A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (2023)

Hi everyone! Today I’m writing about collecting vintage Wade figurines, a favorite collectible of mine. My grandmother would often have a special surprise for me when I visited: one or two ceramic Wade “Whimsies,” as they were called in England. She drank tall glasses of Red Rose iced tea every day of her life, and in each box of tea came a small Wade figurine, usually an animal.

My favorite was a white polar bear that I still have to this day. They make a wonderful introductory collection for children especially, but adults should not hesitate to collect them, too(!). Some collectors, like my daughter, focus on a specific animal, dogs for example. Others focus on pieces Wade produced in collections, for instance the circus or the American series.

Some Wade Whimsy Background

Wade Ceramics has a long history of manufacturing pottery of all kinds in the Stoke-on-Trent area of England, known far and wide for pottery production.

In the 1950’s Sir George Wade organized a number of local potteries into the George Wade & Sons Ltd pottery, and shortly thereafter in 1954 began producing an assortment of figurines, including tiny Wade Whimsies.

The pottery entered into an agreement with Red Rose tea in 1967 that continued right up until 2018. Each box of tea would contain a miniature figurine nestled inside. By their own estimate, Red Rose gave away over 300 million through the years in America alone(!).

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (1)Each figurine is part of a larger series; for example, the bald eagle is part of the Endangered North American Animal Series III, as are the sea turtle and timber wolf behind it.

The tiger, camel, zebra, seal, and cockatiel are each part of the Animal Series II, which was issued in 1985 and continuing on through 1996. Looking at the front row, the bison is from the American Series I, while the giraffe and puppy are from those Series II. Both sets feature animals from around the world.

You may have noticed that Wade produced all the Red Rose figurines in single colors, with one exception, the poodle, part of the Circus Series III that you’ll see below.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (2)These six also belong to the Animal Series II, of which there are twenty total. Pictured are an orangutan, giraffe, rhinoceros, camel, zebra, and gorilla.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (3)The first figurine, a Florida panther, belongs to the Endangered Species Set, while the langur, leopard, and kangaroo to the Animal Set II.

Wade Series Produced for Red Rose Tea

All in all, Wade produced seven series for the American Red Rose Tea market:

  1. Animals Series I (15 figures, 1983-1985)
  2. Animals Series II (20 figures, 1985-96)
  3. Circus Series (15 figures, 1994-99)
  4. Endangered North American Animals (10 figures, 1999-2002)
  5. Noah’s Ark Series (15 figures, 2002-06)
  6. Pet Shop Friend Series (10 figures, 2006-08)
  7. Calendar Series (12 figures, 2008-12)

To see the figures contained in each series, check out Wadetopia (click “Red Rose Tea Promotions” on the left).

Wade Whimsy Circus Series III

One of the main ways to tell circus figures from other series figures is that most of the animals are sitting on a round, decorated base–even the Ringmaster is standing on one. There are other tell-tale markers as well: the seal wears a bow, the bear a hat, the monkeys clothes, the poodle a skirt, for example.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (5)The Wade Circus Series III contained 15 pieces, including those you see here: (back) seal, tiger, male monkey (holding a hat), female monkey, bear (front) poodle, clown w/pie, ringmaster, lion.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (6)

Here are four more from the Circus Series III: Strong man, human canonball, standing elephant, and sitting elephant. The two pieces that I don’t have photos for are the clown w/drum and the rearing horse.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (7)Here’s a better view of some of the circus figurines. As I mentioned above, the poodle is the only Rose Tea figurine painted in two colors: white and blue. Note one difference between the male and female monkeys is female’s skirt.

The Endangered North American Animals Series IV

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (8)

You’ve seen most of these in photos above, but I thought I’d pull them altogether. You see six of the ten figures in the Endangered North American Animal Series IV.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (9)And here’s a seventh–the white polar bear given to me by my sweet grandmother. The three missing from this series include the spotted owl (light brown), humpback whale (blue), and manatee (gray).

Wades Made for the English Market

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (10)This little fellow is about 3″ in diameter with an embossed “WADE ENGLAND” mark on the bottom (see below). He was made for the English market, and my sweet daughter and I picked him up at a car boot sale when we lived in England (2009-2011) for 50 p (pence). He’s worth about $10-12.

Note that the two-color puppy is cemented to the basket he’s sitting in.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (11)We picked up these miniature 2-tone dogs (except for the gray puppy) in England, but I’ve not been able to get any information about these guys or how much they’re worth.

I’m going to say, based on a cursory look at eBay, that they may be worth up to $5 each. I don’t think they were part of a promotion but were instead sold separately in their own boxes. Anyone have any additional insights??

Looking for the Wade Mark on the Figurines

Over the years, Wades have been marked in a few different ways, including “WADE,” “WADE ENG,” and WADE ENGLAND. Let’s take a look:

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (12)Some pieces are simply marked “WADE” as seen on the female monkey from the Circus Series, while an elephant from the same series is marked “WADE ENG.”

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (13)Meanwhile, other pieces are marked “WADE ENGLAND,” perhaps because there was more room? Hard to say. There seems to be no specific time periods attributed to any single mark, so I’m guessing space and convenience played their roles.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (14)The strongman figurine from the Circus Series presents “WADE” on one side and then “ENGLAND” on the other.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (15)And finally, on the bottom of a larger example (the dog in basket above), you find “WADE ENGLAND” neatly embossed on the bottom.

Vintage Wade Figurine Values

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (16)The primary way that I sell Wades is via my antique booth where I typically sell them for $2 each. Condition is everything when it comes to Wades. Unfortunately, they chip rather easily; I mark them “Free”–something I like to do as a nice surprise for those who don’t mind a tiny chip here or there.

The most valuable Wades are those made for other countries. Figurines from Canada’s Nursery Rhyme Series tend to go for slightly higher amounts, perhaps up to $5 each, although apparently the little gingerbread boy has been known to go for $100(!). Pieces made for the English market, including larger figurines and a Disney series they made also go for higher amounts.

My go-to method for selling Wades is to place them in some kind of shallow container with a small sign stating, “Vintage Wades, $2 each (please take a tag).” I make a bunch of small tags that say, “Wade figurine, $2” and tuck them in with the Wades. The buyer can grab one or more figurines and one of the tags and take them to the cashier.

They sell very well and fairly regularly, usually three or more/month. I like the idea of having items in my booth that encourage children to begin collecting something. It’s my way of spreading the love of vintage and antiques forward to future generations of collectors!

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (17)I sold this set of tiny white Wades on eBay for $8 back in 2018. Each is quite a bit smaller than other Wades, and I could never find out anything about them. If anyone has any info on them I’d love to know! Leave me a comment, please 🙂

UPDATE: A reader kindly informed me in the comments that these little white figures were part of a Noah’s ark set issued between 2002 and 2006. Now I’m wondering if they created a Noah and a Mrs. Noah as part of the set(?).

How to Display Your Vintage Wade Figurines

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (18)This antique divided cheese box displays these little cuties perfectly.

A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines • Adirondack Girl @ Heart (19)An attractive brass and glass display case like this one provides a lovely way to show the world your collection while at the same time keeping your critters dust free–win-win, right??

Where Can I Find Vintage Wade Figurines?

I rescued many of the whimsies you see in this post from a “free” box at a garage sale a couple of years ago, much to my and my daughter’s great pleasure. She has inherited her mother’s fascination with these wonderful collectibles. I suppose putting one or two in her Christmas stocking every year didn’t hurt!

Wades make a perfect introductory level collectible because they can be found “out in the wild” so cheaply–often for about a quarter. Even at antique stores, they rarely cost more than $2.00, which as I mentioned is what I charge when I have them in stock.

The Red Rose Tea website offers figurines for sale and of course you can also find them on eBay and Etsy as well. Look for them on Facebook Marketplace and at flea markets as well. I hope you enjoyed learning about Wade Whimsies and seeing examples of those I’ve sold in the past and in my daughter’s collection. What’s your favorite Wade Whimsy??

FAQs

Which Wade figurines are rare? ›

Wade Whimsies are small glazed porcelain figurines made in England. In 1983 Wade made a special series to be given away in Red Rose Tea boxes. The first U.S. animal series had 15 pieces in it and the owl and the elephant are considered the most rare to collect.

Are Wade figurines worth anything? ›

With such a range of products and collectables, it can be hard to know how much your Wade pottery pieces are potentially worth. Rare figures, such as this cellulose clock Walt Disney Whimsie of Bashful from Snow White, can sell for wonderful prices of up to £780 at auction.

How many Wade figurines are there? ›

To date, it is estimated that more than 300 million Wade figurines have been given away in packages of Red Rose Tea in America. George Wade came into ownership of Wade & Sons of Burslem, England in 1899, eventually renaming it George Wade Pottery.

Are any of the Red Rose Tea figurines worth anything? ›

Altogether, vintage tea figurines aren't individually worth more than few dollars. In fact, Red Rose actively sells older figurines on their website today for $5 apiece. Even large collections of these figurines (whether it's by series or multiple series) don't bring in more than $50 at market.

Is Wade still collectable? ›

Wade Whimsies are still highly collectable and are sought after by collectors of all ages, all over the world and are still very popular today, possibly because they are affordable, small and don't take up much room to display.

How do I find out how much my action figure is worth? ›

Finding the Values
  1. Online: A quick search on online auction sites like eBay will give you an excellent idea of the current value of a figure. ...
  2. Books: There are dozens of action figure price guides available at your local bookstores and online at Amazon.
15 May 2019

What is the most valuable Precious Moment figurine? ›

While the value of each sculpture varies greatly, the most prized one has been valued at upward of $2,000. It's called "God Loveth a Cheerful Giver," and it depicts a girl and a wagon full of free puppies.

How many sets of Wade whimsies are there? ›

Following on from the Circus set of fifteen whimsies and the Endangered Species set of ten, a completely new series is about to be released in the US by Red Rose.

When were Wade figurines made? ›

In the 1950s, the Wade potteries created 'Whimsies', small solid porcelain animal figures first developed by Sir George Wade, which became popular and collectable in Britain and America, following their retail launch in 1954, and were widely available in shops throughout the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

How can you tell a Wade Whimsie? ›

Wade Whimsy Circus Series III

One of the main ways to tell circus figures from other series figures is that most of the animals are sitting on a round, decorated base–even the Ringmaster is standing on one.

How many different Red Rose Tea figurines are there? ›

How Many Red Rose Figurines Are There? To date, over 300 million Red Rose tea collectibles have been sold in America alone. In total, when adding up each series from 1983, there have been more than 100 individual figures, which are detailed below.

Which Royal Doulton figurines are the most valuable? ›

The Royal Doulton Bunnykins figurines arrived on the market in 1933, and the company produced more than 150 bunny-themed pieces. The most valuable Bunnykins pieces feature artist Barbara Vernon's signature.

What are Snowbaby figurines worth? ›

The value of Snow babies has increased tremendously over the last few years. They typically sell for $50 to $100 each when they are in good condition. Several collectors dream of finding the rarest Snow babies, sometimes worth thousands of dollars each.

What collectibles are worth money now? ›

15 surprisingly valuable things you might have lying around the house
  • Old Magazines. If you're one of those people that find it hard to through away magazines, it may have been worth those years of lugging them around. ...
  • Vintage Furniture. ...
  • Old cameras. ...
  • Rare coins or notes. ...
  • Books. ...
  • Stamps. ...
  • Old china. ...
  • Glassware.
2 Jun 2022

Are Lladro's valuable? ›

Small, common figurines sell for as little as $10-20. Whereas average pieces, usually medium sized and intricate tend to sell for $75-150 each. Figurines that are extremely elaborate, rare, and/or large can sell for $2,000-$25,000 or even higher. The record price for a Lladró sold at auction was for $130,000.

What is the most valuable action figure? ›

The Rocket-Firing Boba Fett is the most expensive action figure in the world. What is this? This rare Boba Fett action figure was never mass-produced.

What are Snowbaby figurines worth? ›

The value of Snow babies has increased tremendously over the last few years. They typically sell for $50 to $100 each when they are in good condition. Several collectors dream of finding the rarest Snow babies, sometimes worth thousands of dollars each.

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