Baby boomers and members of younger generations are nostalgically collecting Tupperware. They remember their mothers and grandmothers who used the items in their kitchens or sold the products as "Tupperware Ladies." You can identify authentic and vintage Tupperware found in thrift shops and at estate sales.
Tupperware was conceived in 1946 by the company's founder Earl Tupper. Tupper's plastic containers for household use were strong while being light in weight, but they didn't sell as well in stores without demonstrations to illustrate all their useful attributes to the homemaker.
That all changed when a clever woman named Brownie Wise received a set of Tupperware bowls purchased at a hardware store as a gift. Wise's enthusiasm for the brand led her to become Tupper's vice president, as she excelled at developing the home party concept for selling these innovative plastic products.
"Brownie understood early on that women in an increasingly crazy world needed more options for making a good living. Under her leadership in the 1950s, Tupperware became well-known for offering American women expanded opportunities to earn an income, drive their careers, and build their confidence," shares Tupperware.
The concept of direct marketing championed by Wise introduced Tupperware to households across America, and eventually their lines went global. The glass kitchenware that was popular with homemakers from the 1920s through the '40s was soon replaced with these airtight plastic wares. For decades, this brand was a household name. The company is still in business with headquarters located in Orlando, Florida.
Identifying Authentic and Vintage Tupperware
Most Tupperware fans recognize the products instantly, either by the shapes, which changed over the decades, or the colors, which also evolved. For instance, early bowl sets were round and made in pastel colors (the Wonderlier line). As decorating color palettes changed, so did Tupperware. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the company switched to earth tones and some bowls became square rather than completely round (the Servalier line). These differences also help in dating Tupperware pieces.
But if you're just learning about these varied products, which included food storage systems, serving pieces, mixing bowls, and even hard plastic ovenware, look at the bottom of a piece you suspect to be Tupperware. They are all marked with the brand name, so you'll never confuse similar plastic storage containers with genuine Tupperware.
Also, be aware that all Tupperware is marked with a mold number. "Every Tupperware product has a two-part number stamped into it. The first part (before the dash) is the mold number. Heads up: it can be super teeny-tiny," according to Tupperware. These numbers must be submitted in an online form or to a current Tupperware representative to take advantage of the company's limited lifetime warranty.
How Much Is Old Tupperware Worth?
The first Tupperware pieces sold in department and hardware stores sold for $2 to $5 apiece. That was not exactly cheap considering that a loaf of sliced white bread sold for 10 cents in 1946. Of course, one of the selling points was a lifetime warranty and the fact that you probably wouldn't have to replace the pieces as often as glass. Once the home parties were going full speed, ladies supporting their party hostesses purchased a wide variety of products, ranging from drinking tumblers to bowl sets, which allowed you to "burp" them to remove extra air and keep food its freshest, and they didn't mind paying a little extra for them.
Today there are only a few Tupperware items that bring big bucks as collectibles on their own, like the company's sculptural salt and pepper shakers dating to the 1960s. Those can sell in the hundreds or more when they are in like-new condition. Complete bowl sets in great condition can bring $50 to $75. Most single pieces sell in the $5 to $20 range though, with a few exceptions.
Where Can You Buy Older Tupperware?
Estate sales are great resources for mining used Tupperware for a collection, especially if the owner of the home was a Tupperware representative. These sales reps regularly added to their demo sets and received the product as awards or through special purchases. They often have items squirreled away in cabinets that are in pristine condition.
Thrift stores can also be an excellent place to look for Tupperware. Even though there is a growing collectible following, some folks see Tupperware as old-fashioned and no longer want it. Or, they're now opting for food storage in glass rather than plastic, so they sell or donate their old pieces to charitable organizations.