Something that differentiates me as a collector is that my interests are in arbitrage – I view my collection as an investment. You could say I collect “arbitrage,” which is the difference between what something can be found for and what it’s worth. Right now I think my best piece is an artwork I bought for a dollar, it’s worth a few thousand.
This year has changed up my collecting a bit. The more I learn and pay attention to market trends, I’m unable to ignore trends. You could say arbitrage has led me to ceramics. Ceramics are growing more bullish than they have been in recent years. The young boomers who still have disposable income, large homes to fill and interest in maintaining the past are buying ceramics. It’s not the market that it was years ago but the arbitrage is here.
Ceramics. It’s something I can’t quite explain. The longer that I’m in the antiques trade, the more I learn about the traditional goods market. Spending a year as a clerk really taught me so much about consumers in the market. What they’re looking for, how they shop and why they buy are incredibly important considerations. And I tell you they are looking for ceramics.
Ceramics are weird, though. It’s not the easiest thing to just step into, I didn’t really consider buying ceramics until I was years into the hobby.
Here is the first piece of pottery that I did sell.
20th Century Reproduction Chinese Vase
It was a mid 20th century reproduction with an unattempted or undone lamp feature on it. It sold for a great amount and went to a collector in Japan. That was a proud moment of my early days in the hobby. And this was a great piece – made easier for me to see because of its Asian origin.
American and European pottery has been a lot harder to learn for me. I was lucky to have a dealer friend who was knowledgable about art pottery. There is no substitute for an in-person expert on art pottery. If you want to learn more, go to an antique store and ask the clerk to show you the art pottery. Be careful, though, the knowledge is growing more and more scarce. Learning from the right person is key.
More recently I came into a piece that deserves better documentation. It was a piece of trademark Lettuce Leaf by New Milford Pottery Co or Wannopee Pottery.
New Milford Majolica Lettuce Leaf
NM (Wannopee) Lettuce Leaf
This piece dates to 1900-1903, when the New Milford Pottery Company closed. Made of majolica, it is formed in the manner of a lettuce leaf. It is a center-piece, salad bowl or what-have you. That makes it quite rare. Single plates go for anywhere from 20-50$ a piece. I sold this on auction extremely quick as I bought it very, very cheap.
That was a good sale. It was also something that I wouldn’t have noticed without spending time in the antique store. There was a day where this eccentric older gentlemen brought this small lettuce lobster creamer to the counter. It was marked near fifty dollars. He bought it without negotiation or complaint. These days, you remember sales like that.
Well, the little lobster was something my dealer friend had picked up. Great, she’d help me get to the bottom of that! Well, that’s when she explained the whole “lettuce” collecting and the later addition of the lobster in the 20s through the 50s. I was flabbergasted at first, sat on the knowledge for nearly a year before this majolica plate popped up in my field of vision.
My family knows this plate as “that damn lettuce plate” now. Everyone has a similar reaction, that it can’t possibly be worth what it was! When I bought it, I even showed it to my wife and told her, “what do you want to bet that this darn lettuce plate will be the best thing I sell all month.” She laughed and we got dinner. A week later the plate had sold. So far it is living up to expectations.