A Guide to Collecting Vintage Wade Figurines
[orig. pub. July 2014, revised May 2020]
Hi everyone! Today I’m writing about collecting vintage Wade figurines, a favorite collectible of mine.
My grandmother would often have a special surprise for me when I visited: one or two ceramic Wade “Whimsies,” as they were called in England. She drank tall glasses of Red Rose iced tea every day of her life, and in each box of tea came a small Wade figurine, usually an animal.
My favorite was a white polar bear that I still have to this day. They make a wonderful introductory collection for children especially, but adults should not hesitate to collect them, too(!).
Some collectors, like my daughter, focus on a specific animal, dogs for example. Others focus on pieces Wade produced in collections, for instance the circus or the American series.
Some Wade Whimsy Background
Wade Ceramics has a long history of manufacturing pottery of all kinds in the Stoke-on-Trent area of England, known far and wide for pottery production.
In the 1950’s Sir George Wade organized a number of local potteries into the George Wade & Sons Ltd pottery, and shortly thereafter in 1954 began producing an assortment of figurines, including tiny Wade Whimsies.
The pottery entered into an agreement with Red Rose tea in 1967 that continued right up until 2018. Each box of tea would contain a miniature figurine nestled inside. By their own estimate, Red Rose gave away over 300 million through the years in America alone(!).
Each figurine is part of a larger series; for example, the bald eagle is part of the Endangered North American Animal Series III, as are the sea turtle and timber wolf behind it.
The tiger, camel, zebra, seal, and cockatiel are each part of the Animal Series II, which was issued in 1985 and continuing on through 1996. Looking at the front row, the bison is from the American Series I, while the giraffe and puppy are from those Series II. Both sets feature animals from around the world.
You may have noticed that Wade produced all the Red Rose figurines in single colors, with one exception, the poodle, part of the Circus Series III that you’ll see below.
These six also belong to the Animal Series II, of which there are twenty total. Pictured are an orangutan, giraffe, rhinoceros, camel, zebra, and gorilla.
The first figurine, a Florida panther, belongs to the Endangered Species Set, while the langur, leopard, and kangaroo to the Animal Set II.
Wade Series Produced for Red Rose Tea
All in all, Wade produced seven series for the American Red Rose Tea market:
- Animals Series I (15 figures, 1983-1985)
- Animals Series II (20 figures, 1985-96)
- Circus Series (15 figures, 1994-99)
- Endangered North American Animals (10 figures, 1999-2002)
- Noah’s Ark Series (15 figures, 2002-06)
- Pet Shop Friend Series (10 figures, 2006-08)
- Calendar Series (12 figures, 2008-12)
To see the figures contained in each series, check out Wadetopia (click “Red Rose Tea Promotions” on the left).
Wade Whimsy Circus Series III
One of the main ways to tell circus figures from other series figures is that most of the animals are sitting on a round, decorated base–even the Ringmaster is standing on one. There are other tell-tale markers as well: the seal wears a bow, the bear a hat, the monkeys clothes, the poodle a skirt, for example.
The Wade Circus Series III contained 15 pieces, including those you see here: (back) seal, tiger, male monkey (holding a hat), female monkey, bear (front) poodle, clown w/pie, ringmaster, lion.
Here are four more from the Circus Series III: Strong man, human canonball, standing elephant, and sitting elephant. The two pieces that I don’t have photos for are the clown w/drum and the rearing horse.
Here’s a better view of some of the circus figurines. As I mentioned above, the poodle is the only Rose Tea figurine painted in two colors: white and blue. Note one difference between the male and female monkeys is female’s skirt.
The Endangered North American Animals Series IV
You’ve seen most of these in photos above, but I thought I’d pull them altogether. You see six of the ten figures in the Endangered North American Animal Series IV.
And here’s a seventh–the white polar bear given to me by my sweet grandmother. The three missing from this series include the spotted owl (light brown), humpback whale (blue), and manatee (gray).
Wades Made for the English Market
This little fellow is about 3″ in diameter with an embossed “WADE ENGLAND” mark on the bottom (see below). He was made for the English market, and my sweet daughter and I picked him up at a car boot sale when we lived in England (2009-2011) for 50 p (pence). He’s worth about $10-12.
Note that the two-color puppy is cemented to the basket he’s sitting in.
We picked up these miniature 2-tone dogs (except for the gray puppy) in England, but I’ve not been able to get any information about these guys or how much they’re worth.
I’m going to say, based on a cursory look at eBay, that they may be worth up to $5 each. I don’t think they were part of a promotion but were instead sold separately in their own boxes. Anyone have any additional insights??
Looking for the Wade Mark on the Figurines
Over the years, Wades have been marked in a few different ways, including “WADE,” “WADE ENG,” and WADE ENGLAND. Let’s take a look:
Some pieces are simply marked “WADE” as seen on the female monkey from the Circus Series, while an elephant from the same series is marked “WADE ENG.”
Meanwhile, other pieces are marked “WADE ENGLAND,” perhaps because there was more room? Hard to say. There seems to be no specific time periods attributed to any single mark, so I’m guessing space and convenience played their roles.
The strongman figurine from the Circus Series presents “WADE” on one side and then “ENGLAND” on the other.
And finally, on the bottom of a larger example (the dog in basket above), you find “WADE ENGLAND” neatly embossed on the bottom.
Vintage Wade Figurine Values
The primary way that I sell Wades is via my antique booth where I typically sell them for $2 each. Condition is everything when it comes to Wades. Unfortunately, they chip rather easily; I mark them “Free”–something I like to do as a nice surprise for those who don’t mind a tiny chip here or there.
The most valuable Wades are those made for other countries. Figurines from Canada’s Nursery Rhyme Series tend to go for slightly higher amounts, perhaps up to $5 each, although apparently the little gingerbread boy has been known to go for $100(!). Pieces made for the English market, including larger figurines and a Disney series they made also go for higher amounts.
My go-to method for selling Wades is to place them in some kind of shallow container with a small sign stating, “Vintage Wades, $2 each (please take a tag).” I make a bunch of small tags that say, “Wade figurine, $2” and tuck them in with the Wades. The buyer can grab one or more figurines and one of the tags and take them to the cashier.
They sell very well and fairly regularly, usually three or more/month. I like the idea of having items in my booth that encourage children to begin collecting something. It’s my way of spreading the love of vintage and antiques forward to future generations of collectors!
I sold this set of tiny white Wades on eBay for $8 back in 2018. Each is quite a bit smaller than other Wades, and I could never find out anything about them. If anyone has any info on them I’d love to know! Leave me a comment, please 🙂
UPDATE: A reader kindly informed me in the comments that these little white figures were part of a Noah’s ark set issued between 2002 and 2006. Now I’m wondering if they created a Noah and a Mrs. Noah as part of the set(?).
How to Display Your Vintage Wade Figurines
This antique divided cheese box displays these little cuties perfectly.
An attractive brass and glass display case like this one provides a lovely way to show the world your collection while at the same time keeping your critters dust free–win-win, right??
Where Can I Find Vintage Wade Figurines?
I rescued many of the whimsies you see in this post from a “free” box at a garage sale a couple of years ago, much to my and my daughter’s great pleasure. She has inherited her mother’s fascination with these wonderful collectibles. I suppose putting one or two in her Christmas stocking every year didn’t hurt!
Wades make a perfect introductory level collectible because they can be found “out in the wild” so cheaply–often for about a quarter. Even at antique stores, they rarely cost more than $2.00, which as I mentioned is what I charge when I have them in stock.
The Red Rose Tea website offers figurines for sale and of course you can also find them on eBay and Etsy as well. Look for them on Facebook Marketplace and at flea markets as well. I hope you enjoyed learning about Wade Whimsies and seeing examples of those I’ve sold in the past and in my daughter’s collection. What’s your favorite Wade Whimsy??
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The World of Wade Whimsies
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Hi Diana! Oh, these little figures are darling! I've never heard of that brand of tea. Maybe different areas have different brands? Anyway, if I'd ever known a tea brand had a goodie inside, I'm sure it would have been in my pantry! What a sweet collection to pass on to your daughter.
Be a sweetie,
Hi Sheila! It never occurred to me that the tea and/or figurines would be regional. Nothing in my "research" indicated that. These little guys are available all over the Northeast at garage sales, flea markets, and antique shops. Next time, I take some photos of Gracie's extensive collection 🙂
How cool, Diana – I learned something I didn't know today! I've never heard of these animals, and if I'd seen them before, didn't realize their history. I've never heard of the Rose Tea company either but, then, I'm a coffee drinker. A great post, and sweet collectible for you (and now Gracie). Those would look great in a faerie garden!
Hi Rita 🙂 Like I mentioned to Sheila, I had no idea these might be a regional collectible. And I can't imagine an area without Red Rose Tea! They would definitely look perfect in a faerie garden. There's even a smaller set of all white that are super cute.
Hi Diana Ihave the complete Noah’s ark which includes the ark animals and Noah and his wife
These are absolutely darling! The all-white set sounds intriguing.
I love these little guys and have a few. I found some at a thrift shop and hope to pass them on to my Grandson Tiger….so I guess I need to find a 'tiger' for him. Thanks for the website info!
My sister in law was a painter at wade when she left school, so we had tons of them, I collected loads for my daughter but now they just sit in a box
I justed collecting wade figurines, but I really like the buildings, would you have any to sell.
Great information Diana … will forward this information to a friend but she may already know about these cute collectables. I think I have the elephant looking down in the circus collection. I will have to see if it is marked.
Thanks for sharing.
Audrey Z. @ Timeless Treasures
I've never heard of George Wade pottery Thanks for the informative post. Thanks also for sharing this at the #saygdayparty. I just pinned this to the Say G'day Saturday board.
The party is in full swing now so if you haven't had a chance to visit some the links please do stop by and have a look!
Best wishes for a wonderful week,
Natasha in Oz
cute little mini's Thank you for sharing your sweet blog at the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop xo
I am a collector of wimzies. I just got a prized 3 inch wimzie (polly put the kettle on). I hope to one day leave them to my grandson.
Thanks for the link to the Red Rose Tea site with lots of info on Wade figurines. Another site that I love is in England and they have many collectible categories that you can use for reference on many other items. It is http://www.pricklepin.co.uk It has tons of Wade series listed, you click on Wade, then for example if you click on Wades Nursery Rhymes….it will then show you 7 different categories within that….7 of them ranging from 1958 to 2001. Every single category has many sub-categories and when you click on one of the sub categories it will show you the pieces that were featured in that series. It is an awesome site.
have a great day!
Even though my family was hard core Lipton people, I remember RedRose tea ☕️ & I think I remember those adorable little animals & my daughter playing with them. I too would buy tiny figurine animals trying to get my daughter interested in antiques, unfortunately it didn’t stick. Thank you for reminding me of a sweet slice of history that we all took for granted.
Good morning Diana, I’ve always wanted to know more about these charming little figures. Your post has given me some history and I’m excited to begin the “search”! I may even introduce them to my granddaughters. I’ve Been collecting small dog figures, just because I like dogs, many do not have stamps or signatures on them and it’s all about the “find”. Can you give me any information on what would be good to know in my discoveries? Thank you I really enjoy reading your posts.
Yay! I’m so glad I could add to your knowledge base Kathy 🙂 I think they would make a great collectible for your granddaughters, I know my daughter absolutely loved them for years. Almost all Wade figurines are marked in some one, so look for that (see examples in the post above). Once you’ve seen a few, you won’t have any trouble recognizing them at all. Happy hunting!
I’ve recently inherited my grandmothers collection of wade figurines and I had no idea what they were or the value of them!
Thank you for your amazing little article, it has helped me to understand the importance of these to her!!
Aww, that really blesses me to know Anika–thanks so much for sharing that with me. Enjoy your little darlings!!
Diana, the reason the gingerbread man is so expensive, is because it’s arm has a tendency to break off. The cream colored gingerbread man is extremely rare and expensive. I’m in my late 50s, still collect them because my sweet grandmother (who lived in Canada) gave me the hedgehog when I was 10. Take care.
Thanks so much for the inside info 🙂 Love that your grandmother got you started, like mine!
I have more than a few Wades, not a big collection, but I’m always on the look out. I keep mine in a printers box I have hanging on the wall. I’m hoping to leave them to my Granddaughter. IM the youngest of four girls and can’t believe my sisters did not know about these, although I’m more of a vintage shopper than they are.
A printer’s box is the perfect way to display Wades, Tina! And such a blessing to have a granddaughter to leave them to 🙂 Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to leave a comment–
Thanks for the information, i am bookmarking it for future updates.
You’re so welcome Elanor! I’m glad you found it interesting 🙂
Hi…I’m just catching up on here!! I’m going to look at our Antique Mall tomorrow while I work….I know there are some there and now you’ve peaked my curiousity to find them! Blessed Christmas Greetings….your friend, Susan Beldyga
I hope you found some Susan!! Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year 🙂
I have the whole nursery rhyme set but didn’t know it was only offered in Canada. Took me years to find all the pieces at garage sales and antique shows. A few years back I found a gingerbread girl also.
Woo woo for finding all those pieces!! What a special collection Cindy 🙂
Diana – Thanks for this site and all the great information and photos on it. I am a recent fan of Wade Whimsies. I ran across a box of them at an antique mall and realized that they would be the perfect accessories for my 1/12 scale miniature houses.
I bought several and they look great on a mantle or bookshelf. The colors and glazes fit right in with the craftsman style of decor, and they are much more affordable than many of the accent pieces that are made and marketed for doll houses.
So far, I have a pair of lions, a locomotive engine, a zebra, and am on the look-out for an upright figure that I can adapt to a table lamp base. I do not expect to amass a huge collection, but in this context, they are perfect for me!
You’re welcome Lee! How fun that you discovered these cute collectibles that work so well with your miniature houses. Here’s to finding more examples that work well with this hobby 🙂
Hi, I have bee trying to sell my Wade items, you cannot give them away in the UK. I sell 13 at a time for £2.99 plus postage, I sell on Ebay with my other antiques.
So sorry to hear that Jeannette. I’m guessing the market is pretty saturated over there given that that’s where they’re made.
The polar bear you have pictured is from one of the older Animals Series, not the North American Endangered set. There is a polar bear in that set as well but the pose is different.
Thanks for the insight Christopher!!
My Oma (German Grandmother) had a large collection of these. I played with them when I was a little girl. When my grandparents took me to Germany in 1978, one of these would come in every cup of tea. My Oma told me they were placed in the teacups before pouring the tea so that when you took them out, there was enough room to add sugar.
She passed away last year at age 94. I inherited many of her figurines and I have the “Tea Animals” (the name I used for them when I was little) sitting on a display shelf that my Grandfather made. Now my grandsons play with them when they visit me. I love being able to pass on a cherished memory to them and hope that they will in turn pass it on to their grandchildren one day.
I LOVE this story so much Maranda! Thank you for sharing it with us. I was very close to my grandmother so I know how precious this memory is for you. How beautiful that you get to share your experience with your own grandchildren!!
I scored 8 figures all in their original boxes!
I appreciate all of the information you put on this site. Many thanks.
Woo woo! How exciting 🙂 I’ve never found any in their original boxes Rebecca so you’re way ahead of me. So glad you enjoyed the article-
Hey girl! So the wade dogs you said you picked up in England are part of the Wade Canadian Animals set, which predates the other sets. All but the grey puppy are part of that set – all in all it’s a HUGE collection – I myself am still missing 2, and it’s SO hard to find them – a pelican and a penguin!
This set is WORTH collecting. Many of the pieces from it are worth more than $5 each…especially the husky (looks like a black wolf) the dolphin (attached to the base by its tail) the seahorse (brown), the pelican, the penguin (has a yellow beak), the seal pup, and several others, but the ones I listed are hard to come by. Good luck!
Thanks so much for the great info Tessa!! Good luck completing your set 🙂
I picked up a bag of these figurines today at a value village there were 14 in the bag for $7.99 in the bag was the ginger bread man black sheep and the pelican.
Hello! The set of white wades you sold are part of a Noah’s ark series that was done between 2002-2006. I just picked up one of the ewes today. Hope this helps!
Thanks for the info!!
I just picked up an Animals From Around The World stand for these animals, not sure if there is a specific collection to display on it. On the bottom it says The Official WADE Collectora Club. And 2007 Members Only Set.
I have loved these tiny treasures since my grandmother and mother began finding them in Red Rose Tea back in the 60 s. So happy to see the interest in them continues. I am Canadian, but on every trip to the US, I watch for ones that were only issued there. Thanks for a wonderful post full of information!
You’re so welcome Prue! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and yes, people still love them–I sell them quite regularly 🙂
I’m not sure with the pandemic if it’s still the case but Wades will have a show once a year in a different state and attendees get a free figurine made only for that special show.A friend brought me back a set of dinosaurs about 10 yrs,ago from England.There are actually two different sets.There is also a Noah and wife figurine to go with the ark,as you had asked.My dad,aunt ,son and I all have our collections.My parents put plexiglass overr front of their printer box frames as with young grandkids it might offer a bit of protection..
So much great info Ginny! I was not aware of the annual Wade show. Plexiglass over a printer box is an excellent way to display and protect a collection. Thanks for sharing your insights with us 🙂 It’s so need that collecting Wades is a shared family experience–I just love that!
I have a wade figurine, danny boy, but it doesn’t have a stamp . My friend says it’s a duplicate. But it looks so authentic.
Hello. I have about 20 of these little Wade creatures. They don’t go for much in the UK but it makes them easier to collect here. I did not know the full background to them so it has motivated me to collect more. Thank you for that.
You’re so welcome Judy–I’m glad you enjoyed the article 🙂
Rummaging thru the closet I found a bag ful of these little fun animals..I used to have tthem displayed in my house having fun colllecting them from the Rose tea initiated by my friend in Canada. It was a fun thing to do..However living in a condo doesnt give me the space I once had..So now I have a new (old) hobby looking up to see if any of them might be a “grand prize” Since my collecting started many years ago..This might be fun..Thanks for your “site”
So glad you enjoyed the info I provided in the post. Sounds like you’re having a good time researching your collection–I hope you find the “grand prize!!” Be sure to let us know 🙂
thanks for the information my note is above..
I have over 300 of these in the various sets, including Noah’s ark!
What a collection Lee!! They must be something to see 🙂
I have been collecting these wade figurines since 1970 when my son was born. I have over a thousand and complete sets of most. I was so disappointed when they stopped putting them in red rose tea. Recently I have been getting them again in the tea. I was so excited to be able to collect them again. I drink iced tea daily so I have quiet the collection. I have many duplicates also. I love them just have a hard time displaying them.
Sounds like an amazing collection Ellen!! I was not aware that Rose tea had begun giving them away again–that’s awesome. I’ve seen people display them in old printer’s trays. They have SO many cubbies that you can display a lot of them on one tray.
I have probably 1000 pieces of Wade. I would like to sell a set of decanters made by Royal Victoria in 1950s. They are gin, cognac, sherry, scotch, port and a larger one rum. Do you have any suggestions on selling? I live in California. I do not want to ship out of the US.
I have a YouTube video about how to sell antiques if you’re not a dealer: https://youtu.be/4tyZGJ1gHnA Hope that helps Sandy!
Diana, I thoroughly enjoyed this article; so informative. Just to let you know, I do own the Mr.&Mrs. Noah. My collecting started today with a bag full from my local Resource Store for $5. Love them already.
My grandparents lived in Detroit and used to drink Red Rose tea in the 1960’s. In the 1980’s when I lived NY, I bought a bunch of the Wade figurines. I only have three wolves left.
My son made a ceramic pig in high school that’s a little bigger than the wolves. They have been sitting on the windowsill in my kitchen ever since as, “the 3 little wolves and the big bad pig”!
I see them occasionally at flea markets. I have a vintage booth in NC, I think I’ll start selling them. Not my wolves though. Thanks for the information.
I have a Wade England Blue Grey Elephant standing on four legs (no base) that appears to be Hand Signed and numbered. On the bottom of his front leg, it looks like1/51 (or 61). There is not a Wade Stamp just the Wade England which appears to be handwritten. I have only found this elephant in the Wade England guide and no place else on the internet. Can someone point me in the direction to learn more about this piece?
Hi Shelly! The Wade Collectors Club may be able to help you or this guide (an affiliate link from which I may make a small commission): https://amzn.to/3QCr3yW Good luck!
In 1977 I purchased in England Nursery Favorites by Wade of England. I am missing 5 of them and wonder where to find them for sale. Mine are still in original boxes. Any ideas. I love all the information and comments on your site. Hoping to join soon. I purchased for my daughter and now would like to finish for my granddaughter. Thank you.
Hi Toni! So glad you’ve been enjoying my website 🙂 I would look for Wades in antique shops, on eBay, and on Etsy. Best of luck with your search!
I was born in England and collected (purchased) Wade figurines as a little girl, early sixties. I have many pieces that need to go to a good home as I’m downsizing. I’d love to chat with you by email.
Hi Karen! I’m not currently in the market for any Wades but I have a video where I talk about various ways to sell collectibles if you’re not a “dealer.” You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/4tyZGJ1gHnA
My sister and I started to collect these figurines when we’re children (in the UK) as they used to be in Christmas crackers back in the 80’s and early 90’s.
I hadn’t realised that so many collections existed, nor how wide-spread they are. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!
You’re welcome Lorraine! Thanks for sharing your personal story about Wades coming in Christmas crackers–that so fun. We lived in England for two years and had loads of fun with English crackers around the holidays 🙂
I have a small figurine that several dealers have told me it’s a Wade figurine.
However it has no markings at all, it does appear to be ceramic.
it’s a black woman facing forward with her hands on her waist. she is wearing a head scarf tied in a bow at the top with a gold-ish crown. I believe it’s a perfume bottle. she’s almost 3″ tall including the crown.
I’ve been searching for several years, off and on, to find out who might have made her. I stumbled across your site and I’m hoping you might shed some light on who and what she is.
I apologize for wasting your time if this is something you’re totally not interested in. but I’m hoping.
Hi Joyce, unfortunately I’m unfamiliar with the piece you describe. Have you done a Google reverse image search? I explain how to do that with your smart phone in this article: https://adirondackgirlatheart.com/google-reverse-image-search/ I hope you find some answers!
Yes, there is a Noah and wife figure Wade Whimsey. There are 15 figures in that series and also an ark. I have photos on my Etsy shop if you’re interested.
Thanks so much for the info Diane!!
Hi my name is Joelle. I have an extensive collection of Wades. Such fun going to yard sales or consignment shops and finding the little treasurers. I do have a question or maybe an observation. I have what I thought was an Wade orangutan. Upon a closer look I thought it looked more like a sloth. I searched online and the figurine in England matching my figurine is considered a sloth. In the US the online figurine is said to be an orangutan. Did you know this? Seems to me that no matter whether the figurine was made for England or the US, it appears identical and would be considered the same cirtter! Anyway just wondered what if anything someone else thought. Be well, Joelle
That’s so interesting! News to me 🙂 As you say, perhaps another reader has some insights.