Couroc of Monterey

Until I found this Couroc of Monterey set in a Salvation Army store last year I didn't really know anything about the company or the process. They looked vaguely familiar when I spotted them, but when these bar sets were first produced I was into Colonial, and modern didn't really show me much.I've since learned that Couroc is getting increasingly popular for very good reason. It's beautiful! That's number one--but if you look closely at the patterns you'll see that they're incredibly intricate and formed by truly skilled artists. Even if the patterns look the same, closer inspection shows that each piece is slightly different. The wood and metal inlays are set by hand, so no two are ever exactly alike.It's made from a hard plastic called "Phenolic", which Couroc says is impervious to almost anything, including alcohol. The company was founded in 1948 by Guthrie Sayle Courvoisier and Moira Wallace, a husband-and-wife team.I found this helpful guide to Couroc in the eBay Guides, courtesy of Marigold05, who has also written other Couroc information:
The Couroc Company was a Monterey California company that produced many different types and shapes of trays, boxes, ashtrays and glassware from 1948 until their closure in the early 1990s. Their products have become and remain collectable because of their high quality and beauty. Guthrie Courvoisier, owner of Courvoisier Galleries in San Francisco formed Couroc in 1948. His wife, Moira Wallace was a designer that was involved in designing manufacturing - sometimes even 'signing' her work. Couroc was formed in Monterey an area that held strong artistic communes at the time. Being located in a beautiful part of the Pacific coast had other advantages, Couroc relied on a plentiful supply of natural design elements, especially coral and shells. Couroc's Early YearsPrior to the war, Courvoisier had worked with the Walt Disney Company and brought the first commercially available animation cels to market. These cels are still known as "Courvoisier Cels" and are quite valueable today.Courvoisier gained valuable experience with plastics while participating in the war effort. Courvoisier soon began to put this experience to work - he and his wife began to tinker around with new techniques of producing household items with superior design. The first generation of Couroc products were made of a heavy translucent material that was extremly prone to shattering. The name Couroc was an amalgamation of 'Cour'voisier and 'rock' as in hard-as-a-rock. These early pieces have early Couroc labels so the name was derived while their products were still highly breakable. The products in that first generation tended to be large bowls and cake trays. After much experimentation, however, the Courvoisiers created a proprietary formula of phenolic resin that was durable enough to form into trays. This formula was extremely durable and resistant to alcohol and flame. While this formula has changed over the years, that proprietary recipe served as the basis for several decades work.In the early years, Courvoisier ran Couroc a little like an art-commune, employing many skilled artisans. During these early years, the artists carefully arranged bits and pieces of common metal items one might find at a hardware store into elements of the design. Items like springs, screws, glitter, safety pins and paper clips were commonly part of Couroc's best designs. The artisans also used pieces of brass and other metals and carefully bent them into shape.
You can read the complete guide, including how to determine early or late Couroc, by clicking the link at the beginning of the quote.There is a Couroc group on Flickr, where I found some of the most amazing pieces. I also found these beauties from Couroc Geometric's Flickr page here.

(While you're there, check out her other Couroc pieces. Gorgeous!)Marigold mentions in her article that over the years the footings and labels were different. Of the three seemingly matching pieces that I have, I find two different footings and labels. I don't know what that means in terms of age. I'm guessing, because of the mushroom motif, they're all from the 1970s or 80s.

If anyone wants to add to this discussion, I would love to hear from you. The more we learn, the more fun it is!Mona(Cross posted at my Deer Path Vintage blog here)
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  • Hi Tom.  Thanks for sharing.  That's really interesting information. 

    I have another Couroc tray I need to sell, but the finish has really dulled in spots.  Any suggestions on what to do to shine it up?


  • I worked for Reichhold Chemicals in the 1980's and we supplied Couroc with their  phenolic resin and also the acid catalyst. The resin resembled a dark thin honey like liquid. Since we made the raw material we always had an interest in their products.

    We made batches every 3-4 months and shipped it to them in 55 gallon drums. The batches were always an interesting challenge to make to get the specifications correct. The reaction speeds along at high temperature and you have to forecast from testing when the right moment is to start rapid cooling and quench the reaction. Kind of like an outfielder racing  to catch the long line drive. You only have one shot at it.

  • I purchased a Couroc tray with the Presidents of the United States on it. They appear to be all bronze. Does anyone know who minted these coins. I'd like to know for numismatic reasons.

  • Hi, I'm new to this site and Couroc. I just came across a  "Couroc of Monterey" California tray. I was wondering if anyone would have some information on it. Very dark brown tray 18" W x 12.5"H  It has a wooden inlaid eagle with an arrow and olive branch in it's claws. It has 34 presidential coins inlaid, they look like brass or bronze. Any ideas? I have pictures if someone would like. I would appreciate any input. Thanks you in advance. LeeAnn

  • I'm counting on those Wellesley grads. Now I just have to decide where to start an auction price. I'm thinking $14.99 What do you think?
  • Wellesley, huh? That's really interesting. I'll bet you'll find an alumnus who would love it! Yes, Vintage Village is a great place to hang around. Looking forward to seeing you more often.

  • Thanks, Mona. You are good. I just learned that this is a logo for Wellesley College. Looks like it is not the one used now, but one used before. Good to know that they did make trays for organizations. Thanks a lot. I'll list it as soon as I get a little better photo. (Didn't realize I had the bottom a bit cut off of this one. Sigh.)
    Thanks again for the help. I look forward to hanging out here some.
    sellinellen13 and ellensellsstuff on eBay
  • Hi Ellen, it looks like a university emblem to me. It may have been given for graduation, considering the meaning of the quote. I believe Couroc did make trays and barware for organizations, so it's likely that's where it came from. Wish I could be more help!

  • Hoping someone can give me a little more info on this tray.

    It has the following on it:
    Incipit Vita Nova meaning "enter a new life," or "thus begins a new life."

    There is no sticker, but evidence of where it was.

    Trying to post pictures - hope it works.




    Thanks in advance.

  • I received a comment on my Deer Path Vintage blog from Couroc Geometrics, whose geometric pictures I posted here. This is what she had to say:

    WOW! It is exciting to see the Couroc geometric photo I posted on Couroc Flckr. Hope folks will also post their favorites as well. Marigold's article about Couroc is outstanding and so appreciated by Couroc collectors. One correction though, Couroc celebrated their 50th anniversay in 1998 just before closing their doors. The early years of Couroc are most sought after. These trays may not have the molded Couroc but may have the white with green writing label. Happy Couroc hunting!
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