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First Please Look At:



Advertised as Two Chromium-Plated Shakers.  ca.1930s   

Lot 4 of sale # 5341   Sold for:  $1,400.00  us dollars

Now see our two shakers below.

   Restoration Hardware sold the penguin shaker for 55 dollars and the polar bear shaker for  65 dollars.

Note These are like the same two shakers that sold in the Christies London sale.  Both are from Restoration Harward stores.  

Note that the London sale featured a number of Vintage Cocktail Shakers, Lot # 2 was a English Master Incolor cocktail shaker that sold for $1,800.00 and following Lot 4,  was Lot 5  a German Traveling Bar, Vintage Aeroplane by J.A. Heickels selling for $8,000.00 . Next Lot 6 was  A Vintage American Golf Bag Cocktail Serving set in silver plate selling for $8,400.00.  Nice to be in such good company

                                    THE   STORY AS FAR AS WE KNOW IT

                                        POLAR BEAR COCKTAIL SHAKER

First, a brief history of the market:

A cocktail shaker museum exhibition, Shaken, Not Stirred; Cocktail Shakers and Design, traveled the Country through out the 1990’s.  Venues included; the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, the Louisiana State Museum at Jackson Square, New Orleans,  the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Museum Of Our National Heritage in Lexington Massachusetts among others.


The last show was held March 21, 1998 –February 20, 1999 at the San Francisco International Airport Museums.  The exhibition of over one hundred vintage cocktail shakers was viewed by an estimated twelve thousand people every twenty four hours for eleven months.   One of the viewers was Stephen Gordon, Restoration Hardware’s founder and CEO, according to an interview with Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine in 2000.  “An old martini shaker caught his eye.  It was functional, yet stylish…had a sense of history, a story to tell, ….Besides, it was cool”   With  Restoration Hardware headquarters in  Corte Madera 21 miles away; “He called Restorations’ in-house design team to get down to the airport pronto.”   


 The cover of their first Holiday sales catalog in 1998 featured a nickel plated retro-Penguin shaped cocktail shaker against a back ground of their signature Silver Sage color.    What the cover did not feature was a visual reference to the season, an 800 phone number, and price or page number to find the martini shaker! 

 The cover caused an immediate sensation.  From the MultiChannel Merchant by Peter Girard;   “The cover …blows away our judging panel….The cover is dramatic, exciting, and different from every other book in the mail”   


Restoration Hardware’s stated mission at that time was; “is to delight our customers.” And its sky rocketing sales from this point suggest that customers were indeed delighted.  A whole line of bar ware soon followed as did the custom of a new cocktail shaker design for every end of the year Holiday Season. After the Penguin; a Rooster, Zeppelin, Lighthouse, Polar Bear (2004) an Airplane, and in 2009 a cocktail shaker in the form of an Hourglass.  And with 99 stores in 31 states with on line and catalog sales it was a delightful thing to happen for barware collectors and martini lovers Nation wide. 

One of the few starting points for the whole martini cocktail and cocktail shaker craze that swept across the Nation at the turn of the new millennium can be directly traced back to the 1998 Restoration Hardware Seasonal cover.

The vintage cocktail shaker collecting obsession in the late 1990’s and into the first years of our new Millennium can not be understated and is  exemplified by the Phillips, New York, auction of June 11, 2001, catalog number NY852, where 28 cocktail shakers fetched  a quarter of a million dollars.  This included a cocktail shaker traveling bar in the shape of an airplane that sold for over fifty-thousand dollars. 

All this enthusiasm comes into play on December 19, 2006, and Christies New York auction, lot 510 of sale #1860 that sold for twelve thousand dollars.


Lot 510 is described as A Silver-Plated Brass Cocktail Shaker ,circa 1935.

Stamped “MADE IN AUSTRIA”.   

 We now know there are at least two versions of the Polar Bear Cocktail Shaker   This one and the Restoration Hardware one.

The curious side bar of lot 510 is there is not a literature citation or any provenance information as is the usual case with other lots of sale #1860.  For example lot 509 on the same page, a penguin form cocktail shaker is shown and the listing tells us; the patent number, designer and manufacturer. And that the design drawing is illustrated in the U.S. Patent Office Official Gazette, patent granted October 13, 1936. 

I have been a cocktail shaker collector for the last forty years and have traveled the globe, in and out of Art Deco and Antique shops, flea markets both high and low end, and have never come across a vintage polar bear cocktail shaker, or even heard a rumor of one.

 That is until a brand new one was featured in Restoration Hardware’s seasonal catalog of 2004.  (Two years before sale # 1860)  

My e-mail to Christie’s asking for a condition report and more information on their polar bear cocktail shaker lot 510 received a response of……Christie’s  policy does not allow for ……the sale is over……..and I am sorry we could not be of more help at this time…..

Searching the web for more information I find that Pullman Gallery in the swank St.James section of London had for sale a Polar Bear cocktail shaker for around eleven thousand dollars.  Listed as;  "Austria 1930’s, Excellent Condition."


I see now that my good  friend Simon no longer has this listed on his Pullman Gallery web site & 1stdibs. has this marked Sold. And my inquiries, to him, as to provenance and if the shaker is stamped on the bottom or not ..have gone unanswered.   

More about the Restoration Hardware connection;   I met years ago in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, a brilliant and charming young designer, let’s call him Tony, who is now working for a major house ware furnishing company as a top designer.  And one of his co-workers,  also a  top designer, is a guy who once worked for Restoration Hardware and is said to have designed the polar bear cocktail shaker. 

He says there never was a vintage polar bear cocktail shaker and this is his own original design that he carved out of foam blocks. Each of the attached portions, legs, head, etc, were carved separately to find the best way to attach to the body; would this work best as standing bear, or a sitting bear? 

It was then painted silver gray for presentation to the company committee.   My e mail to Restoration Hardware on this subject has been answered with;  …"please accept our sincerest apologies…. This is proprietary information….and unable to disclose….".  

And next we had a good friend at Sotheby’s tell us that he had heard of the consignor to Christie’s, in New York City, having a polar bear cocktail shaker, in his collection, some thirty years ago.    

                    That is the story as far aswe know it today.  

Also please note; that while most catalog listings, Web listings or e- bay listings call the polar bear cocktail shaker  "Chrome Plated"  it's acutally Nickel Plated.    


Now with information from Phil Arth we know there are two versions on the Polar Bear Cocktail Shaker.   See photos below.


re: Penguin..."our version is identical,  right down to the cap at the tip of the beak that unscrews for pouring"   Any good cocktail shaker collector knows this is wrong, & that the beak on the Napier shaker opened wide for pouring .       It's nice to see they did give some attribution for this reproduction.    But then  Why no attribution for the polar bear shaker? 

To their credit Restoration has stopped using paper labels and are now  stamping their name on the bottom of recent shakers.

Above : Restoration Hardwear Cocktail  Shaker

Below:  Strainer and bottom view of a silver plated Polar Bear from the collection of Phil Arth,  High end advanced collector and all round good guy. Note; the strainer has smaller holes and more of them than the Restoration model and looks more like a vintage strainer.  And next a bottom view of the silver plated shaker.  It's stamped "Made in Austria" on one foot.   Also notice the mark in each foot. It's said the feet are held on by rods.  Phil gives the weight as  3lbs 14 ounces.   Much heaver than Restoration model.

Silver Plated Polar Bear

thanks to Phil Arth for these photos

                                END  NOTES....

1.)Why did this version not surface untill 2006 ? Two years after the Restoration Hardware Shaker . & Why do not one of these silver plated polar bear cocktail shakers show any age ?  as would be expected of a 1930s' shaker, scratches, dings, dents,  nothing.  They all  look brand new.    why?

2.) Years ago when i was doing research for the barware book, i came across in a Philadelphia library all the 1930s' issues of  The Gift & Art Buyer, a magazine for the trade only.  Found lots and lots  of interesting information on cocktail shakers, including who imported the zeppelin cocktail shakers from Germany, and also interesting ads and stories on Mary Ryan, gift shop genius, guru & mentor to a young Russel Wright whose new spun aluminum items she was merchandising in her 5th Avenue store.  BUT....DID NOT FIND ANY POLAR BEAR COCKTAIL SHAKERS FOR SALE.  HENCE....WE CAN ONLY CONCLUDE THAT THE FIRST POLAR BEAR COCKTAIL SHAKER WAS PRODUCED BY RESTORATION HARDWARE IN  2004, ALL OTHERS ARE A NEWER VERSION OF SAME.





A Fantastic Chart Thanks To Ace Collector Phil Arth !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

we see the measurements are the same. tho with the Austrian Bear weighing three pounds more.. due to thicker metal or having rods holding the legs on.  Either way  one bear is a direct copy of the other and to do this you need to have the first model in your hands. 

Update:  April 2014:
The web site invaluable.com  (this use to be Art Fact.com)  one of the many auction price sites.  Under "Price Archive" on this site, leads us to a few completed auctions of the polar bear cocktail shaker.. and the earliest listing  for the polar bear is November 27, 2002 sold by the auction house: Dreweatts & Bloomsbury, Newbury United Kingdom.  The shaker is "unmarked".  if the date is correct this is two years before Restoration Hardware issued their polar bear.  ...from the Auction site: "Lot No 608 ..An unusual and stylish 'Polar Bear' plated metal cocktail shaker, the creature has formalised features and rests on its haunches and raises its head as if sniffing the air for its prey, the head removes and has a separate internal strainer, 25.5cm. high. unmarked."
 A new twist.  and a new mystery

JULY 1 2015. Update:  Like a bad penny or more like an Un-Dead Voodoo Zombie that will not die and keeps coming back.  The Restoration Hardware Co. Polar Bear Cocktail Shaker turns up @ Wright Auction,  Mass Modern, July 10 2015 , lot 135.

June 28, 2015  , from the on line catalog.... "USA ca. 1950.....condition: Good condition.  Faint signs of pitting scattered throughout body. with faint surface wear."
Then on July 1, 2015,  one line was added to the condition report: " Vessel of indeterminate age. possibly a reproduction made as late as 2004"     egg on their faces?  This is a fantastic auction house and i love them dearly..but ..good gosh..
     And it can not be "possible a reproduction"...because it's the original model !, nothing before this...   Now if another manufacturer started to reproduce this cocktail shaker in 2015..then it would be called a reproduction.