Monday, June 10, 2013

Couroc Trays (Gotta Catch 'Em All...)

Good morning!

Today, for your viewing pleasure, I've assembled three Couroc serving trays from my collection. Friday morning, I only had the owl and the fish, but I was overly pleased with myself that afternoon at Goodwill to lay hands on the third, cardinal-embedded tray on the far left. Takin' it to the next level!

I've been having the lousiest luck even at my favorite thrift stores lately, so when I saw a small, dirty black tray peeking out from under a pair of those oversized "BIG GULP" mugs you see at gas stations, I actually groused to myself inside my head, "Yeah, would be nice if that was Couroc, but what are the chances of...((picks up tray)) omfg, it is a Couroc...!!" The square tray has very little surface damage, in spite of the honest to God dirt, and the winsome little cardinal sitting on a branch became much sharper after a quick soap and water run when I got it home. To top it off? The ninety-nine cent green tag on Friday meant the tray only set me back forty-nine cents. Glorious! I take back all those nasty things I said in my head BEFORE finding this tray.

Couroc trays were manufactured by the Couroc company of Monterey, California from 1948 into the early nineties'. The company was created by a husband and wife team, the improbably named Guthrie Courvoisier and Marie Wallace. Courvoisier and Wallace's staff of artisan designers created the iconic, sunk-in-phenolinic trays by inlaying, as you see on the sticker from the back of the owl tray above, "shells, coins, woods, and metals". According to this ebay history of the company, the trays were very expensive gift items when new. 

The three that I have were all snatched up from different Goodwills-- the oldest being the large owl tray in the background. I found it in late high school at the old Goodwill outlet near the Bicentennial mall (miss ya 'til I join ya, old Goodwill outlet-- the new one has never been the same!). I saw the tray in the glass case up front near the checkout, but unlike retail Goodwills, this is not necessarily a warning sign for price gouging on the used goods, but rather, a protective measure against the regular stuff-slingin' that goes on in the bins there. That outlet did everything, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g by a single by-the-pound pricing, so I doubt the tray cost more than $2. The green guy is from the Hermitage Goodwill-- I very rarely find stuff at that location, but this was back in housewares for ninety-nine cents, and made my whole trip that day worthwhile. So now I have a triad of trays to break out with canapes and the like, next time guests come knockin!

The problem with the success story of having scored these three little guys for so little, and out in the wilds of a thrift environment, is the sticker shock one experiences when trying to find similar items online. I go home, happily clacking out the search parameters "Vintage Couroc" on Etsy and Ebay, and bo-o-o-oy does a reality check come into play. Now, I would love to have ANY of the trays you see below, but with price tags ranging from $12 (plus shippping and handling, making it closer to $22) to $399 (I DON'T EVEN CARE, THAT CAPITOL RECORDS TRAY WOULD BE WORTH EVERY PENNY), the prohibitive cost will keep my pocketbook in check but my eyes peeled for the next Couroc. Maybe Goodwill will be good to me again! Just gotta keep lookin'.

The whimsical nature of the patterns! The science-ish thrill of the pieces being inlaid, in 2D fashion, in a smooth sea of jet-black plastic!

Some of the things I hope I spot in my own hometown, keep your fingers crossed for my next yard sale haul:

Vintage Large Mid-Century Couroc THE OWL & THE PUSSYCAT Inlaid Tray
Couroc Hand Inlaid Unicorn Serving Tray 18"x12"
Vintage "Three Partridges" Tray by Couroc of Montery Bay

Couroc Hopi Kachina Hummingbird Inlay Large Tray
vintage 1950s TRAY Presidential Coins Couroc of California

Vintage Couroc Southern California Serving Tray
SALE Vintage "Couroc" Small Roadrunner Trays
COUROC Capital Records Albums Promotional 60s Mad Men Era Drink Serving Tray

Do you have any of these adorable trays in your collection? Which one of the ones above would you most like to have? Do you have a certain thing that you started collecting in physical stores, and now have to hunt down online out of vintage product sparsity? Let's talk!

That's all for today-- I'll be back here tomorrow with more vintage tips and quips. Have a fabulous Monday and I'll see you then!


  1. pretty! i JUST added an owl couroc bowl to my booth yesterday. i didn't realize how popular they were!

    1. The owl is my favorite! And talk about a marketing match made in heaven, given the name of your blog and booth, haha! :)

  2. COUROC! I was really into these a few years ago. I think one of my very first blog posts was about Couroc. Ah, memories. :) I love bold colors against black backgrounds, so naturally I was drawn to Couroc. I have just one of their trays; it depicts a cable car. I think I picked it up at Gaslamp in 2007/2008ish. Except for one Flickr photo I haven't seen it anywhere else, so I like to think that it's special.

    1. They really are neat. It had only occurred to me to look them up online after finding this last tray, and now a world of other pattern possibilities has opened up for me. I think I'm coveting the roadrunner set the most out of what I've seen out there. Maybe it'll show up at a Goodwill near me in the future, you never know!

  3. These are so cute! I'm not super familiar with Couroc, but I probably have seen it numerous times and just had no idea what it was.

    1. They're really neat! And again, more common than I would have thought. If you see a roadrunner pattern tray out there when you and your boyfriend are thrifting or flea marketing, holler atcha girl! :)

  4. I own a round ocean reef seascape Couroc tray. I actually bought it at antiques mall (for a reasonable price; $5 I think) because it matches the tray which used to belong to my great grandmother. Great collectible pieces!

    1. Oh, cool! I think I saw that pattern when I was looking these up for this post, it's gorgeous. I love that you were able to find one (and cheap, too!) to match your great grandmother's. Good taste must run in your family! :)



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