Norman Rockwell paintings are an iconic and instantly recognizable element of modern American history. They depict a range of scenarios from bucolic, romantic countryside scenes to specialised craftsmen, from World War II women workers to festive celebrations.
Over the years, a whole host of bone china, porcelain and sterling silver companies have manufactured collectible plates featuring some of the most famous Norman Rockwell paintings, etchings and illustrations.
While collecting plates may have declined in popularity in recent years, and most Norman Rockwell plates will only fetch between $1 and $20, there are some rare limited edition plates which can sell for over $100 or even over $1000!
Join us to find out a little more about Norman Rockwell plates, how to identify genuine collectible plates, and a guide to the value of these renowned plates. We will also include a brief guide on buying and selling Norman Rockwell plates.
Norman Rockwell Plates: Background
Who Was Normal Rockwell?
Before finding out all about Normal Rockwell plates, it’s useful to know a bit about the artist himself. Norman Rockwell was an artist – primarily a painter and illustrator. He was in his artistic prime in the first half of the 1900s, and was best known for his bucolic Americana scenes, depicting everything from seasonal celebrations to everyday craftsmen in his iconic, nostalgic style. He was widely praised for capturing American culture and creating statement works of art which are still incredibly popular to this day.
Norman Rockwell mostly painted using oil paints but began to specialise in watercolors and pastels towards the later end of his career. Many of his illustrations were published in popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, and countless galleries have exhibited his works around the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Some of his most famous works include the well-known paintings the “Four Freedoms” series, “Rosie The Riveter”, “Saying Grace”, the “Willie Gillis” series, and “The Problem We All Live With”. Rockwell produced a massive number of works – over 4,000 in total! He sold over 300 million works during his lifetime, and many companies have turned his art in memorabilia, collectibles, and decorations.
Norman Rockwell Plates History
Due to the widespread popularity of Normal Rockwell paintings and illustrations, some of his original works were taken and turned into decorative plates. Surprisingly, it is hard to find reliable sources detailing a comprehensive list of the companies which produced Normal Rockwell plates. However, the main companies involved include:
- Danbury Mint
- Franklin Mint
- Doulton Pottery
- Rockwell Museum
- River Shore
- Bradford Exchange
- Islandia International
Other companies have produced Norman Rockwell collectible plates too, but these are the companies you are most likely to come across.
Some of the earliest plates produced were done so for Macy’s Homemaker Department (New York City) between 1959 and 1967. Doulton Pottery were among the first companies manufacturing these decorative plates They switched their facilities to Noritake China located in Japan in 1971 to keep up with the demand for such collectibles.
The famous company Franklin Mint are particularly notable for having begun their production of collector plates in 1970, using Norman Rockwell’s “Bringing Home The Tree” as the pattern. Henceforth, the Norman Rockwell Christmas plate series were issued by the Franklin Mint between 1970 and 1975.
Norman Rockwell Plate: Identification
Perhaps you have inherited a Norman Rockwell plate, or found one in a yard sale or collectibles store? Maybe you’re interested in beginning a decorative plate collection? Whatever your reason, you need to be able to identify such items to ensure their authenticity and to determine their value.
1. Box And Certificate
Often, authentic Norman Rockwell plates come in a box and have accompanying paperwork which provide certification that the plate is genuine. If so, it’s easy to tell the authenticity of the plate in question.
If the plate comes without a box or certificate of authenticity, check underneath the plate. In most cases, there will be a logo and/or company name representing the company of manufacture. Authenticated plates will have a stamp and/or unique serial number (or “plate number”) to identify them. Depending on which company produced the plate, you may need to look for different things. For example:
- Knowles – these plates display their company name in the top right corner underneath the base of the plate. A plate number and short description of the painting and statement from the Rockwell Society of America will be handwritten across most of the underneath. Below this will be a red official stamp or certification by the Rockwell Society, a copyright, a date, and the name of the person who wrote the description.
- Gorham – plates made by Gorham display the company name and logo in the centre of the underside. Above this is usually the plate series name, and the title of the painting. Below the logo are the words “from a painting by Norman Rockwell”. There may also be a copyright, for example if the plate was produced as a limited edition for the Saturday Evening Post.
- River Shore – these plates display the words “Norman Rockwell’s” followed by the name of the painting in uppercase letters. Next, comes the plate number (hand-written), and a short description of the plate and history behind it. Below this is the River Shore Ltd. name, logo, address, and place of manufacture. To either side are the signatures of the President and the Vice President.
- Franklin Mint – there is quite a variety of Franklin Mint Norman Rockwell collector plates which may display different details on the underside, and may not exhibit the companies name at all. A typical example may be those produced for the Saturday Evening Post such as the Christmas Collection. Expect to see Norman Rockwell’s name, the title of the painting, the date it was produced and for what purpose (e.g. Post Cover of December 21. 1935), along with a copyright and a production date. Franklin Mint also produced a whole series of sterling silver Norman Rockwell inscribed plates. On the underside of these you can expect to see an inscribed bust logo, the title of the illustration followed by “by Norman Rockwell”. Underneath this will be the date of production, the name Franklin Mint, the words “Solid Sterling Silver, Limited Edition”, and finally the plate number.
3. Materials And Size
After checking the underside of the plate, you should be in no doubt about the authenticity of the plate in question. However, there are a couple more identification features which will help you on your ID quest.
The earliest Norman Rockwell plates were traditionally made from bone china. Since then, they have been crafted from a range of materials but primarily porcelain and some limited edition sterling silver examples.
The size of the plates can vary, but were mostly produced in a standard “dinner plate” size. There are also dessert plates and mini plates. Some may be gold-rimmed depending on the company and the series.
Norman Rockwell Plates: Value
This is where it gets tricky. In general, Norman Rockwell plates are not one of the most popular collectible items today – the same goes for collectible plates in general. A great many were produced, particularly in the 60s and 70s, so supply greatly outweighs demand here.
Unfortunately, these collectible plates have greatly devalued over time. Those which were once bought for between $50 to $75 may only be worth around $10 today.
As a rough guide, you can expect between $1 and $20 for an individual plate depending on the rarity and condition. Sets of plates tend to sell for more, as do those made from sterling silver or limited editions. Some plates have earnt hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
The top factors affecting value are rarity and condition. Generally speaking, it is only worth selling and buying those plates in mint condition, or at least extremely good condition. Any chips, scratches or signs of wear will greatly devalue these items. Plates which come with their original boxes or packaging, and a certificate of authenticity or other paperwork are worth a lot more.
Likewise, it is only the rare, limited edition plates which sell for a substantial amount, or complete sets of plates which are not usually found together anymore.
The best way to find out what a certain plate is worth is to search for it through:
- online auction platforms such as eBay
- vintage sites like Etsy
- specialised collectors sites like Rockwell Plates
Ensure you perform a thorough search including the title of the painting, year of production, manufacturer, and plate material if applicable. This will help you gauge whether your plate is worth $1 or over $100.
To help you understand how much a Norman Rockwell plate can be worth, we have accumulated a list of the top 6 most valuable Norman Rockwell plates ever sold…
Top 6 Most Valuable Norman Rockwell Plates
Here, we will focus on the most valuable individual Norman Rockwell plates sold so far. Sets of plates go for an even higher price!
1. “The Music Maker”, Knowles, 1981 Limited Edition
In 2020, a record breaking Norman Rockwell plate depicting the painting “The Music Maker” was sold for $1,300! It features an old man who is helping a young boy to learn how to play the accordion. This plate was a limited edition, produced in 1981 by Knowles as part of the Heritage series. Those in mint condition can fetch over $1000.
2. “Hanging The Wreath”, Franklin Mint Sterling Silver, 1974 Limited Edition
Next up on our list is one of the limited edition Christmas plates, produced in sterling silver by the Franklin Mint. This plate was sold in 2020 for $254.15. It depicts a little boy helping his father to hang a Christmas wreath on the front door. The Christmas series were produce between 1970 and 1975. The preservation of the plate in mint condition within the original box (lined with satin) will really rack the price up.
3. “Under The Mistletoe”, Franklin Mint Sterling Silver, 1971 Limited Edition
Unsurprisingly, another of the sterling silver limited edition plated produced by the Franklin Mint makes it onto the list. This plate was produced in 1971, part of the second series of Christmas plates produced by this company. It sold for $199 in 2020. This Christmas plate depicts a loving older couple beneath a sprig of mistletoe.
4. “The Carolers”, Franklin Mint Sterling Silver, 1972 Limited Edition
Yet another sterling silver Franklin Mint Christmas series plate! These limited edition collectors plates are a good bet if you are looking to sell a very valuable Norman Rockwell plate. This particular plate sold for $180 in 2020. Produced in 1972, this plate was part of the thrid series of Christmas limited edition plates by the Franklin Mint. It features Christmas carol singers surrounding Father Christmas singing along in the center.
5. “Waiting For The Vet”, Islandia, 1952 Reproduction
To ring the changes, we have a very rare porcelain plate featuring the painting “Waiting For The Vet” which was painted in 1952. A small boy with a forlorn expression clutches his little dog which is sporting a head bandage. Other owners with their pets are clustered around the edges of the painting, waiting their turn to see the vet. This plate was produced by Islandia International and sold for $145 in 2020.
6. Complete “The Four Freedoms” Set, Gorham, 1976 Limited Edition
Last but not least we have the complete set of “The Four Freedoms” series – a most valuable plate set when all four of the freedoms are included:
- Freedom of Speech
- Freedom of Worship
- Freedom of Fear
- Freedom of Want
This set sold for $76.99 in 2020 and was produced by Gorham in 1976. The four freedoms series were produced by a few different companies over the years – Bradford Exchange, Gorham, Islandia International, and River Shore. However, the most valuable sets are those from Gorham and River Shore.
Norman Rockwell Plates: Buying And Selling Guide
Some of the best places to sell Norman Rockwell plates include:
- eBay – this online auction platform is an excellent place to find a range of collectible plates. You can narrow your search by date, condition, brand, and price (among other options!).
- Etsy – vintage and unique items are often sold through Etsy by both retailers and private sellers. Make sure you refine your search using keywords, and read through the listings carefully. You can find some great deals here!
- Amazon – while you may be able to find some excellent, genuine Norman Rockwell plates via Amazon, be sure to read the listing details carefully and only buy from sellers with a good reputation. Amazon is a platform full of replicates, so be sure you are buying a genuine article.
- Rockwell Plates – this site specialises in collectible plates with a whole section full of Norman Rockwell plates. They provide a handy list of plate series and manufacturers to help you locate the plate you’re looking for.
Search for the item you would like to buy, or for the item you would like to sell. Make sure you filter the results by painting, production year, and condition. This will help you to form a picture of how much a particular item in a particular condition is worth. Therefore, you can set the right price for your plate, or pay the right price for your new collectible.
When buying collectible plates, make sure you go for listings with plenty of detailed information and images. Only buy from reputable sellers with a positive selling history. Do not be afraid to ask for more details or close-up images of items you are interested in.
When selling collectible plates, make sure you include as many details as possible about the item you are selling, and answer buyer’s questions as soon as you can to maintain buyer interest. Be transparent about any damage and whether the items have been used or not. Make sure you package items extremely carefully to avoid breakages in the post!
If you need to find out more about a particular item, or get it evaluated, you can try to find a local vintage crockery expert or reach out online. Bear in mind that appraisals are a pay-for service. Specialist forums where plate enthusiasts gather to discuss collectible plates, offer advice, and exchange precious items are another great resource. You can check:
- Whatsthisworth – an active reddit forum for vintage and antique item evaluation
- net – a forum for helping one another find a price for old treasures