- Wade Whimsies are - miniature porcelain figurines which have become highly collectible. Originally conceived as pocket friends for children they are a widely traded subject for collectors of all ages and budgets.
- Produced from 1954 - 1959 as small boxed collection sets, many were distributed free with packages of Red Rose Tea beginning in 1967 in Canada and continuing with collections in the United States from 1983 until the present day (the current collection 2007 - is Noah's Ark with 14 animals as well as Noah and his Wife. The collection for 2006 was the Pet Shop Friends series of ten pieces and a display stand).
- Individual sales - Wade began producing Whimsies for individual sale again from 1971 - 1984 as boxed individual pieces or boxed sets. From 1984 on they have been produced only as specially commissioned pieces
- Whimsey on Why villages - Wade also briefly produced a village of miniature buildings labeled Whimsey on Why in various sets from 1980 – 1987. The village buildings are highly collectible and there is an additional Irish Village produced by Wade from 1984 - 1987 labeled Wade Bally-Whim.
- Identifying Marks - Whimsies have been produced with a number of backstamps and some of the early pieces have no stamp at all (see history below).
- Points to Watch For - The best pieces are in perfect condition with no chips or glaze cracks and with sharp mold lines. As the molds were reused many times some figures do not have sharp definition and should be avoided. Colors vary from a plain golden glaze, through a golden glaze with colors added, to the distinctive Irish Wade blue/gold glaze and the bright clear colors of the older whimsies and the newly commissioned pieces.
A Passion for Wade
The availability of Wade Whimsies (Red Rose estimates several millions are in circulation through their distribution alone) and the initial low cost (free with the purchase of a box of tea) means Whimsies are widely collected in the U.S., Canada and the UK. Many clubs exist including an official collectors club sponsored by Wade. There are group meetings for Wade collectors everywhere on a regular basis. Several price guides are available and advisable for new collectors. (See links below for club information and links to publications).
Wade Whimsies were first produced in the 1950’s. The Irish Branch of the Wade Group of Potteries in Portadown struggled to find new directions when the market for their electrical porcelain insulators crashed. At the suggestion of Iris Strayker Carryer (neé Wade), wife of the factories Managing Director and eldest daughter of George Wade, the factory turned its industrial production over to the production of tiny pottery figurines which were stamped Wade, England.
Pottery produced at Wade (Ulster) has a wide variety of markings including Celtic Porcelain by Wade, Ireland, Irish Porcelain, Co. Armagh, Shamrock Pottery, Made in Ireland, Made in Ireland by Wade, A Moko Line by Wade Ireland and a number of other combinations.
For a short time no back stamp was used on the miniatures. Wade, England had ordered production of Irish Leprechauns for their fairy folk collection with a Wade, England backstamp. Sir George Wade’s daughter Iris felt that no Irish Leprechaun should leave the Irish factory marked Wade, England. For a while, figures left the factory without marks. Eventually figures left the factory under Irish markings although the Irish factory continued to produce Wade, England gift ware.
The Wade companies have gone through several changes but have continued to produce decorative pottery ware since their founding in 1810, including modern collectible decanters and a series of piggy banks for a British Bank. Other collectible figurines including Andy Capp and Flo, Peanuts characters, Garfield, Thomas the Tank Engine, Sooty, Noddy and Betty Boop are available from Wade. There are several books and websites specializing in the history of Wade including pages about the individual artists who produced the various series online at C.S. Collectables.
Collecting Wade Whimsies Today
Wade pieces are easily found anywhere tea drinkers gather! They are also widely collected on EBay and at Wade fests and other gatherings of collectors. In a tea drinking community they are found in thrift shops, yard sales, junk stores, antique stores and local online sales sites. Prices vary widely so do some research before you buy!