The American Wildlife Plates
by Norman Adams
The LENOX American Wildlife set of twelve plates was released in 1982. The plates are 10 1/4" in diameter and were an issue of 9500 sets of twelve.
Lenox produced these plates after it finished the BOEHM WOODLAND WILDLIFE PLATE SERIES SET OF 10 which it produced from 1973 and concluded in 1982.
The Boehm series was “limited” but it is difficult to find what these limits were. With Norman Adams’ plates Lenox did two things they had not done before, and no manufacture has done since, on this level, to guarantee the buyer that plates will be a solid investment.
Lenox’s words in 1982 tell the story:
“Individually hand-signed by the artist.
“Because Lenox believes that a fine collector’s plate is a significant work of art -- like a limited edition sculpture or etching or painting -- a further step has been taken that is virtually unprecedented in our time: the artist will HANDSIGN the 24 karat backstamp of EACH plate in the collection. In the final firing, this backstamp will be permanently fused to each plate at high temperature.
“Like hand-signed works of art in other mediums, the artist’s signature attests to his satisfaction with the work. And since these works of art will appear ONLY on these plates, the collection will forever enjoy the special stature and distinction belonging to hand-signed limited editions.
“Edition limit: 9500
“ An ABSOLUTE limit of 9500 subscriptions, world-wide, has been established for this premiere series of collector’s plates from Lenox Collections. And, to discourage speculation, a further limit of one subscription per collector will be enforced WITHOUT EXCEPTION. Thus each collector who acquires The American Wildlife Plates will be assured of the RARITY of his or her collection. In the world of collectibles, 9500 is an EXTREMELY small number for a series of plates of such beauty and importance... .”
The “one subscription per collector will be enforced WITHOUT EXCEPTION” got the attention of collectors back in 1982, but it upset catalog retailers and wholesalers. Because retailers were excluded from getting these plates in significant numbers -- at any price (let alone their customary discount prices) -- they ignored/boycotted these plates from the start. Even today few dealers/merchants let alone collectors even know that these unique on top of unique plates even exist.
The separate “handsign” for each plate was a first in the industry. And it was so costly for Lenox and troublesome for the artist that it is unlikely it will be repeated. Which makes these plates not only unique on top of being unique and also rare with the “WITHOUT EXCEPTION number of 9500” but also a work of twelve pieces of beautiful art by an artist with unmatched technical skills and artistic versatility.
The plates are:
Red Foxes (with pheasant); Ocelots (with snake)
Sea Lions (with seagulls); Raccoons
Dall Sheep (with marmot); Black Bears
Mountain Lions; Polar Bears
Otters (with fish); White-Tailed Deer
Buffalo (with prairie dogs); Jack Rabbits (with quail)