This time of year, many stores mix Halloween witches, ghosts, ghouls, black cats, and jack-o’-lanterns, but the Thanksgiving turkey items are limited. Christmas has nutcrackers, ornaments, reindeer, lights, Santa Claus, and that’s what we see now, but then again, turkeys may only be found in the freezer section of the grocery store.
I’ve found a few stores that have a section for collectible turkeys and related items. Yes, Thanksgiving seems to be the forgotten holiday and many collectors are still looking for new items to add to their collection.
Indeed, the turkey – wild, not domestic – is an impressive bird. Did you know Ben Franklin never officially proposed making the turkey our national bird, but he did consider it a braver bird than the bald eagle?
A turkey as decoration is sure to make a great addition to the fall leaves, pumpkins, pilgrims, and Native American characters used to decorate your Thanksgiving table and sideboard. There are many options for turkeys that come in all sizes, and are made of everything from resin, glass, pottery, wood, papier-mâché, ceramics, and even concrete.
“There’s no shortage of Thanksgiving decor for your holiday tables at New Generations of Harmony,” says Erica Thelgs, director. We have a festive McCoy turkey platter for $10, another turkey planter for $15, amber turkey candle holders for $5 each, an antique cast iron turkey bank for $115, and a colorful set of Tom & Pepper salt and pepper shakers. Hen at $15 along with pilgrimage figurines and, of course, cornucopia, faux foliage and pumpkins.”
At the Old River Valley Antique Mall in Stewartville, owner Chris Rand Kogath says, “We have small turkey figurines ranging from $5.50 to $6.50, a small plate of turkey eggs offered for $7.95, and we have other turkey items, candles Turkey, to a die cut.”
Paul Larsen, owner and salesman at Mantorville Square in Mantorville, says, “We have various turkey items that include the Turkey Casserole with Salt and Pepper Set selling for $28.”
Cindy Habermann, a Rochester folk artist, says, “My turkey is a papier-mâché turkey and it’s part of my folk art, and like some of my work, I used a chocolate fudge mold to make it.”
Keep in mind that Thanksgiving postcards, especially from the Victorian period through the 1950s, are particularly popular. For more information check out postcards and where to find them at www.collectorsweekly.com/postcards/thanksgiving.
And if you’re reading this after Thanksgiving, prices may drop on everything as everyone puts their spots on the most popular Christmas collectibles. So this might be a good time to add a turkey or two to your collection if the store hasn’t stocked them all up all year. When the turkey and pumpkin come out, the Christmas tree and gnomes come out. I’ve found that some stores keep collectible turkey and Thanksgiving items all year long on display in a special room for the holidays.
Curious to learn more about Thanksgiving collectibles?
Check out my resource, “Thanksgiving Collectibles and Turkey: Then and Now” by John Wesley Thomas and Sandra Lynn Thomas, who have been collecting Thanksgiving memorabilia and turkeys for over 10 years. This book shares nearly 900 photographs featuring about 3,400 different images ranging from the 19th century to the present day of dishes, plates, ornaments, postcards, candy containers, utensils, toys, turkey calls, and more. Also featured are items related to special Thanksgiving events, such as football games, parades, and turkey runs. They also provide us with a bit of history and current values.
Sandy Erdmann is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser who focuses on vintage items, antiques, and collectibles. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at