What’s the difference between Monrovia and San Dimas?

The Hagen-Renaker factory was located in Monrovia, CA from its beginnings in the 1940s, to the early 1960s. In 1962, a new property was purchased in San Dimas, with a gradual shift of production to the new facility. As a result, while pieces made before 1962 are “definitely” Monrovia issues, and ones after about 1966 are “definitely” San Dimas, there is uncertainty about what was produced where, between these dates.

Most of the Monrovia decorators had been housewives from the local community. By the time of the move, many had been working for Hagen-Renaker for a decade. Although San Dimas is only about 14 miles away from Monrovia, a short distance by today’s standards, almost none of these decorators transferred with the company to the new location. We can speculate that many of them did not have a car, or the commute seemed too long to be worthwhile. Instead, Hagen-Renaker hired all-new decorators for San Dimas production. This caused noticeable changes in the figurines. Perhaps not being as experienced as the Monrovia employees had become, the new decorators turned out pieces with noticeably less hand-painted detail; for instance, instead of finely drawn eyes with eyewhites, the animals made in San Dimas tended to have eyes which were merely black dots.

Over time, the detail of San Dimas pieces has improved immensely. For example, in the 2000s, eyewhites reappeared, even on the tiniest Miniatures. Therefore, a formerly time-honored test of Monrovia vs. San Dimas, the existence of eyewhites, is no longer completely applicable. Determining the exact age or era of a piece can be difficult even for seasoned collectors.

For this reason, describing a piece simply as the “Monrovia version” or “San Dimas version” can be unhelpful and I have tried to avoid relying on it. I’ve attempted in the Field Guide to mention more specific differences between pieces which were made in both eras, and to provide illustrations of pieces with varied production dates, to help collectors determine their age.

How can I tell if I have an HR copy?

Many copies of Hagen-Renakers have been circulating since the earliest years, and new ones continue to surface. A few of these copies are extremely good and have been known to fool seasoned collectors. Most are easier to identify. Here are some tips:

Hagen-Renakers are made in the USA only. A piece marked “Japan” (or the name of another country) is not an HR.

Hagen-Renakers are never stamped with numbers, or a combination of letters and numbers. (Handwritten letters and numbers, however, may signal a Hagen-Renaker test piece).

Hagen-Renaker pieces were never sold in groupings connected by a chain.

Hagen-Renakers never have painted or plastic whiskers

Hagen-Renaker has never sold unfinished bisque pieces for home ceramics hobbyists. A very few bisque pieces have been given or sold to collectors and may appear on the secondary market.

Hagen-Renakers are earthenware (ceramic), not bone china. Bone china has a distinctive bright white color and hard, smooth feel. Look at the bottoms of the feet and around the pour hole. If the material appears bright white and very hard and smooth, you may have a copy. It may help to compare to another piece that you know is Hagen-Renaker.

Look very carefully at the photo(s) of the piece on this site. A piece that looks “similar” to an Hagen-Renaker, but has clear differences, may be a copy. Examples of clear differences may include head placed at a different angle, alternative foot placement, thicker legs, significant size variation, noticeable lack of mold detail, color not produced by HR for that piece, etc.

Do not be fooled by stickers or cards. It is very easy to transfer genuine Hagen-Renaker stickers and cards to pieces made by other companies.

When in doubt, ask a seasoned collector! Post on the Hagen-Renaker Facebook site, or feel free to send me a photo. If it is a copy, and I have your permission, I may be able to include it on this site to assist others. Jane Chapman’s Animal Figurines Gallery also has a section illustrating many Hagen-Renaker copies.

Is my Miniature a Disney piece?

Hagen-Renaker produced figurines under licensure for Disney from 1955 to 1960, and briefly in 1982. When the contract expired, Hagen-Renaker reissued many of those molds in their regular Miniatures line, and collectors often refer to these as “Non-Disneys.”

The distinctions between Disneys and reissues can be confusing to beginners. Non-Disneys are always painted differently, and usually much more simply, than Disney pieces. I have included photos of genuine Disney pieces along with the Non-Disney Miniatures for comparison.

Disney pieces tend to be worth more than Non-Disneys, but this is not always the case. A few of the Non-Disneys are exceptionally rare and are noted as such in this Field Guide. 

My piece is a different color from those shown.

  • It may be a production colorway that I don’t have a photo of. Check to see if your color is found in the list of colorways for that piece.
  • It may be a test piece. Most Hagen-Renaker test pieces are marked on the base with handwritten letters and/or numbers.
  • It may be a unique, one-of-a-kind piece. Hagen-Renaker decorators sometimes paint figurines with unusual or whimsical colors for their own collections or for friends.
  • It may have been repainted after release from the factory. Look for places where paint may have been chipped, or around the base to see, if another color is lurking underneath.
  • It may be a previously unknown colorway that was actually a production run. Please send me a photo!
  • It may not be an Hagen-Renaker at all. See How can I tell if I have an HR copy?

I can’t find my piece on this website.

Try using fewer or different words in the search bar. Browse through appropriate categories. If you still can’t find your piece,

  • It may not be an HR; see How can I identify a non-HR piece?
  • It may be a Hagen-Renaker, but from a line that has not yet been added to this website, such as Designer’s Workshop or Disney. All of these lines will eventually be added; in the meantime, Ed and Sheri Alcorn’s Hagen-Renaker Online Museum (http://hagenrenakermuseum.com/) is a good starting point for identifying other Hagen-Renaker lines.
  • If you still can’t identify your piece, send me a close-up, color photo and I will see if I can help. An additional photo of the bottom of the piece would be helpful.