify a plastic vintage napkin holder as being made out of a much thinner material than lucite. These are the happy, retro napkin holders that the Brady Bunch would use. You seem them in opaque orange, green, yellow, red and other bright colors. Sometimes they will also have a period-specific design, like daisies or butterflies, drawn on them.

During the 70s, the St. Labre Indian School in Montana also cranked out a large number of plastic napkin holders which are almost in a class of their own. I believe these were part of a school fundraising effort. The napkin holders are frequently found with salt and pepper shakers. They all have native-style cutouts and are done in a very retro mix of avocado, yellow, and sometimes orange.

Wooden Vintage Napkin Holder

This is another common type of napkin holder. Some are painted in a folk art style. Others are carved or a have a silhouette of an animal or flower. Roosters were common. Every once in a while a cedar vintage napkin holder will turn up. Sometimes you will also find pseudo colonial-style pieces. Some even have the black metal eagles that were found on range hoods and wall plaques.

I personally find the wooden tourism-based napkin holders kind of interesting. They’re not likely to go out with the fine china for holiday meals, but are a lot of fun for casual dining and decorating.

Cast Iron Vintage Napkin Holder

I most frequently see these in the shape of roosters. Owls are probably the second most common type of cast iron vintage napkin holder. Sometimes an owl will have stained glass around its body area.

Less common are what I would call the household comedy vintage napkin holders. They’ll have a saying that usually pokes fun at the lady or gentleman of the house. They are very similar to trivets of the same style, although the trivets are more common.

dried flower lucite vintage napkin holder

Hammered Aluminum Vintage Napkin Holder

These don’t command a premium, but are becoming more difficult to find. Rodney Kent is a collectable name.

Metal And Tile Vintage Napkin Holder

Sometimes I also see vintage napkin holders made of an upright decorative ceramic tile and a metal base. Usually the metal will be in sort of a black wire scroll work. These pieces can come with one or two tiles.

Other Vintage Napkin Holder Types

You can find many other vintage napkin holder types on the market. They are made from glass, brass, copper and other metals. There are vintage napkin holders that look like little wire magazine racks, glass pieces, praying hands from Coppercraft, brass vintage pieces, and many more. There really is a large selection.

So now that you have a handle on what’s out there, go out and find some good ones! A vintage napkin holder packs a lot of vintage decorating style for a modest investment.

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    7 Responses

  1. cinnabar says:

    Wow! What a trip back to the 70′s this is. I can see these still in my friends and family’s homes. No doubt some are still in use with nary a thought.

  2. Penn Polly Vintage says:

    Thanks for stopping by Cinnabar! Yeah, you have to love the “grooviness” of a 70s vintage napkin holder.

  3. ivy says:

    i collect lucite napkin holders, and have no less than 60 of them. at least half of mine are the owl on the brass stand. i love them, it is the only thing i collect, and i have no idea why i like them so much. i have a smile face one like the one you have, only it is yellow and white. i bought it for a buck when driving through tennessee, and stopped at a thrift store. i have spent as much as 20 for the owls though. my daughter caught the bug, and i have given her about half of mine.

  4. Penn Polly Vintage says:

    Welcome Ivy. Wow, 60 vintage napkin holders! That’s an impressive collection. Do you display them? It’s great to find a sister/brother to my smiley face vintage napkin holder. Knew there had to be some out there somewhere. I think that one is my favorite because it is so happy.

  5. ivy says:

    Yes I display them on wood shelves. I like the clear colored lucite the best. They look really cool when the light shines through them.

  6. Renee says:

    I just bought a Vintage plastic napkin holder of a woman’s hands (on each side of the napkins) for 99 cents. I just thought it looked interesting! It says An-Sa on it; no idea when it was made, I am guessing it is from the 1960s.

  7. Penn Polly Vintage says:

    Hi Renee,

    Welcome! It sounds very interesting. Unfortunately I have never heard of that brand so can’t with further identification.

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