Whatever Happened To Red Rose Tea's Figurines?

Like the grown-up version of finding a decoder ring in a box of cereal, tea lovers, specifically those partial to Red Rose Tea, take joy in opening a new box of tea bags to reveal a hidden treasure. But instead of a plastic toy, the bounty they're searching for is a whimsical ceramic figurine. For more than half a century, fans of Red Rose Tea have been savoring that moment of discovery. And along the way, some of them have accumulated an extensive inventory of the miniature collectibles. And yes, they're still adding to their collections because, contrary to rumors of their demise, the tea company is still actively rolling out new figurines — and proactively disputing reports to the contrary. In fact, the most recent series of collectibles, World Monuments, debuted in 2020.

So, what's with all the sky-is-falling chatter about the untimely demise of Red Rose Tea's decades-long promotion? It's probably related to a policy update the tea company instituted in 2018. Citing a change in consumer interest, Red Rose shifted its figurine collectibles trade from including the porcelain miniatures in boxes of tea sold through third-party retailers to an online-centric distribution system, explaining through its website, "We're continuing to offer the figurines for free, but in a way that significantly reduces the amount of figurines gone to waste on those consumers who simply do not value them as much as some of our consumers who do."

A sentimental journey

And value them, they do. Social media platforms dedicated to Red Rose Tea miniature figurines draw enthusiastic fans from all walks of life. Sites like eBay and Etsy serve as exchange forums for collectors looking to trade, sell, or buy pieces to complete their series. Speaking of value, the majority of collectors are in it for fun — and probably a bit of nostalgia. That's a good thing because even pieces dating to the dawn of the tea company's creative marketing partnership with British housewares manufacturer Wade Ceramics haven't appreciated that much. In early 2024, an Etsy seller listed a 1967 lemur figurine for sale at $14.98.

Collectibles Insurance Services, a company that specializes in insuring high-value collectibles, categorizes the tea company's miniature figurines as entry-level collectors' items, pieces that likely have more sentimental than monetary value. Still, it's a fun hobby — especially for collectors old enough to remember playing with the whimsical figures as kids and for those who may still have a worn box of the beloved miniatures collecting dust in the back of a closet. Will it fund your retirement? Not by a longshot. Still, a rare piece in good condition (say, for example, the gingerbread man from the 1970s release of the Nursery Rhymes series) can fetch up to a couple of hundred dollars. Intrigued? It's not too late to start. In a 2021 blog posted on the company website, Red Rose Tea assured fans, "It's safe to say that Red Rose Tea figurines will not go away."