Norcrest

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Hide Naito, the founder, was a Japanese immigrant who came to this country in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1921, he started H. Naito Gifts, a small shop in downtown Portland that sold merchandise imported from Japan. Hide gradually expanded the business to additional locations and began selling at wholesale as well as retail. In 1938, he opened his own warehouse in Portland. During World War II, Hide and his family moved to Salt Lake City, thus avoiding internment, but the business essentially collapsed. Hide and his son Sam reestablished the business in the years following the war. The wholesale business sold Asian giftware to thousands of gift shops and larger retailers around the country. Since Norcrest imported a lot from Japan, you often see mermaids with Japan stamped on the back and no label.  That is because they made for Norcrest in Japan, shipped over to the US, and then Norcrest put them in a box with the Norcrest label on the box... so without the box, it is hard to determine if some of these mermaids were made in Japan for Norcrest. The business was incorporated in 1958 as the Norcrest China Company. In 1963 the company opened Import Plaza, and in 1975 the company opened Made in Oregon. Hide died in 1996 and in 2004 the Norcrest China wholesale division closed.  Since Hide Naito had been importing from Japan for a long time, it is no wonder people tend to associate some items made in Japan with Norcrest China Company.  There is good reading on the internet about Hide, he was quite a guy and although we think of Norcrest as pretty collectibles, Hide majored in Economics and built his family quite an empire in real estate.  He also was involved in many civic organizations. 

This is the Norcrest Mom and Babies set.  Notice the tailfin goes to the left rather than to the right and notice there are only two babies and they are kind of chubby.  Norcrest was the ONLY manufacturer that made this mermaid in ceramic.  There was no variation in the color on the original set, they were ivory with tiny yellow transparent beads.  I have had both sets, the one without the beads and the one with the beads.  My guess is that they only made them with the beads and the those without beads were the result of their owner removing them..  There was one manufacturer (unknown but probably Japan) that made this mermaid mom in chalkware with her tailfin going to the right - the paint was sprayed on and sometimes the eyes/lips are off the mark - the tailfin was very flat - they look like carnival giveaways.  Other than those two manufacturers, the others you see with the tailfin going to the right have been made by individuals throughout the years and are still being made today.  

This is the beautiful Bubble Baby set by Norcrest.  The tailfin colors are Magenta, Purple and Green.  This is the ONLY Bubble Baby set made in ceramic by a manufacturer.  Their skintone is real light, almost a white, and there is so much fine detail on their face.  The bubbles are pearlescent. The Norcrest inkmark is on the back.  There was one manufacturer (unknown but probably Japan) that made this set in chalkware - they were sold in a set with with the mom mermaid with a long ponytail - the paint was sprayed on, and their tailfins were thick and did not stick out from the wall - they looked like carnival giveaways.

All the other ceramic ones you see out there were made by individuals either in ceramics class back in the 60's or today with molds they have purchased (both vintage and new molds). 

To the right is one of the reproduction sets I make with these babies.  The mom was made from a Freeman-McFarlin mold and the babies were made from the Norcrest Bubble Baby molds.  If you want to order one made for you, just click on the picture.

Two Norcrest sets done in white with gold highlighting.  I purchased both of them in their original boxes.  They come with string holding them on the box and also are attached to the cardboard with glue.  The mermaid set is marked P-1 and the seahorse set is marked P-999 on the box. 

This is a gorgeous mermaid sister set by Norcrest.  Each have a different color hair and they are holding white fish.  The fish have gold highlighting and I have seen the tailfins with no gold glitter, a little gold glitter, and a lot of gold glitter. The absence of glitter or less glitter is not a result of wear.  They were made that way. Although the tailfins on these are very thin, I have seen very few of these sets with broken tailfins, and even fewer with any paint wear.  I can only guess these were a prized set by the people that owned them and they took really good care of them! 

If you are aiming for a set of these pretty girls, my suggestion is to buy the entire set together.  The shades of blue vary greatly from batch to batch, and the amount of giltter varies too.  Some sellers will split up sets and sell individuallly, if you see that, ask the seller if the tailfins match and then you could get a matching set individually.  Here are some tips if you have to buy these individually.  Don't try to judge the color by the picture on the display.  Some sellers use enhancements for their pictures, and displays do not always show the same color on different displays. If you already have one and want the matching sisters, ask the seller to take a picture of the mermaid next to a coke can - if the coke can is darker in the picture than the coke can you are holding in your hand, the tailfin on the mermaid is going to be darker.  Maybe not the best way to do it but it has worked for me.  

As you see, I mix my mermaids in with everything in my house!  The female of this set went great sitting on top of the frame because her tailfin sticks way out from the wall.  There were 7 pieces to this set: 1 female, 3 big brothers and 3 little brothers.  I have 2 of the the little brothers shown with the female places around a picture frame.  The little brothers are 3.75" tall.  The big brothers are to the right and they are 5..5" tall.

The big brothers are the same style as the little brothers.  They all seem to be tugging their hair or having their hands in their hair.  The female is different than all the brothers because her tailfin sticks way off the wall.  She is also a little larger than the big brothers.  This set often has lost the Norcrest sticker but you can see it in the picture of the big brother to the right.

  

Norcrest made a number of blue and pink tailed mermaids and merboys that were attached to some sort of nautical piece... a shell, starfish, seaweed, riding a fish, etc.  These are all highlighly collectible pieces and most have the Norcrest inkstamp with a P- followed by a number for each piece.  

Most of them demand a high price.  The mermaid on a fish came with 3 pieces, all riding the fish and the fish was in a different position. 

Some people just collect these Norcrest ones as they all go together and make a wonderful wall display.

I do make most of these as reproductions so if you are interested in having me make you one go to my mermaid reproduction page.

This redhead is a really different mermaid made by Norcrest.  Not many mermaids were made with hair.  Norcrest made this mermaid as a lipstick holder and this mermaid was also made as a set of figurines.  All had the same red hair and tailfin with gold. 

 

On the right is a mermaid in a shell wall plaque.

 

Norcrest Mermaids on Swan.  They originally had the Norcrest sticker and number but the number was coldstamped on and sometimes has worn off.  They are a really cute mermaid/merboy set. 

The mermaid on the right is made by Norcrest.  It is a wall pocket.  Deforest also made a wall plaque (not pocket) similar to this one.

Here is another set I got in the original box.  The Norcrest Whale Set numbered P-954.  There is a pearl finish on the set. 

To the right is my reproducton of this set that I made in blue with pink cheeks.  If you are interested in ordering a custom made whale set, just click on the picture.

 There are no markings on the back of the original pieces, the number is marked on the box. 

These "Doll Like" mermaid sets are often advertised as Norcrest although I have not seen them with a Norcrest label.  They have the Japan inkmark on the back. 

The originals are on the left in two styles; to the right are my reproductions I made for a customer. 

They two sets to the left are similar in style but the faces are quite different and the one on the bottom is a bit smaller. 

They are wall plaques but the one laying down can also be used as a figurine. 

They always are holding a starfish and I have seen the starfish in gold, pink and red.  

 

A mold of this mermaid wallplaque/soap dish was made by SL Clutter for individuals to make.  So you will see this mermaid painted in all different colors and style.  The one pictured in the one made by Norcrest.  No other manufacturer made this mermaid to my knowledge.

This is a very different set made by Norcrest.  The style of these mermaids is really different and they both are porcelain bisque with a real matte finish. 

This is such a fun set made by Norcrest that you hang on the wall, or sit on a counter.  A mold company made a mold of the large fish with mermaid so you will see this mermaid made by individuals occasionally too.

This is a pretty set of mermaids that are about 5.5" tall or wide.  These evidently were made in Japan and then distributed by both Napco and Norcrest.  The Napco ones have the number 5834A on the back and the Norcrest ones have the number P300 on the back

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There weren't too many mermaid vases made by Lefton or Norcrest.  To the left are two seahorse vases with mermaids made by Norcrest.  To the right is a kissing mermaid vase made by Lefton.

Arnel made a mold of 3 mermaids similar to these so you will see them made by individuals.  The Norcrest set has much nicer features and only comes in the colors above.  You notice the green color is similar to the set to the left.  That is one reason collectors think the set to the left was also made by Norcrest.

This is a different type mermaid for Norcrest - a pixie mermaid!  On the bottom, she is marked in ink "Pixie Kitchen Oceanlake Oregon" and has the blue and silver Norcrest Japan sticker. This cutie measures approx. 4 1/2 inches tall and 4 1/2 inches wide at the base.

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....  so please go to my website (www.sandyshores.net) and look around.  I have a Vintage Mermaid section and I have a Reproduction Mermaid section.