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

Saturday, March 24, 2012

False Advertising Pet Peeves

I spend some time each week cruising the listings of eBay. I love seeing the variety of majolica available, noting the prices, and looking for common pieces when they appear in unusual glaze combinations. One of the things I DON'T like about eBay is the wide number of dealers who place false claims in their listing titles just to get your attention. Here are some of my listing pet peeves.

The one that drives me the most nuts are the dealers who will describe their piece in the title and follow it with "George Jones?" or "Minton?". Where it is true some dealers genuinely don't know what they have, others know they have an incredibly mundane piece of majolica and feel that the only way they can attract attention to it is to mention a brand name that is in demand. This practice probably peaked a few years ago so you don't see it as often as you used to but it still shows up.

Another trick that eBay dealers use to get attention to their listings is to place certain key words in their listing title because they know it will bring their listing up on general searches. Aside from the names of major majolica manufacturers, who are always included in such listings, colors like "cobalt" are made to sound more important than they really are in the piece. I can't tell you how many listings succeeded in grabbing my attention by advertising the piece as being cobalt, only to discover after looking at the picture that the piece was some other color with a tiny bit of blue used in trim. Such listings infuriate me. Yes, the dealer was being honest in the listing (sort of) and yes they were successful in their intention of having me read their listing, but to what end? If I'm looking for a piece in cobalt, a green piece with blue trim isn't going to make me want it any more than if I had seen the piece in a thumbnail and thought it was just green. To my way of thinking this practice smells of desperation. As the old saying goes, "desperation stinks."

Still another thing that bugs me is the liberal use of the word "vintage." Online "vintage" is eBay speak for a reproduction. Dealers of "vintage" know they can't describe the piece as being antique because clear deception is against eBay's rules and they know it's grounds for the buyer successfully receiving a refund. Describing it as "vintage" however is a bit more vague and only implies that it is antique.

An annoying term that is often used in combination with "vintage" is the phrase "fresh from an estate."  "Fresh from an estate" means nothing. Simply because something was previously owned makes no guarantee to it's age and dishonest dealers know it. I could buy something new today and die tomorrow. That would make the new object fresh from my estate. Does that make it an antique?
Another reason they use "fresh from an estate" is so they can claim ignorance about the piece. That's very convenient if the piece has been repaired or is a good reproduction.

As I've said many times before, you really need to use the utmost caution when buying online because you usually don't know the person you're buying from.
Where most listings are honest people trying to make a sale some dealers use the annonymity of the Internet to deceive people. Being aware of some of the tactics that dealers use to get your attention puts you ahead of the game.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Frogs, Frogs Frogs!

"Never try to catch two frogs with one hand."
--- Chinese Proverb

If you're trying to catch two majolica frogs with one hand, you may well have an easier time of it then the real thing as they are so plentiful. After my visit to the NYC Pier Show this weekend, where I saw what I think is the largest majolica frog in existence, I got to thinking about frogs. In fact, I can't think of a single animal that appears more frequently in majolica than the frog. Including the hundreds of Palissy pieces that feature them (and are too many in number to feature here), frogs are everywhere in majolica. 

Just about every manufacturer made something with frogs! Minton, Jones, Copeland, the Etruscan Works-- they all made pieces with them. So many exist that it seems fruitless to try and illustrate them all, so I'll do my best and just post a few of the more commonly seen examples.

Minton made four of the most desirable frog pieces found in majolica: this box of a frog sitting on a lily pad, this pitcher of a frog riding a fish, a sweetmeat compote and this frog creamer.

Both George Jones and Copeland made charming frog vases.

Jones also added frogs to the pitcher that forms part of their chestnut series.

Hugo Lonitz made a terrific terrine with a frog finial and cute little sweetmeat server.

Delphin Massier seems to have specialized in frogs. In addition to the giant figural cane stand I saw this weekend, Massier made this smaller version as a vase, as well as other frogs for various uses. They even made a frog teapot!

Other French companies also made frogs,

Then there is the large collection of smoking themed frogs...

and humidors.

Of course there are any number of frogs from both Continental and British manufacturers,--including one of my favorites, the frog on melon pitcher--that are otherwise hard to categorize.

So, if frogs tickle your fancy, there's a world of majolica frogs waiting for you... but I would use both hands!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

2012 NYC Spring Pier Antiques Show

This morning we had the pleasure of attending the opening of the NYC Spring Pier Antiques Show.
There was a wide variety of dealers from all over the world showing their wares as well as a nice selection of majolica in all price ranges.

The most impressive majolica display came from Britian's Nick and Martine Boston Antiques who displayed a wonderful group of high end majolica pieces. Among them was a gigantic Massier frog stick stand, a huge rooster from Boch Frère, a gorgeous Jones tea set and terrific Minton cherub riding a seahorse among a number of fine Palissy pieces.

Mars-Most had a selection of lovely affordable pieces including a great stack of Argenta Wedgwood fruit plates selling under $100 a piece!

Other things we saw include this nice pair of Wedgwood Argenta jardinières from ART in Brooklyn.

There was a beautiful Wedgwood Chrysanthemum Oyster plate from Matt Murphy Antiques...

... a beautiful Minton cat pitcher from a local dealer...

... and a scarce Etruscan Oak Fruit bowl as well. Other things we saw include a rare Etruscan Shell dessert stand and mustache cup, a Jones wicker and bamboo strawberry server, an impressive majolica lion and a set of Fielding multicolor oyster plates.

In fact, with so many dealers participating it was hard NOT to find majolica, with it scattered among other treasures, most of it quite reasonably priced.
There was certainly no lack of things to choose from for even the most finicky collector.

It was a fun show to attend. We can't wait for the Fall Pier Show!

The show runs through Sunday afternoon at Pier 94 in Manhattan.