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Commemorative celebrates 40th anniversary of collectors society

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Red Wing Collectors Society members were lined up by 8 am to receive their commemoratives. They had the opportunity to choose from a pile of hundreds to hope they could get the coveted version C. Zach Dwyer / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
The 40th anniversary celebration was clear in the three possible designs members could receive. Style A (left) made up 90 percent of the production total, style B (middle) made up 9 percent of the total and style C (right) was exclusively limited to 40 pieces. Zach Dwyer / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Bob Morawski, commemorative manager, displays the 40th anniversary commemorative accessories that were turned into pins. Zach Dwyer / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

The annual Red Wing Collectors Society commemorative went back to the future this year for the 40th anniversary of the society's foundation.

The unveiling was at Minnesota State College Southeast on Thursday, July 6. Doors opened at 8 a.m. and saw a steady stream of society members coming to purchase their exclusive commemoratives.

Miniature 40-gallon crocks were produced in honor of the anniversary, with three different designs being available from a blind draw by members. Version A made up 90 percent of the total and has a three-design layout. They all featured a large 40 stamp, with either wings, birch leaves, or elephant ears designs along with ovals. The variety gives members a chance to choose their favorite side to display.

Version B made up 9 percent of the production total, and included advertising from two companies: San Francisco's John Mulhern Co. and Prell Mercantile Company of Bremen, Kansas.

But the coveted piece was the rare Version C, limited to only 40 pieces in honor of the anniversary. The transition crock was hand-decorated with two cobalt leaves.

The commemorative unveiling is the first big event of the the Red Wing Collectors Society convention. Russ Johnson, a society member from Delano, Minn., has been coming to the commemorative unveiling for close to 30 years, and was attending with his wife and daughters.

"It's about supporting the club and having fun with people. You see people once a year and become friends with them," Johnson said.

Johnson was one of many to receive multiple A versions of crocks. He said he has been lucky enough to get the least common versions in the past, but was satisfied with the crock this year.

"It's a nice design, but was very predictable with it being the 40th anniversary," Johnson said.

Johnson was especially impressed with version C, which was hand-painted compared to the stamped designs of versions A and B. It also had a salt-glaze to it, compared to the white finish of versions A and B.

Members Darrell and Cheryl Anderson each received version B's, a pretty rare pickup. Cheryl had mixed feelings about the crock, thinking the B design was too plain compared to the A and C.

Members received their versions pressed in Cambridge, Wis., at random by picking sealed boxes at the convention or by receiving their commemoratives through the mail. They could also pick up or purchase their 2017 accessory piece, a Koverwate produced by Rowe Pottery with the 40 symbol stamped on.

Original 40-gallon crocks were used in the soda and chemical industries, but were also used for making wine, pickles and sauerkraut. Red Wing only made 40-gallon crocks during the zinc glaze era, except for a single salt glaze example that exists.

The Red Wing Collectors Society convention may have been kicked off by the commemorative, but continues with displays, sales and banquets through July 8.