Here’s something a little different, and not an actual toy, but worth taking a look at anyway. This is a ceramic sturgeon by Wade Ceramics, a pottery manufacturer operating out of Stoke-on-Trent, England. Wade Ceramics got its start in the 1950’s and produced ceramic figurines up until 2018. In 1967 Wade Ceramics entered a partnership with the American Rose Red Tea company who started including Wade figures in their boxes of tea. A quick Google search will yield a lot of in-depth history on Wade Ceramics, and the collecting of their figures has become a hobby of its own.
I don’t personally collect these figurines but as a kid someone in my family must have purchased a box of Rose Red Tea and as a result, I had a ceramic pony sitting on my shelf for much of my youth. At some point I lost that pony and then recently found another one for a couple bucks at a local antique shop. The nostalgia kicked in, so I bought it. But I’m not writing about the pony, because it’s a far less interesting (though still lovely) figure than what I actually want to write about, this sturgeon I recently picked up. All sturgeon figures should be treated as special.
Over the years, Rose Red tea released their ceramic figures in sets, and most of those sets were focused on animals. This sturgeon is part of the larger Endangered North American Animals Series IV released between 1999-2002. Other figures in that set include such highlights as a spotted owl, Florida panther, peregrine falcon, and manatee.
What species the sturgeon is specifically is unclear. It must be a North American species but North America has 9 species, out of 28 known worldwide. Most of those nine species are threatened in some way so narrowing it down past that is impossible. The figure was only ever meant to represent a sturgeon, not a specific species.
The sturgeon is presented riding the waves, so to speak, resting atop a series of swirls sculpted onto its base. The sturgeon itself, although simplified, is a decent interpretation of a sturgeon. It has a flattened, upturned snout with two long barbels on each side. The bony scutes that would be present along the back and sides of an actual sturgeon are indicated here by a ridge running along the back, and vertical grooves running down the sides. The figure also possesses an operculum, broad, rounded pectoral fins, pelvic and dorsal fins placed far back on the body, and a shark-like heterocercal tail. The entire figure only measures 2” (5.08 cm) and is light blue in color. The words “Wade” and “England” are stamped into the figure’s side.
Normally this sort of collectable isn’t my thing, but the history of Wade Ceramics and its partnership with Rose Red tea is an interesting one, the figures represent a diverse range of species (including a pine marten!), are enchanting, and I like that they were actually made in England. For the most part these figures are also cheap and easy to find, I paid $3 for this sturgeon. Although I only have two of these figures, don’t be surprised if you see a few more show up on the blog from time-to-time. For a-fish- ionados like myself this sturgeon is highly recommended. It can be found online, even on the Rose Red Tea website.