Why I Love Norcrest Mermaids (And You Will Too!)

Vintage Norcrest Mermaids
Vintage Norcrest Mermaids

The Story Behind the Mermaids

There’s something special about Norcrest mermaids that sets them apart in the world of collectibles. I adore them for their craftsmanship, their adorable charm, and that vintage allure that’s simply irresistible. These ceramic treasures from the 1950s are more than just decorations; they’re tiny masterpieces capturing the whimsical beauty of mermaids. Let’s dive into why I’m obsessed with Norcrest mermaids, and why I think you’ll fall in love with them as well!

Norcrest Mermaid Lipstick Holder

The history of Norcrest mermaids is just as fascinating as the figures themselves. It all began with Hide Naito, a Japanese immigrant who founded a gift shop in Portland, Oregon, way back in 1921. Over time, that little shop grew into a huge wholesale operation. After World War II, Hide and his son Sam made a bold move: they shifted their focus to “Made in Japan” gifts, and that’s when Norcrest China Company was born (in 1958).

Norcrest quickly became a hit, known for its high-quality ceramics. Their mermaids, with their iconic designs, were stars of the collection, gracing bathrooms and powder rooms across America. Alongside these charming mermaids, Norcrest’s whimsical bluebird series and head vases were also beloved. I love that Norcrest became a household name – there’s something so special about owning a piece of that nostalgic history.

What Makes Them So Collectible?

I could talk about this for hours about why Norcrest mermaids are perfect for collectors. Here’s what makes them so special to me:

Vintage Norcrest Merboy on Sea Shell
  • Craftsmanship: The details! They can range from simple single mermaids to elaborate pieces like moms with baby mermaids, mermaids featuring pastel blue and pink tailfins, mermaids hanging onto seashells or attached to a seashell or a starfish, seaweed, waves, or even riding fish and sea horses.
  • Limited Editions: Knowing that some designs were made in smaller batches adds to the thrill for me. It’s the collector’s dream to find something rare and there is currently nothing rarer than finding vintage Norcrest mermaid lipstick holders, planters with with mermaids and dolphins, mermaids riding on waves that looks like they are surfing, mermaids asleep on seashells, mermaids sitting on waves with fish.
  • Variety & Rarity: There are so many different Norcrest mermaid designs, and some are way harder to find than others! For instance, the series of elusive red-haired mermaids with actual hair – featuring shelf sitters, powder jars, lipstick holders, and trinket trays – are highly sought after by collectors. A pair of beauties on my wishlist are the pastel-tailed mermaids perched on a white seashell, their hair in elegant updos, holding golden brushes.
  • Nostalgia: For many of us, Norcrest mermaids bring back those warm childhood feelings remembering seeing a set of mermaids on grandma or aunties bathroom wall. That emotional connection makes them even more valuable.
  • Artistic Touch: Norcrest’s enchanting collection of mermaids and merboys perfectly encapsulated the spirit of the 1950s, radiating a distinctive, kitschy allure that set them apart in a class of their own. This unique charm, deeply infused with whimsy and nostalgia, became a hallmark of Norcrest’s creations, a standard that many other manufacturers aspired to replicate but invariably fell short of achieving. The mermaids, in particular, were renowned for their expressively crafted faces—featuring large, soulful eyes, delicately extended eyelashes, and cheeks touched with a rosy glow—each element coming together to breathe life into these ceramic treasures.

Are They Valuable?

Norcrest Mermaid Sleeping on a Sea Shell

The value of a Norcrest mermaid can really depend. Rarity, condition, and how badly other collectors want it all play a role. Some extra-special pieces can sell for thousands, while others might be a few hundred dollars. Here’s what typically drives up the price:

  • Rarity: “Lipstick holders,” “sets with original boxes” – limited edition mermaids are the holy grails for many collectors.
  • Condition: If it’s mint in the box, that’s a big deal. Opened or displayed pieces are still incredibly valuable in today’s collector market.
  • Age: Older mermaids from the 1950s, especially from the first few collections, tend to be worth more.
  • Demand: Sometimes, a particular design gets super popular all of a sudden, making it more expensive
  • History: If your mermaid belonged to someone famous, or was part of a special collection, that adds to its story and value.

My Mermaid Love Story

Vintage Norcrest Mermaids Combing their Hair Sitting on Sea Shells

I firmly believe Norcrest mermaids hold a special magic. Whether you’ve been collecting for years or are just curious, I think you’ll find something to adore about them. Their craftsmanship, the nostalgia, the sheer treasure-hunt aspect… it all makes Norcrest mermaids true collectibles to love.

FAQ Time!

  • Where can I buy Norcrest mermaids? Online marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, Mercari, Facebook groups, Instagram, or shops specializing in collectibles are your best bet. Always do your research to make sure you’re getting an authentic piece!
  • How do I know how much my Norcrest mermaid is worth? Check out auction sites, online marketplaces, or even talk to an expert in collectibles for a good estimate.
  • How do I take care of my collection? Handle them gently, keep them away from direct sunlight, and store them safely to keep them looking pristine.
  • Are there any super-rare Norcrest mermaids? You bet! The Norcrest mermaids featured in the opening photo of this blog post and rare and extremely hard to find.
  • Can I sell my Norcrest mermaids? Definitely! Online marketplaces, Facebook groups, Instagram, your own website, collectible dealers and shops, and even collector forums are all good options.

I hope this dive into Norcrest mermaids has inspired a bit of mermaid mania in you! They’re fascinating collectibles, and I believe there’s something for everyone to appreciate in these vintage treasures.

Dive deeper into the fascinating world of vintage mermaid collecting and explore a treasure trove of creations from the golden age of ceramics, spanning the 1950s to the 1960s. In my comprehensive article, you’ll find an extensive gallery showcasing various manufacturers’ contributions to this charming niche, alongside photos from my personal collection. Additionally, gain insights into the values of these captivating collectibles. Read here to embark on a journey through time and discover the enchanting universe of vintage mermaids.

Learn more about collecting vintage mermaids and fish from this outstanding resource book, it is one of my favorites: Ceramic Fish, Mermaids & Seahorses: Bathroom Decorations of the 1940s & 1950s (Schiffer Book for Collectors)

*Photos from my personal collection and from Pinterest.