Salt and pepper shakers were very popular collector’s items in the past. I guess, that many people still collect them but they aren’t as big a deal as they were before. However, that doesn’t mean they lost on their value.
The thing is that just like with PEZ dispensers, people were all of a sudden amassed by them, so a lot of manufacturers mass-produced them to meet demand.
This means, that those cute porcelain salt and pepper shakers in the shape of a dog, that you found in your grandma’s basement probably aren’t so rare. But, of course, you can always check the authenticity and value in some specialized antique shop.
Today they occupy shelves in thrift stores and antique shops, and even though they look cute, most people simply pass them by. However, if you love them, you love them. That is why I decided to share this list of the most valuable collectible salt and paper shakers.
Check your collection; you might be sitting on a golden goose!
Brief History Of Salt And Pepper Shakers
Did you know that salt was used as a currency in ancient Rome? Salt was sacred and extremely valuable in ancient times mostly because people used it to preserve their food. But also because it was very expensive, required a lot of manpower, and labor to extract massive amounts.
Entire economies were based on producing and trading salt. A household that had salt in larger amounts was considered wealthy. The first large-scale production of salt began in the early 1800s. For the next fifty years or so, salt shakers weren’t invented. People used spoons and fingers to add salt if needed.
The first salt shaker was invented in 1848, however, this product didn’t get much success. The situation changed during the period of the great depression. Between 1920 and 1930 salt and pepper shakers experienced a large expansion.
They were mainly made from ceramic, glass, and precious metals. Some were made from porcelain (these were owned by a higher class), and for short period from plastic.
Would you ever think that something as simple as a salt and pepper shaker can be so valuable and pricey? Did you know that some vintage sets are worth a few thousand dollars? Crazy, right? You can buy a car for that money, not the best one, but a useful one.
If you are a salt and pepper shaker enthusiast you won’t be surprised by the prices you will see in the list below. However, if you are someone who just entered the world of collecting these items you might be shocked.
I hope you are excited because you are about to see some very cool antique designs.
1. Antique Edwardian Sterling Silver Pig Salt and Pepper Shakers
- Year: 1909
- Price: $3,425
We are starting this list with a real treat! The Edwardian antique set of salt and paper shakers shaped like miniature pigs. They are made from sterling silver, and you might be surprised how small they are. Each pig is only 6 cm long.
What will blow your mind is how accurately the skin texture and anatomical features are engraved. Each pig has holes on its snoot, one for salt, and three for pepper. A leather box comes with this set. This is a true collector gem, and its value is estimated to be around $3,400. You can purchase it on eBay and 1STDIBS.
2. Antique Victorian Sterling Silver Cruet Set
- Year: 1864
- Price: $1,840
This antique Victorian English sterling silver cruet set is a work of George Fox. As the name says the set is crafted from silver. In this set, you’ll find a salt and pepper shaker as well as a mustard pot and a spoon.
The shakers are in the form of barrels, decorated with bands on the body and ornament decoration on top. The holder is also crafted from silver and ornamented with thread decoration. You can see what this set looks like in this video.
This very fine, collectible antique cruet set in silver is very valuable. The price of this set varies from $1,500 and up. You can purchase this set on eBay, Etsy, and 1STDIBS.
3. Georg Jensen Sterling Silver Salt & Pepper Ser Acorn / Konge No 741
- Year: 1933 – 1944
- Price: $1,800
As you can see silver was a very popular material for making salt and paper shakers until the 50s. This particular set was created by Georg Jensen, a silversmith from Denmark. In fact, most of his products are very valuable today, mostly because his designs were very futuristic for that time.
What is characteristic of this set is its acorn shape and how massive it is, each shaker weighs around 60 grams. Also, it has that fine shine polish which makes this set very elegant. The pair comes with a pedestal. Its value varies around $1,800 depending on the seller. You can purchase this set on eBay and Etsy.
4. Mt Washington Chicken Salt & Pepper Shakers
- Year: 1850 – 1880
- Price: $1,450
Well here’s a set that isn’t made from silver, surprisingly. The exact date of manufacturing is still unknown but it is assumed that it was made somewhere after 1850. If you watched the picture better, I’m sure you all notice that both shakers are in the shape of an egg with a top part made to look like a chicken head.
The body is off-white and decorated with enamel, floral design in pastel colors. The set comes with a guidebook for easier identification. The value of this set is estimated at around $1,500. It is available only on eBay.
5. Georg Jensen Sterling Silver Salt and Pepper Shakers No. 198
- Year: 1930 -1939
- Price: $1,420
A very rare, very old, and impressively good-looking sterling silver set is available for purchase on 1STDIBS and eBay. Both salt shaker and pepper shaker feature a very unique design. The shape is very uncommon, as you can see the top part is shaped like an acorn, but the bottom looks a lot like an egg cup holder.
Anyhow, the whole body of the shaker is covered with beautiful engravings. They are pretty heavy, and tall as well, approximately around 10cm.
6. Vintage Sterling Silver Salt and Pepper Shakers
- Year: 1977
- Price: $1,386
I love everything about this set. It looks rich and elegant, yet very modern at the same time, which is odd since this particular set dates from 1977. It is made by an unknown craftsman in London. The full set is made from sterling silver.
But what makes this set special is that it’s fully hallmarked with small details. If you look better on the front side you will see a lion, a profile of the lady, a leopard’s head, the initials JH (probably craftsman’s), and the letter C. The estimated value is $1,386 and you can find this set on 1STDIBS only.
7. Aesthetic Knowles Sterling Silver Salt and Pepper Shakers Hand-Hammered No. 0258
- Year: 1884
- Price: $1,309
If you like a robust look and design, you’ll adore this set. Each shaker is hand-hammered and made out of sterling silver. What makes them stand out from others is their shape. Most shakers are barrel-shaped, however, these sport rectangular shapes which weren’t very common.
If you take a better look you will see a date of manufacturing engraved on the rim. Both shakers are decorated with ornaments like branches with leaves and geometrical shapes. You can purchase this set on 1STDIBS.
8. Vintage Georg Jensen 925 sterling silver pair of salt/pepper shakers. No. 433
- Year: 1959
- Price: $1,020
If you are looking for oddly shaped antique salt and pepper shakers for your silver collection, you are at the right place. This set sports a one-of-a-kind design. The bottom is a little pit with three legs, and the top is looking like a big tent, overall they look like miniature boilers.
As a decoration George Jensen choose to engrave a flowering branch. On the pepper shaker flower heads present holes that are pierced so the pepper can come through. The set’s value is estimated at around $1,200. However, the current price on Etsy is a bit lower.
9. PAIR GEO IV SILVER- GILT SHAKERS
- Year: 1825
- Price: $835
This is a real treat for all salt and paper shaker collectors. Both shakers are made from high-quality silver even though they do appear a bit darker. However, that is just a consequence of the time that has passed, since these were crafted in 1825 by Edvard Barton.
Shakers are pretty large, and the weight of this set is 130 grams. Each shaker is decorated with flower heads and leaves. This set is currently available for purchase on Etsy and JB antiques.
10. Japanese Meiji Satsuma Kutani Salt And Pepper Shakers
- Year: 1870
- Price: $497
Japanese porcelain is a very precious material. As you may know, some vintage Japanese porcelain vases cost ten thousand dollars. But why are items made from Japanese porcelain so valuable? Because they are handcrafted and handpainted! No matter how much they tried to make their items look the same, each one is unique.
This particular set is made from off-white porcelain and decorated with handpainted bamboo trees in gold color. They really look like miniature vases more than like shakers. The estimated value is $500, and you can find this rare set on eBay.
Types of material used for crafting salt and pepper shakers
Depending on the era and location, manufacturers used different kinds of materials for producing salt and pepper shakers. For example, from 1850 till 1900 most sets were made from silver, later they started implementing glass and ceramics. Only after the 1950s plastic shakers were available for purchase, however, they were too fragile so many companies stopped making them.
Also, craftsmen from Japan mainly used ceramics and porcelain for crafting salt and pepper shakers since they were already manufacturing vases from the same material.
The most common materials were:
- Precious metals
Precious metal sets
Most antique sale and pepper shakers were made from some kind of precious material. Craftsmen usually chose silver, copper, or brass materials, that were plain-colored, brown, or with a gold finish.
These sets have a high value today because they are very durable and can withstand years and years of usage. Yes, they do have some stains and signs of patina but all you have to do is polish them well with the right kind of substance and they will get their shine back. Salt and pepper shakers made from metal usually look very elegant.
Porcelain is a material that was mostly used in Japan and sometimes in Europe. These salt and pepper shakers are very delicate and fragile. This makes them very rare since most sets from the era of occupied Japan, unfortunately, were broken or damaged.
Also, what enhances their value is the way they are manufactured. Almost all vintage porcelain shakers are made by hand and decorated with unique hand-painting decorations.
The third most used material for antique salt and pepper shakers was glass. These shakers are very unique and good-looking considering the glass at that time was mostly colored, instead of transparent. Blue and green colors were very popular, but you can also find yellow and gold glass shakers. As you know glass is fragile, but it is still more durable than porcelain.
The glass sets are usually made from a mix of materials. The majority of the shaker’s body (around 80 – 90%) is crafted from glass, while the caps and sometimes ornamented decoration are made from metal, rarely from wood or plastic. You all heard about Tiffany and Co. Well, some of the most valuable glass shakers originate from their workshops. Logically most of them are made from blue glass.
Ceramics entered the door somewhere in the early 1900s, however, it wasn’t so much used then. Most ceramic salt and pepper shakers originate from the period after the 1950s. They also originate from the period when Japan was occupied.
If you aren’t experienced enough you will have a hard time differentiating ceramic shakers from porcelain shakers. Here are some facts that will help you determine ceramic from porcelain. The shape will tell you a lot if the shaker is molded in any kind of figure (dog, cat, bot, girl, etc.) it is most likely made from ceramics. Also, the date of manufacturing is important, if it’s from the 50s and up it is probably made from ceramics.
Wood was among the first materials people used for making utensils for the kitchen since it was easily available. You can find wooden plates, bowls, spoons, ladles, trays and boards, and even wine jugs and cups.
This material was also used for crafting salt and paper shakers but not so much as you may think. As you know condiments like salt, pepper, cayenne, and mustard don’t withstand humidity well. Unfortunately, wood isn’t very resistant to humidity, so you get why this was not such a good choice.
However, wooden salt and pepper shakers feature a very interesting design. Craftsmen were able to carve it into different shapes, usually animals. Nowadays, craftsmen use different isolation materials or substances for wooden utensils so they can resist humidity and keep the content dry.
How Do You Identify Antique Salt And Pepper Shakers?
It is always a hard task to identify if some antique and vintage items are real or fake. You would be surprised how many real vintage items are plagiarized, and if you don’t have a well-trained eye or someone to help you choose, you won’t evene notice the difference.
But that is why we are here! In the rows below you will find some useful tips and tricks that will help you learn how to spot the real deal from the fake wannabes. Look for the following:
- The country of origin and manufacturer mark – As we already mentioned shakers that originate from Japan are usually antique (look for the occupied Japan mark). If you come across the massive metal set that is crafted in Italy, you won the lottery. That is an antique Tiffany. Keep in mind that antique Tiffany always originates from Italy! Also, look for the manufacturer’s mark on the bottom.
- The weight and material – Always take a good look at the material! If it is too lightweight, that isn’t a vintage item, it is more likely made from aluminum or tempered glass that are popular now. Old materials like porcelain, depressed glass, precious metals, and ceramics are heavy.
- Design – Look for the shakers that portray some special or notable events from the country or year when they were manufactured. Also, vintage sets made from precious materials are never perfectly shaped since they were crafted by hand. If they look too perfect that isn’t what you are looking for. Pro tip: flea bites or age wear marks are clear signs that you are holding an antique item.
- The set must be in pairs – If a salt shaker you have an eye on doesn’t come with its Seames twin the pepper shaker then avoid the purchase. When a set doesn’t come in the full package it loses its value, also there is a chance it is fake.
Where can you purchase antique salt and pepper shakers?
If you are looking to purchase some valuable antique items then you should know where to look. Logically, you’ll want to work with professionals and people who are certified antique dealers. If that isn’t the case make sure you hire a professional that will inspect the item for you.
Anyhow, the best places where you can start your search are antique shops, antique shows, museums, and collector clubs. These are the safest sources for buying or selling antiques. Another option is to look online. You can enroll in many online antique bidding shows, or visit some reliable websites such as Etsy, eBay, 1STDIBS, Liveauctioners, Vatican, and many more.
You can also look at this unexpected place, Reddit, here is the link to the antique collector’s community where you can ask for advice and valuable information.
What is the main difference between a salt and pepper shaker?
This is very straightforward to determine. A vintage salt shaker usually has one hole on top, rarely two or even three small whole. On the other hand, pepper shakers have multiple whole all over the top part of the shaker, but at least five.
Make sure you pay attention to these small details when you are buying an antique shaker set. If both shakers have the same number of holes then the set isn’t original.
Most popular brands of antique salt and pepper shakers?
As you may notice on this list, the leading brand for antique salt and pepper shakers is George Jensen Brand from Denmark. Also, look for sets that are products of Meiji Satsuma Kutani, a well-known brand from Japan.
Valuable brands from Europe are also Tiffany and Staffordshire Ceramics. While the US has CF Monroe Mount Washington Brand, which specialized in producing glass salt and pepper shakers.
Do you need to put rice in salt and pepper shakers?
What is the purpose of having salt and pepper shakers if the content inside them will become clumpy due to the amount of humidity from the air?
To avoid this inconvenience you can always place a few grains of rice. You can also place some dry beans, friend parsley, or cloves, and if you want to add some flavor try dry coffee beans. Make sure you store your precious set away from the stove and humidity not only because of the salt. Humidity can harm the shakers as well.
It Is Closing Time
There are so many antique and valuable sets of shakers that I didn’t share with you here, simply because it would take too much time and space. However, this should encourage you to explore the links I provided to you, and try to find the holly grails among the salt and pepper shakers.
Also, I hope this article inspired you to take some time and do thorough research of the collection your grandma has in her house. You can never know what you can find there. So make sure you carefully re-read the part where I talk about how to identify the valuable shakers and get to work.
In case you find some interesting and rare salt and pepper shaker, please be a good sport and share them with us in the comment section below. I hope searching will be a wonderful adventure for you. Good luck!