Under the Sea: Collecting Vintage 1950s Mermaids and Fish

Yasmina Greco Vintage Mermaid Collection Crazy4Me
Yasmina Greco Vintage Mermaid Collection Crazy4Me

I have always loved mermaids, and the 1950s were a time of great fascination with the mythical creatures. This blog post will discuss how to collect vintage mermaids from this era to decorate your home.  My favorite mermaids are from the early 50s made by Norcrest, Napco, and Lefton. I love how whimsical they look on my bathroom walls. I’ll also share more of my favorite finds with you all in this post.

Yasmina Greco Vintage Mermaid Collection Crazy4Me
Yasmina Greco Vintage Mermaid Collection Lefton Norcrest

Thanks to the resurgence in the antiques and collectibles market this year after a 3-4 year slump, it’s a great time to start your vintage mermaid collection or adding-to an existing collection. In this post I am going to share some tips that have really helped me grow my collection and negotiate the best prices for these rare beauties and I hope you’ll screenshot this post and tag me on social media @crazy4me and let me know if you found it helpful. I’d also love to see the vintage mermaid treasures you are finding!!

Let’s start with a little background on vintage mermaids and the makers and manufacturers who made these so you are armed with knowledge on true vintage mermaids and not reproductions. And yes, even when it comes to vintage mermaids there are now reproductions in the market. The 1940s-1950s was the manufacturing heyday for these vintage mermaids and fish. Many of our mothers and grandmothers could buy these at the local five and dime and even at souvenir shops across the US and they were usually hung in the bathroom and around the vanity as it was lovely decor and most mermaids and fish produced were wall plaques.

Vintage Lefton Mermaid, Vintage PY Seahorse, Vintage Norcrest Mermaid, Vintage Umbrella Mermaid
Vintage Lefton Mermaid, Vintage PY Seahorse, Vintage Norcrest Mermaid, Vintage Umbrella and Parasol Mermaids

There were many potteries in California up and down the coast (the great California potteries of the 1940s-1950s) making these mermaids and fish such as Arnels, Ceramic Craft, Deforest, Florence Ceramics, Gilner, Freeman-McFarlin, Kay Finch, and Tropic Treasures.  There were also manufacturers in Japan during this time producing incredibly high quality, hand painted, and embellished mermaids and fish like Artmark, Bradley Exclusives, CNC, Enesco, Josef Originals, Kelvin Exclusives, Lefton, Nameth, Napco, Norcrest, PY, Holt Howard, and Ucagco. Many potteries and manufacturers would stamp their items and include numbers and many would put their company name on a foil label and glue it to the back of the item. If the item were made in Japan it would usually have a stamp but it is not uncommon to find some really rare pieces with no markings or labels.

Yasmina Greco Vintage Mermaid Collection Lefton Norcrest
Yasmina Greco Vintage Mermaid Collection Lefton Norcrest

You can find vintage mermaids with blonde hair, red hair, and brunette hair. Some have the sweetest and cutest little faces and expressions and I think that is really what their appeal is. Mermaids can come with bubbles, parasols, with many different colored tailfins, and even riding on seahorses to really give the collector that ‘under the sea’ theme. Merboys (boy mermaids) are very rare to find (especially the German made ones) so keep your eyes open for these as well. Vintage mermaids can also be found as salt and pepper shakers, figurines, and aquarium figures that are usually 1-2 inches and made from either bone china or a ‘bathing beauty’ from the 40s-50s and made in Japan. You can also find vintage mermaids as vases and planters and even mugs or cups.

5 Tips for Collecting Vintage Mermaids and Fish

  • Top Makers to Look for: Napco, Lefton, Bradley, Joty, Kay Finch, Freeman-McFarlin, Norcrest, PY, Holt Howard. Tags and stamps intact.
  • Quality: Well modeled and painted features. Lots of details in the face and tailfin.
  • Damage: Tailfins not broken or repaired or chipped, fingers not broken or repaired. Hair not broken or chipped.
  • Fish and Seahorses: No missing rhinestones to eyes, no broken or repaired tails. Some seahorses and dolphins have chains so mermaids can ride them, is the chain intact and original. And they have rhinestones eyes in tact and not missing.
  • Price: There is so much demand for the vintage mermaids today and that has really driven up the price. Expect to pay on average for a Lefton or Norcrest vintage mermaid wall plaque that is 5-6 inches $125-$150. Ebay has really seen an uptick in auctions, you can still score an amazing mermaid for a fair price but you need to pay attention and be diligent. Best offers can also work in your favor. Facebook collector groups and Instagram seem to be the new trends in buying collectibles today so join these groups and get to know the sellers and members and it can work in your favor as well. If you are at a flea market or antique shop offering cash can get you a better price 20-25% off in many cases.

All pics of my collection by my sweet hubby Gary

Mermaid top by Voodoo Vixen

Mermaids I have for sale: Ebay