Everything mid-century is hot when it comes to vintage decor, but lady head vases are a fun trend that give a cute, kitschy vibe to shelves, bookcases, or any surface. They're really exciting to collect because they come in tons of different styles and are actually pretty budget-friendly (except for a few super valuable lady head vases you should be watching for in antique shops).
Lady Head Vases Started as Florist Promotions
Although vases in the shape of lady's heads have been around for a long time, they really became popular in the early and mid-20th century. Florists would arrange flowers in these vases as a promotion that would encourage people to buy more bouquets.
You Can Sometimes Identify a Lady Head Vase by Its Marks
Many vases have maker's marks on the bottom from mid-century ceramics manufacturers like Enesco and Nichols. Others have stickers or labels. These can help you identify a specific lady head vase, but it's nothing to worry about if there's no mark at all. Some were never marked, and with others, the sticker has disappeared over the decades. Collectors love them with or without a stamp.
There Are Tons of Styles of Lady Head Vases
Because these vases came with a sort of "collect them all" promotion, there are a ton of different styles. You'll see standard 50s ladies with coiffed hair and even earrings, as well as specific characters and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe. The details are where the variation really shines, with fancy hats, buttons, lace collars, pearls, and more.
These Vases Come in All Different Shapes and Sizes
You'll find these vases in a huge range for sizes, including tiny bud holders to umbrella stands. Most have a small opening in the top of the lady's head, allowing the flowers to stand upright and create a bouquet. Others have a slot that displays the flowers in a fan shape.
Some Lady Head Vases Aren't Ladies
Not all head vases are ladies, although they are definitely the most popular. There are also men's heads, heads of cartoon characters like Minnie Mouse, and animal heads.
Lady Head Vase Values Range From a Few Dollars to Thousands
While many lady head vases sell for under $100, you can find them for around $10 at thrift stores or flea markets sometimes. The most valuable vases sell for thousands, though these are rare.
There Are Lots of Factors Affecting Lady Head Vase Values
If you have a vase and are wondering if it might be super valuable, there are a few factors to consider:
- Condition - Like any ceramic, chips and cracks detract from the value. Staining and crazing can also make it worth less.
- Rarity - Rare lady head vases made by high-value ceramic artists are worth the most, as are those that were produced in super low numbers.
- Attractiveness - A lady head vase with detailed painting and wonderful features is worth more than one that is sloppy or doesn't feel special.
- Kitsch - Weirdness has value here. If a vase features an exotic character or has funky style elements, collectors may pay more for it.
Many of the Most Valuable Lady Head Vases Are by Betty Lou Nichols
Some of the most valuable lady head vases were made by designer Betty Lou Nichols. They feature ladies with fancy hats and hairstyles and exquisite detail. The earliest date back to the 1940s, and these vases are often marked on the bottom with her signature. A Betty Lou Nichols vase in excellent condition sold for about $400.
Head Vases Featuring Marilyn Monroe Can Be Worth Thousands
Some of the most valuable head vases include those featuring Marilyn Monroe. They are quite rare and can sell for thousands of dollars. One Marilyn Monroe vase sold for more than $3,800 because it was so rare and in wonderful condition.
Teen Girl Head Vases Are Especially Valuable
Although a lot of head vases have adult women's heads, there are a few that show off the culture of teenagers. Teen girl vases show younger girls in modest ruffled dresses and cute ponytails. They're harder to find than a lot of other styles, but if you do encounter one, it could be worth more than pocket change. One teen girl head vase by Enesco sold for almost $1,000.
Nurse Head Vases Are Worth a Lot
Another valuable style to look for is nurse vases. These feature ladies with nurse hats and outfits and sensible but stylish hair. One Enesco nurse head vase sold for about $600.
Most Lady Head Vases Sell for Under $100
Although certain rare lady head vases are worth hundreds or thousands, many, such as a lovely example in a blue dress and pearls, sell for under $100. If you have a vase you think might be valuable, it's always a good idea to compare it to similar recently sold vases to get a sense of how much it might be worth.
You Can Find These Vases in Thrift Stores
If you have a specific vase in mind, you may need to search to find it. However, browsing is your best bet for getting a great deal. Hit up your local thrift stores often, since lady head vases can appear on the shelves. They also make great thrifted gifts or places to store your pencils on your desk. Have fun looking for the next addition to your collection.