One of the more successful projects by Russel Wright is this plastic miniature toy line of American Modern dishes which debuted sometime in the mid fifties. The earliest references I can find range between 1954-1955 so I am unsure when actual production started as I could not locate the original contract in Syracuse. Designed by Russel Wright and made by the Ideal Toy Company, these adorable plastic dishes were sold through Sears!
|This is a 1942 ad showing the original factory's capacity.|
|This set cost only $4.95 in it's heydey!|
|Great marketing = huge sales.|
Toy catalogs were filled with Ideal kid's line and since the American Modern was so popular, mothers thought it adorable to buy their children a matching line. It is amazing to think that items that sold on average of only a few bucks catapulted Wright's sales thru the roof on this line.
problems and failures at Northern.) Even when sales for Residential was plummeting, the royalty checks from this "Classic Plastics" line from Ideal kept rolling in. Production was taken over in the early 60's by another NY molder, and royalties continued until the line was no longer successful--dates suggest until approximately 1964 giving almost a ten year run!
|Some pieces unmarked, the Ideal toy line mimicked the American Modern Ceramic Shapes!|
I assume they were made to mimic Coral Pink, Oyster Grey, Glacier Blue, and possibly the yellow to be Chartreuse.
|The most common color set was the basic one.|
|Most backstamps have the signature, though some pieces are unmarked.|
|An odd array of colors having the browns and oranges come later.|
|Colors: Late 1958-1960's. Napkins, silverware and goblets are said not to be a Wright design.|
|Roosters in my collection, oh my!|
|Flowers and bright blues, some have been found signed what strangeness is this!|
Collecting Them Now
Although the sets were mass produced, one may have to buy pieces and assemble their own set. As time goes on, as with any children's toy, finding complete sets in mint shape (surviving child's play) is difficult. Many different variations were offered. The basic set is the most popular and easiest to assemble as you can find most pieces readily available. Cups, Saucers, Dishes, Teapots, Covered Sugars, and Creamers are common. The Covered Casserole proves a bit harder to find as does the rectangular tray or underplate.
|Covered casserole (bottom), made to look like it's ceramic predecessor (top).|
It never ceases to amaze me how much time and care was taken into the design of an item back then, and what most people don't realize is the designers usually had the final say on EVERYTHING! From the details of the box to the quality of cardboard used, to the graphics.
|Standard display, not much on graphics.|
|Everything fits in it's own slot!|
Several style boxes, some more decorated than others exist. Some had cellophane fronts and over time the cellophane or the box has all but deteriorated from sitting in a hot attic all these years. However, the notion that one took great care in designing a box so that all pieces would fit in perfectly should not be overlooked.
|American Modern Play Dishes in Graphic Box!|
Prices of pieces over the past five years have fluctuated due to demands and economical issues, but it is not uncommon for a whole set to fetch upwards of $100, or in the original box , even if the box is imperfect, twice that. That is a huge increase in value from it's original selling price of about three bucks!
In my opinion, these toy pieces will retain their values. This is due to the fact this style is collected by toy dish collectors, melmac collectors, doll and bear collectors, and American Modern collectors, it's eventually going to dry up. Get yours while you can!
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