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

Monday, May 16, 2016

The State of the Majolica Market c.1993

A friend of ours emailed us an article he found in an old newsletter, Kovel's on Antiques and Collectibles from August 1993. The article was titled "The Majolica Market" and read as follows:

"Victorian majolica brought prices ranging from $11 for a pond-lily butter pat to $2,310 for a Minton game pie dish at an all-majolica auction held in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Majolica is riding a new wave of popularity that began about 20 years ago. In the late 19th century, English potteries such as Minton, Wedgwood, and George Jones had a hard time keeping up with demand. American makers, including Edwin Bennett and Griffen, Smith & Hill, adapted English designs and created new ones. Then tastes changed. Majolica fell into disfavor and was virtually ignored until the late 1970s. Then it was rediscovered, books were written, and prices soared. The market for majolica continues to be strong, according to auctioneer Michael Strawser. Prices were high despite the fact that this was a consignment auction, not a famous collection, and that many pieces had chips, cracks, or repairs. (Majolica is fragile. Complicated designs are seldom found in mint condition.) He says interest in majolica is still climbing. There was a 50 percent increase in attendance at the Majolica International Society convention this year. Strawser says Etruscan majolica by Griffen, Smith & Hill sold especially well. An Etruscan Shell & Seaweed teapot, mint, brought $1,815 . Etruscan swan cheese keeper, pink background, (minor hairline), 8 in., $1,980. Etruscan sardine box with underplate, cobalt, $1,100. 

One of the illustrations that accompanied the Warman's article.

Typical pieces from the auction are illustrated. Other top lots: George Jones footed strawberry server with large and small decorated baskets, and 7 ½-in  and 4 ½ -in. spoons, $1,980. Minton Chinaman teapot, (chips restored), $1,925. Minton garden seat, cobalt with white, 1876, 18 in. h., $1,925. Minton cobalt wine cooler with cherubs, 10 ½ in., mint, $1,760 . Minton cachepot and underplate, Daisy and Wicker, 15-in. plate, 14 -in . pot, turquoise with green, pink and white, pink interior, (repair), $1,550. 

Additional prices: Cobalt urn with twig handles, yellow and pink applied flowers, leaves, birds, and snake, (some damage), 11 ¼ in. h. by 14 in. diam., $220. Wedgwood umbrella stand, hexagonal, sunflower design, gray, turquoise, $275. George Jones pieces: Cheese dome, picket fence and floral design on brown background, pink flowers, green leaves, lavender interior, 7 ½ in. by 10 ¼ in. diam., $1,430. Vase, lavender with white and red daffodils, green leaves, $1,375 . Cheese dome, apple blossom and woven fence, green/turquoise background, pink flowers, twig handle, 10 ½ in. h. by 10 ½ in. diam., $1,870."

We found it fascinating to view this window into the recent past. In 1993 we were relatively newcomers to the majolica market having only sold the pottery for about five years. The auction mentioned in the article was coordinated to run in tandem with the 1993 Majolica International Society Convention held in April of that year in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Majolica was one of the hottest trends in decorating at the time, a trend that had begun around ten years earlier. Prices had begun to skyrocket. They would not reach their peak until 2006-2007 before the pottery basically priced itself out of the market. With the economy correction of 2008, majolica returned to levels at or below these of 1993. 

Old articles like this give us an interesting view into the development of a market. All antiques go through these cycles. This one shows us the majolica market in the upswing of the most recent cycle.