Thursday, November 8, 2007

FIND THE MARK OTHERS MISS - Know Quality in Pottery, Art Glass, & Porcelain

If you can’t see it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. How many times have I had to tell myself that? I promise you, more than I wish to recall. What am I talking about?

I once visited a very high-end antique store in Los angles and found nothing of interest that could be bought and then sold for a profit. But, as I was leaving the store, for some reason I looked up at a top shelf where there were two extremely large vases. I asked the dealer if he would get a ladder and bring them down so that I could get a better look at them. Hesitantly, he did.

I examined the vases from top to bottom not finding a mark, but being sure that they were Doulton Lambeth pieces decorated by one of their leading artists. Going over them several more times finding nothing, I was about to decide that these vases truly were not signed. This is where persistence can pay off. Being stubborn as all that know me can attest to, I refused to give up. Turning them around in my hands another time, I finally caught a glimpse of three letters within the body of the vase, "FEB".

FEB, Florence E. Barlow, the sister of Hannah Barlow. This had just become my lucky day. The two Barlow sisters were Doulton's best known decorators, and their vases always bring top prices.

Why hadn’t others found these marks? Very simply, the marks weren’t typically where one would find marks on pottery. I am sure there had been hundreds of people who looked at the bottoms of these pieces, but after finding nothing, returned them to their resting place. You see, ninety-five percent of these vases would have been marked on the bottom. But, not these. And, on top of that, this mark, "FEB" had been incorporated into the actual design of the vase, making it almost impossible to find. But, not impossible to a persistant and stubborn man like me. The poor dealer had no idea that these vases were special pieces.

I could barely hold my composure when I asked the price. Two hundred and fifty dollars each was his response, and at this time, I didn’t know if it was a time to dance or cry.

Returning to my car carrying these two precious bundles ever so carefully, I placed them into the back seat. Then, I pinched myself to be sure that I wasn’t dreaming. You see, these wonderful 22" vases were worth over $5,000 each, even then.

I truly tell you, this isn’t a rare occurrence. I have had it happen many times since then. Lalique, Steuben and other art glass pieces with etched marks often present a huge problem in finding the marks. The secret is to recognize the quality of the materials and the decorations on the piece. If they both meet the standards of a quality piece, then you should spend the time required to verify the maker.

I want to challenge you to a test. At the next show you attend, find a Tiffany Lamp and ask to look at it. I believe that you will find that it isn’t easy to located the marks on the lamp because of their small size and because of where they are located under the shade.

The message here is to know quality first. Make a study the most sought after pottery, porcelain and art glass, and know the various artists whose work is in demand and commands the highest prices. Use every source you can. Search the Internet. See these pieces up close at shows. Invest in your own resource library. Used books can easily be found at reasonable prices through the internet. Take a look at our recommended reading list and choose your area to study at this time.

Keep your eyes open and don’t get in a hurry if you find something that tells you it has quality but the mark isn't immediately apparent. Be persistant in looking for the mark on pieces you recognize as high quality.

Be sure to visit our web site for more information about how you can join the 31 Club and start your own race to your millions! Read more about it here!"The Guy in the Red Tie" --- Daryle Lambert

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  1. Daryle: Perfect timing on the article about knowing quality. I recently bought a vase at auction that was not signed and I thought it may be a rare piece of Camark Pottery (which was made in Arkansas). However, when I got home I found that it was similar, but not Camark. After a few days of it sitting there, I had to put my "research cap" on and find out who made the piece. To my amazement, I found out it was made by Owens Pottery of Zanesville, Ohio and that it is one of the rarest patterns made by Owens! The pattern is called "Opalescent Inlaid" and was only made in the last year and one-half that Owens was in business, which was from 1896 to 1907.

    The vase was not marked in any way but I knew it to be a quality piece when I saw it at auction, just by examining the craftsmanship of the vase. I bid the piece to $25.00 and the auctioneer almost said the magic word "Sold!", when another bidder decided he like it too. I won the bidding at $80.00. Even though I did not know at the time who made it, I was certain that I would make a reasonable profit. Last week, the vase sold at auction in Cincinnati. The price: $2400.00! Not bad for a piece that was unmarked and unsigned! CECIL

  2. Cecil: You old timers are awesome! My son and I have been studying everything we can in our free time. We haven't come across that great find yet, but will most likely recognize a lot more items than we would have three months ago. Lisa