I recently listed a bride and groom table topper on Amazon and thought a post on collecting wedding cake toppers might be in order.
Cake toppers first appeared during the Victorian era. Both French and American bakers would hand mold little figures for bride’s cakes, or small little dolls would stand atop a tier. Early cake toppers were made of bisque, composition, chalkware or gum paste and were set upon a base made of pierced or molded gum paste. Starting from around the turn of the century in the Edwardian era, all cake topper figure grooms wore or were holding a top hat and were dressed in a black tux with tails. Brides wore fashions of the decade. Bisque toppers were popular during the 1920s. The bisque medium allowed features to be realistically molded and great care was given to painting. The finest toppers were made in Germany and the lesser quality ones were made in Japan. Look for markings impressed onto the backs, and sometimes the feet or base. German bisque is very smooth whereas Japanese bisque has a slightly gritty feel. Popular themes for bisque toppers included Kewpies and the Campbell Kids.
In the 1930s, Chalkware toppers were extremely popular and were inexpensive in the Depression years. Chalkware was still being used well into the 1940s with all the war time restrictions and halting of importation from Japan & Germany, the two major countries that supplied a good deal of bisque toppers. Chalkware toppers will sometimes have a date stamped into the base or on the back. The 1930s also saw toppers on molded plaster of Paris on net lace bases, imitating the earlier look of gum paste. This medium was still being used well into the 1960s .
During the Second World War, some cake toppers featured grooms wearing military uniforms. There are collectors who specialize in collecting only these types and sometimes prices for military toppers are premium. The late 1940s and the early 1950s saw the arrival of hard plastic toppers. Wilton led the way for these and became the world’s largest company specializing in cake decorations. This is one of the most common names you will come across in you search for cake toppers. Hard plastic ones typically have the company name and sometimes a date on the base. Many hard plastic toppers will have satin or lace attached to the skirt of the bride or frilly lace or tulle bows or arches. Hard plastic cake toppers were made well into the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s. The 1980s saw the arrival of the resin cake toppers. Porcelain & bisque toppers made by Norcrest and Napco can be found from the 1940s-1960s. Some post war bisque toppers may be marked Occupied Japan. Toppers by Lefton date from the 1940s onward. Blanc de Chine cake toppers were also being produced from the 1940s onward.