A-Z OF ANIMAL NAPKIN RINGS
by Carolyn Clark
Ever popular, and frequently featured areas in the collectors books, the animal napkin ring is a plastic design classic.
A for Animals including rabbits, fish, elephants, scottie dogs, camels, chickens, bears. The chicks with beaks in same or different colours have a particular appeal. See U for unusual shapes.
B for Bakelite because that’s what they are made of (but see F for fake and P for phenolic!)
C for Colours of the rainbow. Yellow, tango, amber, orange, caramel, green bright and green dull, red, claret, brown, black, blue. Marbled and plain.
D for Decorated. Usually plain, but sometimes painted with faces, fins, collars on the dog etc. My favourite – the sitting bunny from behind with the round bobble tail painted.
E for Eyes. Some have, some don’t. Eyes can be painted on, metal pins, small rod of phenolic inserted or the best: quarter inch rod with rounded ends and often clear phenolic and different colour (green, purple etc) to the ring.
F is Finance. Prices rising at steady pace. Can be bought for anything from 5p (you’ll be lucky!) to £30 at fairs and markets. On the internet go for between £20-30 if perfect and unless real rarity.
G is the Good idea of whoever invented them. Anyone know who made the first?
H is Hand-carved: they were sliced straight off the rod, including in the home. Sometimes, though, and rarely handcarved with features, notably contours for the ears and tail.
J is Joy when you spot one with the colours calling out to you “buy me! Or at home “dust me!” (the collectors’ peril)
K is kaleidoscope of colour in the Kitchen when the animal rings are used in all their colours on that redundant spice rack or windowsill.
L is Looking after. Clean with fairy liquid and polish with chrome polish or Duraglit. Scratches and chips have to be lived with. Keep away from heat and direct sunlight.
M is moulding which was moulded in long rods and cut to size – sometimes at source, sometimes sold as the rod and cut by the buyer which explains some very poor finishes and lopsided shapes.
N is Napkins, which seem to be a minor consideration but were, after all, the main function. Or are they serviettes?
O is Other uses. The rings turn up from time to time with other functions. May be teething rings, linked to a rattle, or several screwed onto rectangular of Lucite as a toast rack or the decoration on a bookend or ashtray.
P is Phenolic which is type of plastic the real ones are made of. Catalin in the States. For me….
Q is phenolic as the Queen of the plastics.
R is Reproduction and there are many. Some clearly marked, other made to deceive. Always test for phenolic (rub to generate heat through friction and smell the phenol).
S is Sets and you can come across sets of 6 – both off the same rod or, for example, the chicks with a full range of colours and beaks.
T is Thickness. The width ranges from about a quarter of an inch to an inch and sometimes more. The thin ones are worth less.
U is Unusual – the much rarer mickey mouse, rocking horse and other shapes – most spectacularly the 1939 New York World Fair trylon and perisphere is orange or blue (the fair’s logo colours)
V is Void – the hole in the middle they all share. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of the mouldings solid through.
W is Wheels on the prized versions. To my knowledge, there are three types, all joined through with a metal pin: thin discs almost like counters about an inch across in white or lime green or butterscotch, or much smaller and thicker in phenolic, or small rubber tyres.
X-rated are the animal rings made in other materials such as wood.
Y is Years made – 30’s through to the 50’s with few changes except for the wheels (rubber tyres were later!)
Z is the Zoo you will have if you collect one of each, or join others in specialising in one type (mine are the chicks).