|By Larry LeMasters
E. Rosen Company, also known as School House Candy, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was once one of the largest candy manufacturers in the United States, employing more than 400 people at its peak. Today, collectors know Rosen for its many Valentine related items, such as Valentine Lollipop Cards and hard plastic Valentine candy holders.
The E. Rosen Company also owned Rosbro Plastics Company, which manufactured whimsical plastic containers, such as Rosen’s Valentine candy holders, so Rosen partnered its hard candy with Rosbro’s hard plastic containers for a match made in candy heaven.
Hard plastic Valentine containers are characteristic of the 1950s since the ’50s proved to be the first “plastic” decade in America. The most popular years for these plastic candy containers were 1952-58; however, Rosen continued manufacturing these containers well into the 1960s. Plastic injection molds make Valentine containers relatively easy and inexpensive to manufacture and, therefore, relatively inexpensive to purchase in America’s Five & Dime stores, such as Kresge’s, Woolworth’s, and McCrory’s. To save a fortune in retooling, Rosen used the same molds for all of the holiday seasons by simply changing the color of the plastic — red/white for Valentine’s Day, orange/black for Halloween, and red/green for Christmas.
Rosen’s small, plastic candy containers sold for 15¢ or less in the 1950s, making them affordable to the poorest of children, and the containers were given as gifts by students, friends, parents, and teachers on Valentine’s Day, so, literally, tens of thousands of these containers were sold every February.
Two very popular Rosen Valentine containers were “Be Mine” Boy and “To My Love” Girl. Made of hard white plastic with red hearts and highlights, these adorable containers sell in the range of $20 - $40 today.
One of the most expensive Rosen Valentine containers is the “I’m Cookin’ With Gas” car that is driven by Rosen’s “Teenage Girl” with heart sweater. Sometimes, as a replacement for a lost teenage girl, collectors place Rosen’s bowlegged cowboy with lariat and pistol in the driver’s seat. Novice collectors should be aware that the “Cowboy” is considered a Rosen Valentine hard plastic container; however, the cowboy was never meant to drive the car. The “Cowboy and Western Horse,” decked out in bright white, red, and black coloring was produced in the 1950s and sold as a Rosen lollipop holder. Today, a “Cowboy and Western Horse” candy container, in good condition, sells for well over $100. Also, in good condition, an “I’m Cookin’ With Gas” car and teenage girl driver sells for around $120 while the cowboy alone is valued at $55.
Most 1950s mothers winced when receiving the Rosen “Look Mom, No Hands” Valentine candy container. With a blue-capped “Teenage Boy” driving the car with both hands in waving in the air, mothers thought this container represented their worst nightmares—reckless and careless teenage drivers. Today, these whimsical Valentine containers sell for $130 or more.
Rosen/Rosbro Companies produced several other hard plastic Valentine candy containers, such as their solid red “Cannon” container, circa 1956, that is offered for as much as $75 on eBay. This cannon was a favorite with 1950s boys since they could eat the candy and then play “Army” with the cannon.
Rosen’s most popular 1950s Valentine candy containers were its Valentine nodders. Rosen nodder candy containers are considered “rare,” and their prices reflect this. Nearly all of these containers are valued in the $150-190 range, making them cute and expensive. All of these nodders came on wheels, so they were fun to play with and appealing to look at, making them perfect collectibles. A few of Rosen’s nodders to watch for include “Girl with Umbrella.” She is, of course, made of hard plastic and carries a heart-shaped umbrella and has a heart-lined dress. Rosen’s “Delivery Boy” nodder sold on eBay for $300 in January 2016. This Valentine’s Day candy container carries a heart and had 28 bidders vying for it at auction. As nodders come and go, Rosen’s “Gay Nineties” nodder with upturned mustache, candy can walking stick, and carrying a large red heart clearly is the collector’s favorite. In good to mint condition, this nodder has sold for as much as $275.
Festive, bright colors help make Rosen Valentine containers hot, 50-year-old collectibles. Collectors love the fact that Rosen containers are charming and plentiful, so finding them is easy. If you want a good deal on one, try looking for them at estate sales since some of these containers found their way into girls’ hope chests where they were treasured as the things that dreams of love are made of.