Locations: South Gate, Compton
Dates of Operation: 1945 - 1999
Seller Values: Check average price on Ebay
Like many pottery companies, Treasure Craft has a bit of a complicated history - unlike many, however, it survived the waves of overseas pottery import companies that completely destroyed most of the California potteries. It actually outlasted almost every other large pottery manufacturer in California, including Metlox.
The pottery started up in 1945 in South Gate (the city is just west across the 710 from Downey) in the garage of Alfred Levin. After some success (partially with a line of “pixie” creations that were popular at the time), he moved to a factory in Compton. A popular treatment that became associated with the company was the “wood stain” look - the first time I saw a piece with the wood stain glaze I thought it was actually wood.
They made a whole host of items, from ashtrays to figurines to cookie jars. The latter is very popular with collectors. One thing that you’ll notice is that a lot of pieces (especially the later ones) are rather tacky or “touristy” looking. There’s a good reason for that is that a lot of their contracts and business was with the souvenir industry (at one point they had factories in Hawaii and Mexico). I’ve seen quite a few items but have only picked up a few because I’m just not in love with the cheesy look of many of the pieces.
The Pfaltzgraff company bought them out in 1988 and took all production overseas. They were bought again in 1999 - I think the current owner of the trademark is a company called Zak! Designs in Washington.
Like I said, I have seen many of these items but haven’t picked up too many. Many pieces are indeed stamped inmold with “Treasure Craft Made In U.S.A.” which makes their identification easy. I know they did use foil paper stamps as well - I’ve seen some with both the stamps, which often say “Compton” on them, as well as the in-mold markings. I’m not sure how the older models are marked - I believe they may say “South Gate”. Be aware that some newer models may also be marked “Treasure Craft, Mexico” or “Hawaii”, both with paper or with in-mold markings.
One note with that “wood stain” finish on certain items - there are some parts where it is VERY fragile. You’ll note in my ashtray photo above an area that looks rubbed off. That’s where I took some magic eraser and scrubbed at a mark - it immediately took off all the paint. So be very careful washing those items.
Treasure Craft items are still very inexpensive. Certain pieces seem to have increased in popularity due to the times - an example is any of the “tiki”-type items from Hawaii.
Chipman’s Encyclopedia also lists “Pottery Craft” which was a division of Treasure Craft that was originally supposed to use Robert Maxwell’s designs. Contrary to popular belief (I thought this for a long time), Robert Maxwell did not design any of the items in the Pottery Craft line, even though his master molds were kept at Treasure Craft. The items were designed to look like Maxwell’s work, however. There is a rather sad story about the failed merger, and you can read more information is on the Robert Maxwell site by Jack Chipman.
Personally, I sort of like some of the Pottery Craft items (especially the vases), even though they’re not Maxwell productions. One of the reasons why is that they are relatively easy to find still - this can make it more attractive to someone who’s just starting out collecting California pottery.Note: We've tried to provide as much info as possible on this pottery maker or artist. For further info, you may want to research the items they have on Ebay listed under this name. We've tried to hand tailor the searches below so they will bring up the most accurate results. If there are no results, it will list general California pottery.