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3,000 bulldogs let loose during RWCS convention

Kim Key, Red Wing, looks at her commemorative Thursday morning. Key has been a RWCS member for 23 years and each year buys a commemorative for her husband and two children, she said. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)1 / 3
The 2013 Red Wing Collectors Society Convention commemorative is a replica of an 1880s Red Wing Stoneware bulldog. The majority of the more than 3,000 commemoratives is the dark brown color. Nine percent are white with black features. Only 37 peices -- representing the 37th RWCS convention -- are the two-toned brown color, right. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)2 / 3
The five-piece molds used to create the 2013 commemorative were made by casting an 1880s Red Wing Stoneware bulldog. The molds were auctioned off at the convention. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)3 / 3

Bob Morawski chose the bulldog in January. For the last six months, the Red Wing Collectors Society commemorative manager had been forced to keep the identity of the 2013 commemorative under wraps.

"They are sworn to secrecy," RWCS Executive Director Stacy Wegner said.

But all was revealed Thursday morning when the commemoratives were officially unveiled and handed out to RWCS members during the society's annual convention, which wrapped up Saturday.

"The pig was real successful and real popular," Morawski said of the 2010 stoneware pig commemorative. "I knew I wanted another animal."

The bulldog commemoratives are almost exact replicas of pieces that Red Wing Stoneware made from the 1880s to the mid-1890s.

"They are thought to have been toys," Morawski said.

However, the modern bulldogs are about 15 percent smaller than their historical counterparts. That's because the commemoratives' five-piece mold was created using a 19th century bulldog; clay shrinks about 15 percent during the firing process, Morawski said.

Since 2009, the society has been making three versions of the commemorative. This year was no different. The majority - 90 percent - of the bulldogs were done in a solid dark brown Albany slip color. Only 9 percent of the dogs are white with black features. The fewest - just 37 pieces to represent the convention's 37th year - were done in a lighter two-toned brown color.

Collectors didn't know what the commemorative was or what version they received until they opened their box at the convention.

"It's always a secret and a big surprise," RWCS member Kim Key of Red Wing said. "It's just really fun to see what it is."

"I was trying to guess," RWCS member Brenda Alms of Goodhue said. "I had no idea."

To make this year's commemorative more special - and to help generate more revenue for the society - an accessory piece was sold for the first time, Morawski said. To complement the bulldog, the accessory is a small dog dish with the word "dog" printed across the front.

"It's the bowl for the dog, of course it's cute," Alms said of the accessory.

Keys added that the accessory adds "a little whimsy" to the piece.

While RWCS members can order their commemorative and have it shipped to them if they are unable to attend the convention, the accessory piece is only available to members at the convention.

Illinois-based Maple City Pottery produced just more than 3,000 of the bulldogs for the convention, Morawski said.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.