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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rare or Desirable?

Recently a dealer contacted me about a piece of majolica I had described in this blog as "very rare." He wanted to know if this "rarity" translated to a very high monetary value for said piece. I had to admit to him that I didn't think it did.

"How can that be", he asked.

I told him that rarity does not always translate to desirability. The distinction needs to be made when one appraises the value of a piece.

It is desirability that establishes the price of a piece, not the rarity. Where the rarity of a piece of majolica may influence the demand for it, there are many pieces that are in great supply that still command high prices. In a situation like that. you're talking about relative rarity in relation to demand, not true rarity.

Take, for example, the classic George Jones strawberry server.


As far as a piece of majolica goes this server is pretty common. It's not at all unusual to see several offered for sale at a large antiques fair. Still, the piece demands a price of about $1,000 because many people desire it as part of their collections.

Now compare that to this extremely rare piece of Etruscan Majolica.


There are only a few of these known to exist, probably less than six, yet at a recent auction this piece brought only $600. That's because fewer people collect Etruscan Majolica so the demand is simply not there.

Doesn't seem fair does it, but there's nothing fair about the marketplace.
It is simply supply and demand.

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