Antiques & Collecting: Porcelain artists made ceramics spectacular

Ceramic artists mentioned in auction descriptions or reports are almost always the ones who shape the piece, a dinnerware designer or an artist who creates unique pieces by modeling clay or developing unique glazes. But that wasn’t always true. In the 1700s and 1800s, there were artists who decorated porcelains with paintings of gardens, flowers, portraits, religious scenes or buildings. Another artist made the ormolu mounting to complement the painted picture.

In the early 1900s, housewives began painting ceramics. Amateurs and artists bought marked plain white porcelain from Germany, Japan, England and other countries, and then decorated them in the United States styles. Magazines featured instructions and designs for this hobby. Special paints could remain permanently on a glazed vase or dinner plate even when washed. Unfortunately, the paint will not always survive the heat of a modern dishwasher, and the art can disappear.

One of the most famous professional decorators, John Bennett, was born in Staffordshire, England, in 1840 and worked at Doulton & Co. in the 1870s. He moved to New York about 1876 and started his own ceramic business. In 1882, he retired, moved to New Jersey and decorated pottery that he stamped “W. Orange-N. J.” Bennett died in 1907. His ceramic paintings were asymmetrical designs of colorful flowers and nature. He was influenced by the aesthetic, and arts and crafts movements. His work is expensive today. This very large covered urn, 16 1/2 inches high, is signed “Bennett.” It pictures clusters of pink and white hydrangea blossoms and green leaves on a black background. Rago Arts and Auction Center sold it for $5,000 plus buyer’s premium.

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Q. I recently bought a collection of painted lead figures that includes five animals and seven standing figures of people, including farmers, workmen, a cowboy, a hiker and a fisherman, each 2 inches tall. I would estimate they are 100 years old. The standing figures are marked. At least one of them is marked “Made in England, Britains Ltd., London.” What do you think they are worth, and where can I sell them?

A. Germany was the leading producer of lead toy soldiers and other figures in the early 1800s. In 1893, the English toy manufacturer Britains became the first company to make hollow-cast lead figures. The company stopped making lead figures in 1967 because of the danger of lead poisoning and began making plastic figures. If your Britains figures are solid lead, they are over 50 years old. If the figures are brightly painted, they are probably not 100 years old. If you bought the figures recently, the price you paid is a good indication of what you can sell them for. There are auctions that specialize in toy soldiers, but they usually want full sets. People who sell lead figures on eBay and other online sites might buy them. The military figures are the most popular and most pricey.

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Q. My great-grandmother started my addiction to postcards when she bequeathed to me her small collection. Over 1,000 cards later, all from before 1910, I am still in the dark about 23 of them. They are metal framed, 3-inch-by-4-inch postcards. The paper part is thicker than the regular postcards of that era. Most include a foldout easel on the back. I can’t seem to find any like them anywhere, nor any info about them. Are they rare?

A. Postcard production grew in leaps and bounds in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were popular because they were a quick and easy way for individuals to communicate. The divided back of the card, giving room for a message on the left and the address on the right, were made from 1907 to 1915. The front of the card had a picture. There were thin metal frames made for postcards. The frame had a piece of glass for the front, another for the back, and a chain to use to hang the card on a picture hook. Today, deltiology, or the collection of postcards, is a popular hobby. Only a small number or postcards sell for high prices. Most sell for 25 cents or less. Inexpensive postcards sell online in groups of 25 to 30 postcards for about $7. Framed cards sell for several dollars but are hard to find.

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TIP: Splint baskets should have an occasional light shower. Shake off the excess water. Let the basket dry in a shady spot.

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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

Libbey glass bowl, tricorn shape, diamonds alternating with modified pinwheels, notched rim, marked, 3 x 8 1/2 inches, $36.

Furniture, chair, maple frame, high flattened armrests, black striped wool upholstery, Jens Risom for Knoll, 33 x 24 inches, $184.

Advertising sign, Toys of All Kinds, For Children Old & Young, applied toy soldier, train, wood, paint, folk art, 36 x 24 inches, $244.

Mechanical bank, Monkey & Parrot, put a coin on monkey’s tail, rolls into parrot’s mouth, tin, Saalheimer & Strauss, 4 1/2 x 2 x 6 inches, $461.

Toy, Mortimer Snerd Tricky Auto, tin lithograph, windup, marked 1938 Edgar Bergen, Louis Marx, box, 7 1/2 x 6 3/4 inches, $554.

Doll, Madame Alexander, Margaret, bride, plastic, strawberry blond mohair curls, rose tulle & satin gown, veil, 1950, 21 inches, $690.

Jewelry, earrings, shell shape, white iridescent, bezel set rubies, emeralds & sapphires, turquoise tips, 14K gold rope twist, clip-on, marked, MAZ, 1 inch, $1,107.

Art deco lighter, Dunhill, swing arm, silver, blue enamel columns on sides, clock face on front, mother-of-pearl, Roman numerals, manual wind, 2 x 1 1/2 inches, $1,875.

Newcomb College Pottery jar, lid, landscape, live oak trees, bulbous, acorns & oak leaves on lid, blue & green glaze, Anna F. Simpson, 1915, 5 1/2 x 5 inches, $3,250.

Baccarat paperweight, millefiori, ruffled cane, surrounded by rows of continuous multicolor canes, red, blue shaded to lavender, marked, 2 3/8 x 3 1/4 inches, $5,566.

©2020 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.


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