A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Price/Color Equilibrium

It's an open secret among antiques dealers that there is a connection between color and price when it comes to pricing majolica. The most desirable colors, cobalt, pink and lavender command higher prices than the least desirable colors, white, gray and brown.
I based the entire price guide in the back of my book on Etruscan Majolica on this premise because that has been my experience as a majolica dealer. But how does all this play out in the world of auctions?

Out of curiosity I looked up auction results from Michael Strawser's Majolica Auctions and connected them to the results of the same Etruscan plate, the D-18 Strawberry plate. Sure enough, it played out the same at auction with one interesting exception.

The plate that brought the lowest price consistently was the plate with the ivory ground.

These plates sold for an average of $110 at auction with some examples selling for as little as $60. The plate is attractive but does not really stand out from the pack.

The next price plate was the one with a taupe ground, an unusual color for this piece but not a particularly striking one. This plate brought an average of $130 at auction. Taupe was used as a ground color on a number of Etruscan patterns, the most common being Pandora and the Shell cake plate. The best that can be said of the color is that it is serviceable.

The next price of $170 bought us two different colors, lavender and brown. Here is where the exception comes in that I mentioned earlier. Brown is one of the least popular colors in majolica but it is an extremely unusual color for this pattern. It also makes for a very striking piece which certainly accounts for the higher price.

The lavender is a deep rich color that would appeal to most collectors. It is also not particularly easy to find.

As expected the cobalt plates brought the highest prices at auction with the average blue plate selling for $180 with some examples selling as high as $480! Cobalt on just about any majolica plate makes the pattern pop! It is also many people's favorite color, not something you hear very often about taupe. Cobalt on this design compliments the pink strawberries and yellow apples beautifully.

The bottom line is really the old law of supply and demand. People buy majolica for the colored glazes so the more attractive colors will have the most buyers competing for them. That is why you should expect to pay more for a richly glazed example than one with more pastel tones.

Special thanks to Michael Strawser's Majolica Auctions for the information and the photos.

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