Vintage 101: The History of Coppercraft Guild

 

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve really developed a love for vintage copper. It’s just so warm and glowy and gorgeous; it has the impact and pizazz of more luxurious metals, but it feels a bit more down-to-earth and approachable. Know what I mean?

As I began finding and collecting more an more vintage copper pieces (mostly to sell in the WAV shop, but there have definitely been a few keepers as well!), I started to notice a familiar-looking sticker on the bottom of a number of the pieces I’d found. The sticker read: Coppercraft Guild – Taunton, Mass.

 

The foil label found on the underside of many Coppercraft Guild pieces.

 

Something about the word ‘guild’ paired with the Massachusetts locale conjured up images of turn-of-the-century artisans creating hand-worked copper pieces in some sleepy New England town. While I was happy to go on imagining that was the case for a while, I eventually became curious about the story behind Coppercraft Guild, and what I uncovered might surprise you!

 

Coppercraft Guild watering can with brass handle and spout – as well as a cute little footed planter on the left.

 

Founded in 1973, Coppercraft Guild was a subsidiary of the Tandy Corporation. Does Tandy sound familiar to you? They were the company that launched RadioShack in 1962, and eventually went on to become one of three major players in the personal computer revolution of 1977 (the others being Apple and Commodore), offering pre-assembled ‘micro-computers’ intended for home use. Someone at Tandy clearly knew what they were doing when they jumped on board with the personal computer trend – but technology wasn’t the only trend Tandy was interested in. In fact, the company also had their eye on the ‘network marketing’ trend made popular by Tupperware in the 1950s.

 

A vintage Coppercraft Guild advertisement from the sZinteriors blog.

 

Just like Tupperware, Coppercraft Guild equipped their reps with a suitcase full of their copper home goods. Made of solid copper with a special coating to prevent tarnishing, these pieces were focused on design and craftsmanship and were very popular for gift-giving. The sales rep would host a Coppercraft Guild party, inviting friends to check out the samples and then order their own pieces via the hostess’s catalogue.

 

A pair of vintage Coppercraft Guild hanging planters – I love the one with little brass ‘feet’!

 

Though it sounds like a fool-proof plan to me (I would LOVE to attend one of these parties – I’ll have to add that to my Time Machine Bucket List!), Coppercraft Guild closed its doors in 1978, just five years after their launch. Though they were short-lived, Coppercraft Guild produced an impressive range of gift ware that has consistently remained popular with collectors over the years, and has only gained popularity with the recent upswing in copper’s appearances in design-centric publications and among interior design enthusiasts. What’s more, most of this stuff still looks great! Whatever secret ingredient they used in their top-secret coating really did the trick, as it’s not uncommon to find these pieces just as bright and shiny and beautiful as they were over 40 years ago.

I may not be hosting any copper parties anytime soon, and I (unfortunately) don’t have one of those magical sample-filled suitcases, but I can promise you Wise Apple Vintage will continue to stock these beautiful copper pieces for many, many years to come. Click here to pop on over to the shop and check out what’s currently for sale!

 

vintage-coppercraft-guild-copper-roly-poly-tumblers
A set of roly poly tumblers by Coppercraft Guild – perfect for Moscow Mules!

 

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24 Comment

  1. Vicki Hench says: Reply

    I have a copper and glass chip and dip bowl. Can you tell me the value?

    1. Nikki says: Reply

      Hi Vicki! Your chip and dip bowl sounds lovely! The value would depend on who made the bowl, when it was made, and what condition it is in – sorry I can’t give you a more definitive answer! Sometimes I try a Google image search to try and find something similar… maybe that will help!

  2. Lisa says: Reply

    Thank you for this post! I just found a whole bunch of Coppercraft guild items in my Mom’s home and really enjoyed reading about the history in this post. 🙂

    1. Nikki says: Reply

      Hey Lisa! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – and lucky you! Coppercraft Guild stuff is just so timeless and lovely! 🙂

  3. Stacey Brown says: Reply

    I love your article! My grandfather worked in the factory in Taunton. My father recently gave me a collection of all the pieces he made. I loved reading this story. Thank you!

    1. Nikki says: Reply

      I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the post, Stacey! And how cool that your grandfather helped make some of these gorgeous copper pieces. I’m sure you’ll treasure your collection for many years to come! 🙂

  4. Par says: Reply

    Hello – I have a CC frying pan I bought in the 80’s. back then there were parties much like the pampered chef and I think there was some cooking involved. Anyway…. just wanted to post this – I still really enjoy my frying pan – alittle hard to clean but still going very strong.

    1. Nikki says: Reply

      How fun to hear you’re still enjoying your CCG frying pan! I would LOVE to travel back in time and attend one of the parties – sounds like so much fun! Thanks for chiming in! 🙂

  5. Kathleen Copson says: Reply

    When I was in high school , in the early 60s,I was invited to a Coppercraft Guild party…and was immediately hooked..and began hosting party’s to earn the pieces I wanted for my ‘hope chest’, My grandmother had always loved copper, and she taught me to appreciate it..she also bought something at each of the parties I hosted
    I’m almost 70 now..and I inherited all of the pieces she got, and the pieces my mother got…so I have a pretty good collection ..and I think often back on those parties and remember how much fun they were. At the end of each party, the demonstrator would display all the pieces,light the candles, and turn out the lights.. it seemed magical, the reflections in the copper, then she would include a few of my mother’s Stirling silver pieces, to show how they complimented one another. I also remember her saying,”One day, these will be considered antiques , and be quite valuable…and today I googled it and found this site,
    Time flies.. and she was right.

    1. Nikki says: Reply

      What beautiful memories, Kathleen! I especially loved your description of that magical, candlelit moment at the end of the party! Sounds like your grandmother had great taste in home decor, and was even clever enough to know those copper beauties would be worth something someday! Thank you SO much for sharing your memories – hearing stories like yours is my favorite part of being a vintage enthusiast.

  6. MaryAnne Greer says: Reply

    I have the little pot that you hang. Looks tarnished in spots any idea on how to clean? I went to a few of those parties with my mom Also loved going because the food was good!

    1. Nikki says: Reply

      Hi MaryAnne – I just love the little hanging pots, too! I’ve had really good luck with Barkeeper’s Friend – it’s a powdery cleaning product that you can usually find at your local grocery store. Just wipe some on with a wet paper towel, and it really helps even out the color of the surface. Good luck!

  7. Melissa says: Reply

    Were there certain pieces that went into each case?

    1. Nikki says: Reply

      Good question! I’m not sure, actually… I think each case just had a sampling of difference pieces for customers to check out and then place their order. I wasn’t born yet when these parties were popular (darn it!), so I never made it to one – would love to get all of the details from someone who sold or attended parties!

      1. Mary says: Reply

        I sold Coppercraft Guild. I still have the big suitcase and all of my copper.It is filled with my son’s baseball card collections. I display the copper in my China Hutch.. I would give little miniature pieces to the guests. Yes..it was and is beautiful. I lost the top to my tea kettle when I moved. Looking to find another one and found your blog. I displayed my miniature pieces in a shadow box in my kitchen. It is a mystery to me that they would disappear one at a time. The last little bowl disappeared a few weeks ago though I did not notice it until last week. I told my husband just last night about the missing pieces. I just can not figure it out. Has someone been coming in my house through a back door that my husband does not lock (but does now) when he is leaves to play golf while I am at work….or is it someone who comes to my house on a regular basis.????. I am totally befuddled. I can only think of one person who I have let in my house to do some work. I am not angry as I figure if someone needs to steal the little miniatures……….then…….I hope they enjoy them as much as I did . If they decide to steal again we now have cameras. I would have given the pieces to them if they had just asked.
        . I loved selling the copper…..It is my favorite decor and we have in the past drank from the drinking pieces..but it tasted not as good as when you put in a regular glass so I just display them now. My husband told me the other night as we were washing all of the copper that his favorite pieces are the two hurricane lamps…… I am hoping that my daughter will love the copper as much as I do. She may want me to sell it all…….if that is the case…..I will either give it to a niece or just sell it….. I am on my way to look again for a top for my Coppercraft Guild tea kettle..It was one of my favorites..

  8. Chris says: Reply

    I have started a website copper creek deal.com. You will be able to find many answers to any questions you might have at this website. I had a case never opened new in package and there was a packing sheet telling you what all was included in the kit. I will be scanning it and posting it as well.

    1. Chris says: Reply

      Website will be CoppercraftGuild.com

  9. I’ve inherited some molds… can I use them in cooking? I’m afraid of copper poisoning.. they don’t look lined…

    1. Nikki says: Reply

      Good question, Kristina! I’m not an expert when it comes to Coppercraft Guild OR copper poisoning, but if I had to guess, I would say there’s about a 99% chance that they’re safe to use. Copper items made to be used with food are typically sealed or finished with a protective coating to keep your food out of direct contact with the copper, and it’s my understanding that Coppercraft Guild did indeed use such a coating. The trick is to keep an eye out for discoloration, rusting, or verdigris – the presence of any of those could be an indication that the coating is beginning to break down. Hope that helps!

  10. Jonathan says: Reply

    Thanks for taking the trouble to write and publish this page! I just came across a lovely CG item and wanted to find out more about it (like you the quality combined with the word “Guild” caught my interest), so I googled it and found your page! A great 101 – thanks!

  11. Mary says: Reply

    Notifications checked. Forgot to check them in my first reply.

  12. Ruthie Kolb says: Reply

    My mother was a reginal manager for this company for many years when I was a teenager. When she passed away in 1991 I kept many of the original Coppercraft Guild catalogs, for nostalgic reasons.
    Would you like to have them?
    I can probably answer some of your questions.
    We, as a family, also visited the company in Massachusetts when I was 16.

  13. Beverley says: Reply

    I sent my granddaughter a carafe that I purchased in the early sixtys. It was copper and brass.
    Unfortunately the glass pot was broke in transit.
    Do know of anyone that can make or have a replacement for just the glass pot

  14. Dixie Lee says: Reply

    Oh yes! We are given a certain specific pieces in our dealer kits. My cousins husband even Syl remembers some prices. Ha!! I found an original catalogue in my memoirs but the price list was always on a separate piece of paper. I do recall that the little ball shaped cup was called a Roly poly and was considered the first quintessential piece for new collectors and was always in the new kids. Most dealers picked up n new items constantly to add to their kits. I had two suitcases fill where each piece is wrapped in heavy green felt bags. BTW it was recommended to remove the finish for use with hot food.

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