Lefton

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George George Zoltan Lefton was a Hungarian immigrant who arrived in Chicago in 1939 and founded the Lefton Importing Company in 1941. The Lefton Company was purchased by OMT Enterprises in 2005 and moved to California. Although Mr. Lefton's background was in marketing and designing specialty clothing, he had a passion for collecting fine porcelain. That is probably why we see such beautiful Lefton mermaids clad in wonderful colors and outfits! Lefton imported many products from Japan to sell under the Lefton label. Most had a Lefton label on the back of the piece, or on the box it was packaged. Over the years, those paper labels have been removed, and boxes tossed. So now it is sometimes hard to identify which ones made in Japan were distributed by Lefton.

There was a Japanese company (owned by Kowa Toki) that Lefton became and those pieces can be identified by a numeric inkmark beginning with "KW."  

Then there is the ESD marking you often see. I have been given a number of stories about this ESD marking but in talking with Stuart Brown, a long time collector and researcher of Lefton, I feel I've finally found the right answer! Stuart has been collecting Lefton and researching Lefton for about 16 years. I appreciate Stuart's time in helping me update this section on Lefton. Here is some information Stuart shared with me on the ESD labeling..... Mr Lefton - George Zoltan Lefton - the founder of the company, had a friend in Canada that he let order from Lefton's Japanese manufacturers at the same time as Lefton ordered so as to increase the number of items ordered and thus lowering the wholesale costs to both importers. Stuart refers to that as "piggybacking"... ie, Mr Lefton let the fellow in Canada piggyback on some of his companies orders....Until they no longer were friends..  

Here is another mermaid with the ESD marking. The mermaid and fish came glued to a card (as a lot of them did back then).  The Lefton label is on the card, NOT on the mermaid.  The mermaid has the ESD inkstamp on the back. 

Kelvin also distributed this mermaid, but it looked a little different.  And I have seen this mermaid with just the Japan label on the back where the painting wasn't done that good.  So I imagine a lot of manufacturers were exporting the design of this one back in the 50's. Look in the Japan and Kelvin sections for other examples.

This is probably the first mermaid set people think about when they think of Lefton mermaids.  They were originally sold as a set but now you will often see them sold individually.  The tailfin colors on this set vary dramatically so it's best to get all three together so you can ensure their tailfins match.  Some are almost a black/purple, some are more black/green, and then you see some that are primarily purple.  The older sister always has red hair but the little sisters came with red or blonde hair.  There is one set, to the right, that has rhinestones in the flowers and some lighter green bubbles or something (maybe it represents seaweed?) on them.  The tailfins are more a metalic finish than pearl like the others.   

Here are the girls with pearls and their little sister leaning on a shell.  The ones with the pearls came with two tiny seahorses.  The one leaning on a shell came with two tiny starfish.  I have never seen these in their original packing so don't know if the two girls with pearls were sold as a set or individually.  They are real dolls with their poofy long hair that sticks way out from the wall and their thin tails with the little butts sticking up.  They always had yellow tailfins.

These mermaids are some of my favorites to reproduce as they are just so pretty and look good in any color.  To the right and left are pictures of some I've created.  If you are interested in having me create you a custom set in the hair/eye/tailfin color you select, just click on the picture and it will take you to the page on my website where they are listed.  

This mermaid wall plaque set is different in that there are a lot of bubbles that actually are attached to the mermaids! The tailfins are a nice pearl green color

This mermaid has a sister with pink tailfin and hair.  They can sit on a counter or hang on the wall.

These two mermaids riding seahorses came out around the same time - there are a lot of similarities if you look at the detail plus they both have the # 528 inkstamped on the back.  They look great by themselves but look dynamite together.  he mermaid on the left came in a box with two tiny fish.  The Lefton label is on the box and not on the mermaid.  They were made in Japan for Lefton.  I have not seen the mermaid on the right in a box but she came with two tiny fish also.

Here we have some of the mermaids with a pattern on their tailfins.  All have the poofy hair, and a design on the tailfin.  They all came in pairs.  The one on the seahorse has a sister with pink on the tailfin and blue on the seahorse.  The ones on the bubbles have a starfish in the hair, the ones on the seahorse have a crown, and the ones on the right have pearls in their hair.  These are beautiful mermaids, and all are very rare.  The one on the seahorse can hang on the wall, but the way the tailfin of the mermaid and seahorse are made, she can also sit on a counter. 

This is another gorgeous set by Lefton.  The red headed mermaids on white pearlescent seahorses.  What I just love about this set are the eyes - they are done differently than any of the other Lefton Mermaid eyes. Plus the lips are really unique too!  She was made by the Lefton designer Marika who was known for her Lefton lady figurine designs. This set you have the same problem with variations in tailfin colors as the 3 sister red headed set.  Sometimes they are dark green, sometimes light green, sometimes purple.  So it is best to buy them as a set.  The set above is the most pristine set I've seen of these two and they still have the tag with Marika's name.

Lefton distributed a set of 3 mermaids sitting on fish.  Each fish is in a different position.  Note that Norcrest also made a set of 3 mermaids sitting on fish but their tailfins are blue.   The Lefton mermaids on fish had a pink tail.  These mermaids can be hung on the wall, but can also sit on a counter.

Wow!  Another beautiful set!  This is the Lefton Mermaid sisters sitting on starfish.  They are very pretty and make a wonderful wall display. Note the typical Lefton Poofy hair on both the mermaids and the soft colors on the starfish with a hint of pink on the tailfins.  The have the number 6981 and Japan on the back.  They have a different Lefton label on the back - it is silver rather than red.

This is the Lefton set of mermaids on dolphins.  The dolphins have rhinestone eyes.  This set is ceramic - there is another set you see of these two that was made in Janpan out of plastic.  These can hang on the wall or sit on a counter.

This is a pretty Lefton mermaid and she is rather a thick piece.  She looks wonderful if you have a fish in front of her.   

There were a number of sets made by Lefton that were bisque with a matte finish rather than a gloss finish.   The bell is listed in reference books as made by Lefton but you see a Jasco sticker on it a lot - I suppose they bought from Lefton and put their own sticker on it.  The set to the right is the Lefton Prince and princess set - the merboy even has a crown on his head. 

To the left is a reproduction I make of the blue tailed mermaid.  I often create her with a fish or whale as she looks like she is singing to them!  I also have the mold for the pink tailed one and the prince and princess.

To the right are two little fish made by Lefton, think the largest one is 3" tall.  They go so nice with mermaids on the wall as they are just so playful! 

This is a really pretty mermaid set and the tailfiins are kind of a blue-green.  They are so elegant looking in hand and are 5.5" tall.  They came in a boxed set of two (top and right one) with the KW60153 marking on the mermaids.  Then there was a set with the 3rd one (on left) that each had the KW6960 marking.  Along with the inkmark, they either had a Made in Japan red label or Lefton red label.  Bradley made a similar set that are smaller and have green tailfins so don't get them mixed up with this set (see my Bradley section for what the Bradley ones look like).  One note here, Stuart researched the Lefton catalogues and only the two that came in the boxed set are shown in the Lefton catalogues.  However, I have seen the third one with the Lefton label as shown in the right top picture and have seen her with the KW6960 marking.  So we are still researching this mystery!  Just be aware that the one on the left you don't see nearly as often as the other two.

You don't see these mermaid that often.  She is featured on the contents page of Arleen Smith's reference book.  They can be hung on the wall but look better sitting on a counter because of the thickness... especially at the bottom.  She is not mentioned as distributed as Lefton but has that Lefton look.

There weren't too many vases made by Lefton or Norcrest.  To the left are two Norcrest vases.  To the right is a Lefton kissing mermaid vase. To the bottom is a Lefton riding seahorse vase.  These all are pretty rare and hard to find.

There are about 6 of these cute Lefton figurines that sit on something.  They aren't very big but they sure are cute.  You don't see them come up for sale much and usually just as singles rather than the set of 6.

This is another Lefton mermaid and seahorse wall plaque.  The seahorses came on a pearl chain.  The mermaid is very similar to the 3 mermaid set with the redheaded mom holding a harp so this set would go well mixed in with those. 

This Lefton set is really pretty and was made around the same time as the mermaids on starfish.  The top pictures are of the Lefton set.  The bottom pictures are thought to be made in Japan for Lefton but I have never seen a Lefton label on them so they maybe someone else distributed them.  The ones distributed by Lefton have the Lefton sticker and no number.  They have pearls in their hair and as earrings.  The others have what appears to be a starfish in the hair and they do not have any earrings.  Both are pretty and in many cases the faces of the Japanese ones are cuter than the Lefton.  Both are pretty sets but the quality is a little better on the ones with the Lefton label and the tailfin seems to be a little lighter green on the Lefton ones.

Here are a couple sets of Lefton fish.  The set to the left came with a set of heart shaped bubbles and the colors are very bright and vivid.  

The set to the right is beautiful too and it is more a soft pearl finish in blue and pink.  I believe this set came with heart shaped bubbles too.   

Yellow was a favorite color back in the 50's.  Over to the left is the original Lefton set with red hair and yellow tailfin.  They each have a starfish in their hair and are the only set I know of that appear to be standing just like they had legs.  They are a nice size at 8" tall.  This is another set that Lefton made that doesn't seem to appeal to many people... I think because of the bold yellow tailfin and hair color.  The set looks much better with different colors and I sell a lot of my reproductions of her.  Above are some of the sets I have made that really bring out the beauty of these mermaids.  If you are interested in ordering one with your choice of hair/eye/tailfin color, click on the picture that will bring up the listing on my website so you can order. 

This is the Lefton mom and baby fish set.  It came in all sorts of colors.  The set included a large mom and 3 babies, although you see the set sold a lot of times with just one or two babies... and even see them sold individually.  The mom is quite large but the small baby is only about 2" tall.  The pictures show a yellow/green set with the box.  Although the set has the original box, it is still missing one of the babies.  I just mention this because I see a lot of people buying sets and paying high dollar because they have the original box and think everything is there that should be and they are in pristine condition.  But there is no quarantee that having the original box will give you all the pieces, or the set in printine condition.   

These fish to the left came in yellow and blue.  They can hang on the wall or sit on a counter. They are a nice size fish with a wall pocket in the back.  The bottom of the fish is pretty wide so these tend to look better sitting on a counter (that's just my opionion!).  The blue fish are pretty too!

This is such a pretty mermaid set and has a polynesian/hawaiian look as their tops look like they are made of straw.  The set came in a box with straw and each arm and tailfin was carefully wrapped before boxing.  I love finding these sets in the original box with all the pieces!  This set is very beautiful hanging on the wall the colors are very dynamic and the details are beautiful.  It has more a bisque finish than gloss so lends a softer look to the set.   

A lot of the manufacturers made fish so they could either sit on a counter or hang on the wall.  This type fish up top looks good either was but gives the alternative of having fish running around on the sink!

The blue fish are pretty too!

This is a cute mermaid set with the 736 numeric marking and Lefton label.  They are really cute little mermaids!  There is another set exactly like this with the numeric marking 11576.

These are rather cute wall plaques.  They are only about 5" tall but they really look nice on the wall.  When I got my set they had some real tiny bubles with them to attache to the wall with the plaques, don't know if those bubbles originally came with the set or not as I've only seen them sold once with bubbles. 

This is a cute mermaid on a spoked shell.  She came with two little shells to use rather than bubbles.  She always had a blue tailfin although you see that tailfin repainted a lot for some reason on this one.... maybe so many people liked her but blue didn't fit in their bath decor so they painted the tailfin!

Although these were never distributed by Lefton, I felt compelled to put them here because someone listed them as "Lefton" one time and now everyone seems to be listing them as such.  They have the Japan inkmark on them and were never distributed by Lefton. 

Another Lefton fish.  Came as a pair facing each other.   

To the left is a beautiful mermaid that looks to be reaching for something.  The details are beautiful and colors are vivid.  She looks a lot like the PY mermaids, and in fact there is a mermaid exactly like her but a little larger with the PY marking rather than the Lefton label and 201 numeric marking (see my PY section).

To the bottom right are some shelf sitters Lefton made, you don't see them that often.

Please note that I have over 300 molds of vintage mermaids and fish.  I have shown examples of several I make but didn't want to bombard people with pictures of every one I make since this is a reference site....  so please go to my (www.sandyshores.net) website and look around if you are interested in buying vintage or reproduction memmaids/fish.