Q: We own this set of four figurines and have been told they are quite collectible, but we've been unable to find out anything about them. They are marked on the bottom "W.P.A. Ceramics N. Dak." Can you tell us their history and approximate value?
A: The letters "W.P.A." stand for Works Progress Administration, a government program that provided training and jobs for the unemployed during the Depression. It was renamed the Works Projects Administration in 1939. Your figurines were made in the ceramics program started in Dickinson, N.D., in 1936. Pieces were fired at the Dickinson Clay Products Co. In 1937 the ceramics program moved to Mandan, N.D., and pieces were fired at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks until a kiln was built in Mandan in 1940. The program ended in 1942. Figurines like yours, representing characters from nursery rhymes and stories, were given to nursery schools. Your figures are the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs, one holding a brick, one a log, and one a bundle of straw--the materials they used to build their houses. Ashtrays, bookends, bowls, glasses, milk jugs, paperweights, pitchers, plates, plaques, vases, and other items were also made by Dickinson potters and given to schools, hospitals, libraries, and other institutions in North Dakota. There are WPA collectors who search for any of the art made by artists in the program. Some figures like yours have sold for $200 or more, depending on the fame of the artist.