If you ever received a head vase chances are you were born in the 1930-40s. The decorated ladies heads were gifts filled with flowers in the 1950-60s.
They were inexpensive and often resembled sophisticated ladies or teens. Most were women and often they had a pose such as one popular one that appears to have a headache. The figure shows a woman with her hand attempting to reach her forehead. Men often gave it to their wives who claimed at inopportune times to have a headache.
Each vase has a special meaning.
Most often, after the flowers died that were in the vases, they were tossed out. That is why now they have become so rare and collectible.
The more valuable ones are those that are the most decorative. Some have pearl earrings while others have delicate fingers often donning rings. Almost anything featured above the shoulders could be on the head vase. Hats, curled hair and ribbons also are very popular. Unique facial expressions and eyelashes are also signs of a high quality piece.
There were several makers of head vases including Inarco, Enesco and Napco. Each one has made some quality pieces and no name seems to hold more value than any other. Value is based on the piece itself rather than the name.
Sometimes head vases look like famous people such as Marilyn Monroe and Jaqueline Kennedy. If you see one featuring a face of someone you know, it is usually worth more than a typical head vase.
Perhaps, the most important thing about collecting a head vase is condition. Chips, cracks, repairs or missing pieces drop the values dramatically. Feel with your finger for any piece that may feel rough. Also, look for discolorations. The most common flaw is often in earrings and necklaces. Sometimes a pearl or a piece is missing. Once you get into collecting head vases you will notice problems pretty quickly if they occur.
The prices of head vases in the last few years have dropped. At antique malls they were going for $60-$200. Now, you should be able to buy some for $50 and under. If you are just starting out, now is the time to buy.
There are several good collector guides such as “Collecting Head Vases” by David Barron and “Head Vases ID and Values” by Kathleen Cole. A quick look at eBay shows over 2,500 for sale. They started and 99 cents. The highest priced one I saw was Marilyn Monroe at $2,500. If you want to become a serious collector, eBay and antique malls are the places to go. They can be found occasionally at auctions and flea markets. I’ve seen some go as low as $10 at a flea market. So being patient and searching will get you some very good deals. If you have a few to sell, try eBay and start them at $25. Do not rely on book prices as you will never get people to buy them for that amount unless they are very rare. Most importantly enjoy your treasure hunt as it will give you years of pleasure without the hassle of buying flowers to get them.