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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017 Year End Wrap-Up

For the first time in ten years there appears to be an improvement in the antique market. While Victorian and earlier antiques remain fashionably outdated for the millennial home decor buying market there seems to be a small uptick in the popularity of older pieces–that is those that fall outside of the popular mid century ware that has dominated the market. This isn't to say that the popularity of the English and French country decor that supported the flourishing of the antique market during the past 35 years has returned because it hasn't, but the austerity of modern design has started to break.

I first noticed this while looking through Country Living Magazine's "40+ Elegant and Easy Thanksgiving Table Settings" last month. A number of table settings include antique china to compliment the modern china that make up the majority of the place settings. In Country Living's December "50+ Christmas Table Settings and Centerpieces." barely a piece of antique china  can be seen among the table settings, but antique china is starting to creep back into the rooms featuring the layouts. Antique glass, flow blue and Jadite appear in the display rooms. The sole use of antique china in the form of red transfer china can be seen in one of the table settings. Majolica, which used to dominate theses layouts, is nowhere to be seen. Country Living magazine declared exclusive antique spaces –as in mid century modern recreated spaces– as one of their "out" trends. They also declared that the popularity of neutrals such as beige and grey as another "out" trend with bright colors and jewel tones a new "in" trend. This supports the Pantone color forecast for 2018 which calls for cerulean blue, green, Tuscan red, violet, teal and turquoise to dominate 2018 decor.

The prices on antiques seem to have bottomed out. While the price of antiques are nowhere  near what it was before the financial collapse of 2007, the decline seems to have stopped. The recent adage "If it's brown it's down," still remains true for furniture but things may be turning around. Antique furniture has a significantly smaller market than it did just ten years ago but like everything else these prices are cyclical and are expected to rebound. Bloomberg encourages buying fancy English and French furniture right now for investment because of their current low prices.

Small antiques stores unfortunately seem to be going the way of mom and pop stores everywhere. Antique malls, auctions and online buying seem to be the wave of the future

The prices on majolica and other antique smalls has also finally steadied after ten years of relentless declines. A survey of general antiques auctions across the past few months support that conclusion. Specialty auctions have also become more competitive with good pieces bringing reasonable but not outrageous prices. Among smalls, antique art and jewelry still bring the highest prices in the secondary market with decorative arts at the low end.

So where does that take us in the individual markets going into 2018? Barring another recession or devastating national disaster the prices should continue to slowly climb upwards. English majolica continues to dominate the market as it always has but some American and French pieces have brought good prices this year as well.

George Jones and Minton majolica have dominated the English majolica market as they always have with Wedgwood and Holdcroft bringing up the rear. The correction of the market has finally made many of these pieces affordable again for the mid range collector. Animal bottles and pitchers continue their reign over the animal majolica market with prices remaining steady.  Humidors too remain popular with good prices across the board. The market for match strikers, butter pats and smokers has largely collapsed.

In all, things are looking good at this point in time for collectors. Bargains are available and this is the time to take advantage of the low prices and strong availability.