Enlarge Text

There’s something about large Thanksgiving dinners and other holiday gatherings that make you want to pull out the best linens (often inherited!), crystal and china. Those dinners are often the only time many of us will use place cards, used for centuries in high society and, now, weddings, to mark each guest’s spot at often very long and elaborately laid-out tables. Emily Post, in her 1922 book “Etiquette,” outlined the ground rules for place cards: They had to be “about an inch and a half high by two inches long, sometimes slightly larger.” If you have a family crest? Well, Ms. Post declared that it should embossed on the place card.

While not many of us have a family crest, we do love to throw large parties during this festive time of year. Place cards are a great way to make sure Aunt Betty, who loves perfume, is not seated next to cousin Billy, who is highly allergic to scents.

Add a personal touch to your table settings. Have unique or vintage place card holders. They can be fun and whimsical, or serious and practical. They are made of ceramic, silver, gold, plastic, iron and all materials in between. Forty years ago, sets of vintage place cards were offered at almost every sale. I started collecting place cards in the 1960s when they sold for $25 to $75 but it was before computers and I never saw a book or article about the history. Here is what I found this week with the help of online searches.


vintage glass potted flower placecard holders

1. These potted flowers are made in two pieces – a glass pot and a stem with glass leaves to “plant” in a hole. They are 3 1/2 inches tall. The box offered some clues. The set was made by Paramount Bead Corp. of New York City. They are mentioned in a 1932 legal decision about import duty. We found a pair of Paramount dice made in the 1930s for a game that also said it was made in Czechoslovakia, so we date this set as late 1930s.

vintage celluloid golfers placecard holders

2. We were all fooled on this set. There are four celluloid golfers, each with a numbered flag. The colorful clothes, knickers and a slouchy cap, date from the1920s. They were different heights, ranging from 3 to 4 inches. But there was no place to put a card with a name. An internet search showed one selling for $15 and said it was a golf pencil holder. So we pulled the flagpole and found a small pencil used to score a golf game. We have a boxed set of four.

vintage keystone cop rooster hen placecard holders

3. A pair of vintage celluloid place card holders pictures a Keystone Cop, a movie character from silent slapstick comedy movies from 1912 to 1917, and a hen and rooster.

vintage celluloid cat chick bird placecard holders

4. A flat celluloid cat place card, one of a boxed set of 12, resembled Felix the Cat, a cartoon figure introduced in 1919. The set also includes six different birds, a Halloween-style black cat, a rabbit, an elephant, a donkey and a squirrel, all about 2 inches high by 1 inch wide.

vintage vienna celluloid silhouette cutout children play placecard holders

5. The Vienna Handwork Co. of Austria made many sets. The dresses on the women suggested a date of 1920s or ’30s. The flat celluloid silhouetted cutouts show children at play, including one with two girls playing ping-pong.

vintage painted flower mirror placecard holders
6. These rectangular mirrors with painted flower decoration were made after the 1950s. Few flower gardens had daffodils or tulips, but lily-of-the-valley grew wild in many states. The other flowers were the 4-petal type in various colors. The perfect box and set seemed almost new.

Thanksgiving place cards -- Koivels

7. Enjoy a special gift from the Kovels
— free printable vintage-style place cards for your Thanksgiving table. There are six different festive designs on one sheet. Just download, print, cut, add the names of your guests and fold.











Login to leave a comment.

Join The Discussion

Kovels.com is pleased to share your comments. Your postings may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in our print publications. We encourage a variety of opinions, but ask that you refrain from profanity and hate speech. To post comments, you must be a registered user of Kovels.com. Please remember that your username will appear with any comments you post.

Get The Latest Collecting News Every Week for FREE!

Enter your email below to receive Kovels Komments for the latest antiques & collectibles news, answers to readers questions, marks and tips. In your inbox every Wednesday.

You can unsubscribe at any time. Please refer to our Privacy Policy or Contact us for more information.
Kovels Premium