Monday, September 7, 2015

Collecting Weller Pottery Fruitone: A Difficult Challenge

Today there are thousands of collectors of vintage and antique Weller Pottery. Many collect figurines, others collect Hudson, and still others collect just rare pieces. It seems as if the Weller Pottery Company made something for everyone. But one of the most difficult and overlooked patterns is also one about which very little is known. That line is known as Fruitone.

Weller Pottery Fruitone Jardiniere, 5 1/4" Tall: Two Colors

The exact dates of production are lost to history, but from the manufacturers marks found on most pieces the current estimate is somewhere around 1915. There are currently no known catalogs, so it is still unknown how many shapes were available. Judging by the typical number in a line and the number of examples available, they probably offered a dozen or so. It could not have been very popular at the time, and would have not been produced for more than a year or so. The forms are simple arts and crafts designs, typical of what was being demanded by customers at the time.

Weller Pottery Fruitone small vase, 5" High: Four Colors

However, it is not the shapes that draw collectors. It is the wonderful striated glaze. Each piece is typically glazed in multiple colors: usually blue to green to tan, and brown, and maroon. Each color blends directly into the next, creating a glaze scheme that is unique among all American art pottery companies. Some pieces may only have two or three colors, but the most desirable will have upwards of five. It is a matt glaze, but with a smooth surface, very similar to a vellum glaze. It is soft to the touch, and is immediately recognizable to collectors.

Weller Pottery Fruitone Flared Gourd Vase, 6" : Three Colors

The majority of the pieces appear to be less than six inches, but the tallest documented to date is a thin bud vase standing just over eleven inches tall. The forms known to exist are vases, jardinieres, and bowls. Each piece tends to be slightly different as if hand-made, which is in perfect keeping with the arts and crafts style of the period. Lips will be irregular, the vase may lean, and no two pieces will ever have the identical glazing.  Each piece is in it's own way unique.

Weller Pottery Fruitone Bullet Vase, 8" Tall: Five Colors

Unlike many other Weller Pottery lines, these are exceedingly difficult to locate. In four years of attending art pottery auctions and searching antique malls we have only found one piece. You can occasionally find a piece or two for sale on the Internet but the prices can be rather high. The difficulty of collecting this line can be made even more frustrating because a similar line was produced decades later by Weller Pottery. The Evergreen line was produced in the late 1930's for a short time, but although it had a similar striated pattern, the colors were primarily greens, and the glaze was often softened by airbrushing techniques. The Weller Pottery Fruitone pattern will never display evidence of airbrushing whatsoever.

Weller Pottery Fruitone with Weller Mark on the Bottom

The Fruitone pattern is not always marked, but often it can be found with a die-impressed trademark on the bottom. It is also important to note the distinctive bubbled glaze on the bottom heel that is often wheel ground by the factory so that the piece will stand flat. This bubbled glaze on the heel is found on every piece of fruitone. Also, stilt-pulls from the tripods used in the kilns often touch one of the edges, causing what appears to be a chip as in the image above. This is a factory defect found on nearly all pieces, and should not detract from the value or collectibility.

Collecting Antique Weller Pottery Fruitone pattern can be very frustrating, and can take years to acquire just a handful. But even a small collection will draw attention, and bring pleasure and warmth to your decor. You can learn more about collecting Weller at the Weller Collectors Group.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Roseville Wincraft: Magnificent Mid-century Modern

The Roseville Pottery Company was flirting with bankruptcy in 1948, and indeed, they would shut their doors forever just six years later in 1954. Cheap imports from the pacific rim were wrecking their margins, and the style that had defined Roseville Pottery for decades was falling out of favor. It was in that environment that the Wincraft line was born.

Roseville Pottery Wincraft Vase shape 284-10

The pattern was taken from the name of the president of the company, Robert Windisch. He was looking for a new direction and a new look, and so he turned to Frank Ferrell to create a product more in line with the popular mid-century modern look. Frank created a total of 51 pieces, drawing on elements from throughout the history of Roseville Pottery. Collecting Wincraft can be almost be like collecting a microcosm of their designs. Although Frank initially intended the Wincraft line to be glazed in a semi-matt, he was over-ruled and for the first time a new thick high-glaze was used. This gave the pieces the appearance of being encased in glass, similar to pieces being produced at the time by Royal Haeger. It came in three color schemes: Azure Blue, Apricot, and Chartreuse. Commercially the Wincraft line was a flop. Merchants who traditionally sold Roseville complained that customers who normally bought Roseville could not even recognize the new glaze as Roseville, and sales plummeted.

In the intervening decades after they went bankrupt, Roseville pottery designs went out of style, and most of the existing pieces were either thrown out, broken, or sold at yard sales for ten to 15 cents. But in the late 1980's collectors of vintage and antique American art pottery rediscovered Roseville, and prices soared. They continued rising until around 2007, when the American economy tanked, and along with it much of the collectible market. But Wincraft followed it's own path. Indeed, Wincraft prices did increase somewhat with the interest in Roseville, but this particular pattern never garnered a great deal of collector interest. No one was really interested in mid-century modern style, and in fact, the flea markets and antique stores remained full of similar items. The greatest prices were paid for Art Deco and Arts and Crafts styles, mid century modern was just too current to appear valuable or collectible.

Roseville Pottery Wincraft Panther Vase, 290-11

There were two exceptions to the rule which are the Panther Vase (290-11) and the Cactus Basket (210-12). There are few examples of either, and both have been in high demand since the initial Roseville pottery revival. There are other pieces even harder to find, but with little interest their prices languished.

Roseville Wincraft Long Basket, 209-12

In the intervening years since 2007, tastes are once again changing. Many collectors have lost interest in the typical later-line Roseville Pottery patterns such as Zephyr Lily, Magnolia, or Apple Blossom. But interest has never been stronger for Roseville Wincraft. The sweeping, almost art deco lines incorporated with organic shapes, colors and glaze so typical of mid-century modern create an almost perfect storm to catch the eye of collectors. Just a few years ago these pieces languished in antique stores, but today they are hard to find. Few were sold originally, even fewer were preserved. The combination of rarity and desirability are quickly driving prices.

Large Roseville Wincraft Octagonal Bowl, 233-14

A perfect example of a truly rare piece is the Large Octagonal Bowl 233-14. There may not be more than 2-3 in existence. Only one is known to the author, and it's path can be traced back through three auctions since 2007.

Roseville Wincraft trial glaze vase, 283-8

Of course, if you are looking to the rarest of the rare, it is possible to find Wincraft pieces in a variety of trial glazes. Each piece is likely unique and it is hard to assign a value to such things. The pink and gray glazed piece above is a perfect example.

Although slowly rising, prices of Roseville Wincraft pattern will only increase as the interest in mid-century modern expands. If you are interested in putting together a collection, you should probably consider picking them up sooner rather than later.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Frank Ferrell: Forgotten Master of American Art Pottery

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the American pottery movement exploded upon the scene, centered in Zanesville and Cincinatti, Ohio. Originally based upon simple and utilitarian designs, pottery companies began expanding their lines to include art pottery, generally notable for the artwork performed on the pieces, or for the novel glaze treatments. It was not until the dawn of the 20th Century that pottery companies began to explore the pottery from a sculpture perspective, as opposed to simply a blank slate to be painted upon. Leading this movement from behind the scenes was Frank L.D. Ferrell.

Photograph of Frank Ferrel from 1925

Frank Ferrell was born in Zanesville, Ohio, on May 22, 1878. It is believed that he began working at Weller Pottery around the age of 16 or so, in 1894. At the Weller Pottery Company he would perform underslip decoration of pottery for the Louwelsa line. He left Weller in 1905.

Shortly thereafter, Frank went to the J.B.Owens Company, where he assisted them in producing the same basic pieces which he had previously decorated for Weller. His employment was short lived, and by 1908 he opened his first studio in Zanesville and called it Ferock Pottery.

1908 Ferock Pottery Vase by Frank Ferrell

His Ferock Pottery was thrown from clay from the North Dakota School of Mines, and it was here that he first experimented with sculpting pottery rather than just decorating established shapes. His pottery failed to become a commercial success, however, his unique designs caught the attention of Peters and Reed, an established commercial venture. In 1912, he began designing for Peters and Reed, where he created his first commercial art line, Moss Aztec.

Peters and Reed Moss Aztec Vase

The Moss Aztec line was very successful, and produced until 1926. The variety of designs and the deep sculpted details made it an instant hit. On selected pieces of  Moss Aztec Ferrell's signature can be found, a practice frowned upon by potteries of the period.

Franks signature "Ferrell" molded into a tall vase

By 1918 Frank had moved on to Roseville Pottery, where he would remain as art director for the rest of his career. The Roseville Pottery company had been quite successful under the direction of Frederick and Harry Rhead, however their styles tended towards European tastes. This allowed them to win many international awards, but by 1918 they saw the value of Arts and Crafts designs such as Moss Aztec. Frank Ferrell went to work immediately, creating the Sylvan line within a few months. From this point until 1952 every piece of Roseville pottery was designed by Frank Ferrell. Many consider his Art Deco work on the Futura line in 1928 to be his best work, and indeed they tend to be the most prized by collectors of vintage and antique art pottery.

Collection of Roseville Pottery Futura line from 1928

By 1935 most of the art pottery companies were closing their doors and going bankrupt due to the great depression. Even Roseville pottery was not immune, and they were barely keeping their doors open. It was in this environment that Frank Ferrell created the highest selling line from any American pottery, the Pine Cone line.

Variety of Roseville pots, Pinecone on the right

The Roseville Pottery Pinecone line was a phenomenal success, selling hundreds of thousands and saving the firm from certain failure. Today there are more collectors of Roseville pinecone than just about any other line.

Frank Ferrell died in Zanesville at the age of 83 on August 10, 1961. His legacy of pottery forms is in the many thousands, he inspired whole generations of potters, and he changed the industry forever. Although his signature rarely is seen on his work, the stamp of his creative genius shines on each and every piece.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Roseville Pottery Buyers Guide: Where to get it.

Roseville Pottery Sources

When you get the bug to collect Roseville Pottery, you quickly find that there are many sources you can use to obtain pieces. For decades it was widely available at garage sales or flea markets, often for less than a dollar per piece. In these days of the Internet it is rarely found at garage sales any longer. It can still be found occasionally at flea markets, but nowadays the four main sources are Ebay, Internet stores, estate auctions, and antique stores.  Here is a comparison of the four.

Antique Stores

Antique stores used to be the main way to get Roseville Pottery. When people speak of "Retail Prices" these are the prices quoted. For years people have combed the antique stores for cheaply priced Roseville Pottery but it has been all purchased long ago. Today, most antique stores and malls are what we like to call "The places that pottery goes to die." They rarely ever revise their prices, and pieces just sit there on cabinets for years and years. Pretty much all that you can find are common pieces with tags on them with the ink so faded you can barely make out the price. If you can read the price, it will shock you since it was originally written 12 years ago when that little Snowberry vase could actually command that $280 price. Antique malls are even worse, as any time a vendor puts up a piece for cheap it will get scooped up the next day by another vendor who will slap on an additional 10% and then put it into their case for sale. This process repeats until every piece is overpriced and just sits there. The only real saving grace is that you can actually inspect the piece closely for chips, cracks, repairs, and crazing before purchasing.

Estate Auctions

Estate auctions are a good source of Roseville Pottery, but it takes a lot of time and effort to collect this way. Unless you live in Ohio you will probably not find many auctions near you that have significant amounts. And make no mistake, auctions are tough and not for the faint of heart. If you do find an auction, make certain you show up early giving you plenty of time to inspect every single piece you may wish to bid on. Do not make the false assumption that no one there will know what it is worth... there will probably be at least a dozen resellers there looking to fill their shelves. The good news is, resellers pay very tight attention to their margins. They will not pay anywhere near retail, and they can be easily outbid by a collector since they are there for the great deals, not just good deals. However, you will not be the only collector there. Roseville auctions draw Roseville collectors... and there are usually plenty. The good news is, one may only collect Pinecone, and will not even bid on the snowberry. So you can sometimes add quite a bit to your collection, especially if you collect a pattern not usually collected by others. The real downside is that a tremendous percentage of Roseville Pottery at estate auctions  are chipped, cracked, or repaired in one form or another. You must have a sharp eye sometimes to spot the issues, and since there are no returns it can be devastating to bring a piece home, begin to clean it, and find the color peeling off from a repair that you missed. Your competition will be very experienced in spotting repairs, so if the bidding for that Sunflower piece is stalled at $25 you should be suspecting trouble. There are however occasionally great deals for those with patience and perseverance.


At first it seems so simple. You just sit in your Florida room by the pool with your laptop, browse for what you want, find the best deal and in a few clicks it is on the way. But make no mistake, the Ebay is fraught with traps and perils. Most of the Roseville Pottery sold on the Internet is sold on Ebay. It is likely that over 95% of the pieces purchased each day are sold there. At any given time there are seven or eight thousand pieces for sale there. Any shape, any color, any pattern, they are generally all there. And the prices are all over the place, you can find the same piece from everywhere from $49 to $490. There are hundreds of sellers, from a kid selling stuff for his grandmother, to resellers from estate sales, to experts that specialize is Roseville Pottery. But worst of all, there are scammers who sell chipped, cracked, or restored pieces that they know full well are substandard yet they claim that they are mint. They actually do quite well, selling junk for mint prices and most of the time people just keep them instead of returning them. We recently purchased a collection from a gentleman who had been collecting Zephyr Lily by buying it on ebay. Sadly, 90% of it was chipped, cracked, or restored, and he claimed that all of it had been advertised as "mint", he just could not tell the difference when he received it. There are actually a dozen or so experts who do a great job of describing the condition, and are very reputable. Unfortunately, they are rarely the lowest prices. It takes time to determine the reputable and fair from the crooks and scoundrels, and you may spend lots of time and money sending pieces back for refunds trying to sort them out.

Internet Stores

Once you move past ebay, there are still dozens of other online stores that offer Roseville Pottery for sale. Some are similar to antique malls where many vendors offer pieces under a single website, others are owned by individuals or are family businesses. Some specialize in Roseville, others in general pottery, and still others throw a wider net and sell a variety of vintage or antique items. We have found these to be the most reliable and reasonable places to obtain collectibles. Contrary to what the television commercials may say, it takes a huge investment to build and operate an independent website, and unless you provide consistent quality and customer service you will not last long. Their prices are often quite competitive, and they will usually bend over backwards to provide good customer service. They live or die off of repeat business and word of mouth. If you are looking to put together a collection of Roseville Pottery, these independent websites could be your best bet.


Collecting Roseville Pottery can be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby, one that is pursued by thousands of people across the nation. There is much to learn when it comes to collecting, but hopefully this article was able to give you a good start.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Guide to Collecting Weller Silvertone Pottery


It is known that the S.A. Weller Company produced the Silvertone line throughout the 1920's in Zanesville, Ohio. Unfortunately, a full list of all shapes and designs are yet to be discovered. It seems like every year a new and unknown piece comes to light, sparking interest in collectors everywhere. There are over 30 shapes known, and many more designs, making it challenging and fun line to collect.

Weller Silvertone Calla Lily Vase

Silvertone designs

The backgrounds are typically textured in shades of grey, blue, and white, creating aesthetically pleasing palette for the many designs that adorn them.The various flowers found on Weller Silvertone include calla lily, daisies, hydrangea, irises, roses, cherry blossoms, magnolia, chrysanthemums, dogwood, thistle, poppies, lilies, and more. The calla lily, daisy, and roses appear more common, while dogwood and thistle appear less often. Occasionally pieces are found decorated with butterfly's or other garden insects, and are considered rare. All of the Weller Silvertone pieces are hand painted with a semi-matt glaze. The shapes run the full gamut, including vases, baskets, bowls, compotes, candlesticks, baskets, flower frogs, and wall pockets.

Weller Silvertone Basket with Magnolias

Marks and Tags

Weller Silvertone is never impressed in the base clay with a Weller mark or signature. Silver foil labels were often applied at the factory identifying it as a Weller product, but these labels have usually fallen off and disappeared over the intervening decades. In rare instances pieces can be found with artist signatures or initials under the glaze in an inconspicuous place, usually very small, but never on the bottom of the foot.

Weller Silvertone Vase with Poppies

What makes a piece exceptional?

Collectors of Weller Silvertone are a rather picky lot. It is very difficult to sell nearly any piece of Weller Silvertone if it is damaged or repaired. Likewise, the glazes used were quite resilient, and not very susceptible to crazing. Crazed pieces will only command a fraction of the value of an uncrazed piece. Also, being a very picky group, they pay more attention to the sharpness of the mold than collectors of most other pottery. When the molds are first used, the designs are crisp and sharp, and as more and more pieces are produced the designs slowly get blurred and less defined. Collectors seek out those with sharp molds and brilliant colors, as well as unusual shapes and designs.


Collecting Weller Silvertone, or any other Vintage Weller Pottery can provide an amazing display in your home or office, and it can be quite challenging. For decades after such pottery fell out of favor it was often just thrown in the trash when moving, or sold at flea markets for 5 or 10 cents. It was considered almost disposable, and so often it was simply disposed of. It was not until the 1990's that collectors rediscovered Weller pottery lines, and now these pieces can be rare and difficult to obtain. Prices have been steadily rising for this interesting and collectible line, as more and more vanish from the market into private collections. For more information on Weller pottery, visit the online Weller Pottery resource page, or join the Weller Collectors Group.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Roseville Pottery Proper Color Names

Most of the Roseville Pottery lines from around 1930 until they closed in 1953 came in three distinct color themes. They are often referred to by the main background color such as Red, Pink, Blue, etc. However, unknown to many collectors, around 1940 Roseville began giving proper names to the colors, and expressed them in advertisements. Below is a short list of 15 pottery lines and the color names as given by Roseville.

White Rose     1940   Coral         Autumn Brown   Sea Blue
Columbine      1940   Red           Sand Brown     Frost Blue
Bushberry      1941   Blue          Green          Orange
Peony          1942   Coral         Sienna Brown   Nile Green
Water Lily     1943   Rose          Walnut Brown   Ciel Blue
Clematis       1944   Forest Green  Autumn Brown   Ciel Blue
Freesia        1945   Tangerine     Delft Blue     Tropical Green
Zephyr Lily    1946   Sienna        Bermuda Blue   Evergreen
Snowberry      1947   Dusty Rose    Persian Blue   Fern Green
Apple Blossom  1948   Coral         Aqua Blue      Apple Green
Wincraft       1948   Apricot       Azure Blue     Chartreuse
Ming Tree      1949   Temple White  Jade green     Celestial Blue
Artwood        1951   Stone Gray    Poppy Yellow   Emerald Green
Bittersweet    1951   Dawn Gray     Marsh Green    Saffron Yellow
Capri          1952   Cactus Green  Metallic Red   Sandlewood Yellow
Raymor was introduced in 1952 with five colors: Beach Gray, Terra Cotta, Avacado Green, Autumn Brown, and Contemporary White. They later added Burmese (Black), Spring Gray, and Gold.

This list can be very useful when you have Roseville Pottery for sale. Having the ability to identify the correct color name makes you appear more knowledgeable about the pieces you wish to sell, and increases the chance of a sale. If you discover other given names, please let us know so that we can expand this list.

Ming Tree Ad listing proper color names.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Roseville Apple Blossom Experimental Prototype 385-8

In 1948, the Roseville Pottery Company introduced their Apple Blossom line. There were 45 shapes listed in the catalogs, in three color schemes: Coral, Aqua Blue, and Apple Green. It was produced for several years, and is considered a common later period line with moderate collector interest. They can easily be found in many antique malls, flea markets, and auctions, and the pieces generally do not command very high prices. This makes it a good entry-level pattern for collectors looking for Roseville pottery for sale.

When creating a new line, Roseville Pottery would first produce a range of variations in both shape and color scheme, usually only one of each variation, and then go through a process of determining which color scheme or design to use. These "one-off" pieces were never made available for sale, and most were destroyed. They were simply test pieces that at the time had no value. This article will examine once such item, a prototype vase from the Apple Blossom line, 385-8.

The picture on the left is an experimental prototype for the 385-8 shape, and the picture on the right shows the vase as produced in 1948. Note the brighter color of the background glaze, the richer details on the flowers, as well as the additional leaves and buds. Also, the flowers are yellow with pink details on the prototype, whereas the production vase displays simply white with coral centers.

On the reverse, the differences are even more striking. Instead of just a simple pair of flowers, there is a large flourish of them, and an addition of several more leaves.We may never know the reason why the choice was made to reduce so many components of the design, but it was likely done to keep production costs lower. Regardless, the actual production piece looks clumsy by comparison.

On the base we find the expected "Roseville USA" and the shape number 385-8, but also additional annotations written in crayon under the glaze. The 8-34-108 are probably the colors used on this piece, and the 407 6038 might be the trial designation. Also in very small pencil letters is a catalog number from a rather large collection, the Monsen-Baer collection. This piece is likely unique, and was last sold at a Humler  & Nolan auction on March 7, 2015. Any collector of the Roseville Apple Blossom pattern would be proud to display such a rare and important piece in their collection, but in the end, only one collector can.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Collector Guide to Fenton Opalescent Coin Dot

Fenton Coin Dot Hats
Four of the five Fenton Coin Dot colors. Which one is missing?
The Fenton Art Glass Company was founded in 1905, and is still in business today. They produce very limited quantities of art glass, but in their heyday they were considered a household name. Fenton glass was a staple of American household decor for decades before cheap imports from the Pacific rim in the 1970's nearly drove them to bankruptcy. Throughout their history they produced a wide variety of glass wares, from the mundane to the exquisite. There are Fenton collectors for nearly every style and design produced, with some pieces commanding high prices due to relative rarity, and others available for just a few dollars.
One of the most popular of the vintage lines with high collector interest is the Opalescent Coin Dot. It first appeared in the catalogs in 1947, and some types are still being re-issued today. It is technically a copy of a Victorian glass pattern known as "Polka-Dot", but Fenton displayed it's flair with their own unique shapes. The Victorian pieces are easily identified by having a polished pontil, whereas Fenton pieces do not. The Victorian pieces are nearly impossible to find, but the Fenton pieces sell every day at auctions, flea markets and online stores. With a variety of colors and shapes, the Opalescent Coin Dot line can provide collectors with a stunning display.

The Five Opalescent Colors
Most of the Fenton Opalescent Coin Dot pieces have a single basic commonality; they each are composed of a colored glass cased in a milky-white French Opalescence. The only exception is the Green and Lime Opalescent line. The 1947 Coin Dot catalog outlines the original three colors, and the other two were added later. There are still persistent rumors of test pieces made in additional color combinations, but as yet none have been verified.

Fenton Cranberry red Coin Dot
Cranberry Red Coin Dot, shape #1925 
Cranberry Red Opalescent Coin Dot
Showcased in the 1947 catalog, Cranberry Red was by far the most popular, and remains so today. The original 27 shapes were supplemented over the years, and the Cranberry Red was produced steadily until 1964. Fenton reintroduced the line in the 1980's but the colors were more muted. The reissued pieces are easy to identify because they bear the "Fenton" name impressed in the bottom of the base, whereas the original pieces were unmarked. The Cranberry Red color was created by mixing gold into the glass, and so was a bit more expensive to produce than the other colors.

Fenton French Opalescent Coin Dot
French Opalescent Coin Dot shape #189.
French Opalescent Coin Dot
Also in the 1947 catalog was the French Opalescent Coin Dot, a milky-white over clear glass. It produced an amazing effect where each of the dots reflected several of the others like a lens, giving it the illusion of having a multitude of dots within each dot. Production on this color ended in 1950, making it far less common than the Cranberry Red. It is difficult to find, but can be dazzling to display with the correct lighting. Collector interest in this line has been rising steadily, partly because theirs pieces can accent just about any decor. Over the years they have become harder and harder to find.

Blue Opalescent Coin Dot
Blue Opalescent Coin Dot, shape #194.
Blue Opalescent Coin Dot
The third color in the 1947 catalog was Blue Opalescent. The french opalescent casing covered a very pale blue body, and did not provide a great deal of contrast. After 1950, various shapes began to be dropped from production, until in 1954 the entire color was discontinued. The color did not sell well compared to the others, and even today collector interest is lukewarm. However, the supply is rather limited as well so they can sometimes be rather pricey to obtain.

Fenton Coin Dot Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle Coin Dot , shape #203.
Honeysuckle Opalescent Coin Dot
In 1948, Fenton released a new color of Opalescent Coin Dot called Honeysuckle. With french opalescent over a light amber core, it did not sell well at all, and was only produced in 1948 and 1949. Honeysuckle is quite hard to locate and although collector interest is fairly low when compared to the more common colors, these pieces can command high prices when they come to auction.

Lime and Green Coin Dot
Lime and Green Coin Dot, shape #454.
Green and Lime Opalescent Coin Dot
In 1952 Fenton produced the final color, the Green and Lime Opalescent. Produced until 1954, it is the pariah of the Opalescent Coin Dot. It was initially released with a pale blue casing instead of the milky french opalescent. The core was a bright lime color, creating a clashing and very busy-looking image. This was changed within the first year back to the standard french opalescent casing. Dealers sometimes see this color and assume it is uranium glass or Vaseline glass, but it is simply green glass because the production of uranium and vaseline glass was illegal in the United States between 1943 and 1958. All of the Green and Lime Coin Dot was produced during this ban. Finding these pieces can become a lifetime journey as the line was a financial failure with very poor sales. The few surviving pieces cased in blue are in private collections and rarely come up for sale.

Care of your Fenton Glass
There are a wide variety of chemicals and cleaners that can be damaging to most glass, and this especially true of Fenton. Improper exposure to many common cleaners over time can cause the clarity to suffer, a condition often referred to as "Sick Glass".
Warm, soapy water and clean cloth are the best friends a piece of Fenton art glass can have. Never use kitchen cleaners, vinegar, bleaches, or ammonia. Lightly clean in warm, soapy water, rinse with warm water, and dry with a lint-free cloth and your Fenton art glass will remain brilliant and beautiful for generations to come.


Collectors of vintage Fenton art glass are almost universally aware of the Cranberry Red and the Coin Dot, and any auction that features them will fill the house with bidders. However, being knowledgeable about the variety of Coin Dot colors and shapes available give collectors an opportunity to expand the range of their collections. A Coin Dot collection should display as many of the five colors as possible to provide a visual experience that is far superior to just the common Fenton Cranberry. Perhaps there is a Green and Lime piece at the next auction just waiting for you!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Collector Guide to Roseville Pottery Zephyr Lily Pattern

Roseville Zephyr Lily vase 135-9
The Roseville Pottery created ceramic art pottery from 1892 until 1954, most of that time in Zanesville, Ohio. They produced many lines that sold across the country and abroad, and were a household name for over 50 years. For decades after their bankruptcy, Roseville pottery could be obtained for almost nothing at flea markets and garage sales, with most pieces selling for less than a dollar each. In the late 1970's, a new generation with a nostalgic attitude began collecting vintage Roseville Pottery they remembered from their parents, and a new hobby was born. Prices reached amazing heights in the turn of the new century, but crashed around 2003 when the internet made it easier to find and obtain previously scarce pieces. With prices now much more reasonable, it is much easier to put together a respectable collection. We will examine the Zephyr Lily pattern, a very common and popular line that has a strong collector base as well as supply.

Evergreen Zephyr Lily vase 206-7

Sienna Zephyr Lily vase 206-7

Bermuda Blue Zephyr Lily vase 206-7
The Zephyr Lily Colors and Marks
The Zephyr Lily pattern was first introduced by Roseville in 1946, and is considered a late period line. Roseville had for decades produced line after line, each named for a particular flower, and in a variety of colors. They generally used three sets of two colors each, and this served two purposes. The first was to ensure that no matter the color theme of a customer's decor, they would have something which would match. Secondly, they provided a seasonal feel, so that a customer could change out their decor with the changing of the seasons.
The Zephyr Lily pattern came in three distinct color themes. There is the "Bermuda Blue", designed for summer, which transitions from a very deep blue to a pale blue, there is Sienna, designed for fall which transitions from a burnt sienna to a pale orange, and there is "Evergreen", designed for spring which transitions a very dark green to a pale light green. The flowers themselves came in four colors, white, yellow, rose, and lavender. While there appears to be no system which will predict which colored flower will appear on a particular piece, the same shape with the same background colors will always have identical colors for the flowers that every other one does. A piece may have four flowers, each a different color, but so will every other piece of the same mold with the same background color. No other background colors or flower colors were ever used, so if you find a vase with a white background and purple zephyr lily flowers you have a problem.
Each piece of Zephyr Lily has raised marks on the underside reading "Roseville", "USA", and a shape number. There are a few exceptions, such as the ashtray which is unmarked. The second part of most shape number is an approximate size of the largest dimension in inches. It was not unusual for the actual measurement to be off by a half inch either way, but since the pieces were molded, if one particular vase was off by a half an inch, then all of them with the same shape number were.

Roseville Zephyr Lily Shapes
According to Roseville records, there were 51 different shapes offered for sale. Considering that each was done in all three background colors, it comes to 153 unique pieces for a collector to obtain. The following is a list of the known shape numbers:
393-7 basket
394-8 basket
395-10 basket
470-5 bowl, tall 2-handles
471-6 bowl, tall 2-handles
472-6 bowl, low
473-6 bowl, with pedestal base
474-8 bowl, low
475-10 bowl, console
476-10 bowl, low
478-12 bowl, console
479-14 bowl, console
1162-2 candle holder
1163-4.5 candle holder
8-10 compote
5-8 cookie jar
203-6 cornucopia
204-8 cornucopia
7-C creamer
22-6 ewer
23-10 ewer
24-15 ewer
672-5 flower pot
472-5 hanging basket
671-4 jardiniere
671-6 jardiniere
671-8 jardiniere
671-8 pedestal
477-12 tray
478-14 tray
130-6 vase, 2-handled
131-7 vase, 2-handles on base
132-7 vase, 2-handles on base
133-8 vase, 2-handles on base
134-8 vase, urn, 2-handles on top
135-9 vase, 2-handles on sides
136-9 vase, 2-handles on base
137-10 vase, 2-handled
138-10 vase, 2-handled
139-12 vase, 2-handles on base
140-12 vase, 2 handled
141-15 floor vase
142-18 floor vase
201-7 bud vase
202-8 vase, urn, 2-handles on top
205-6 vase, "V"-shaped
206-7 vase, three holes in top
1297-8 wall pocket
1393-8 window box
*The ashtray is unmarked

Fake Zephyr Lily. Note the almost uniform color of the background, and crude painting of stems and leaves.

Correct raised marks. Note the yellowish color of the unglazed circular heel.
Spotting Damage, Repairs, and Fakes
In it's heyday, Roseville Zephyr Lily pieces could command amazing prices, and so naturally many damaged pieces were repaired. It used to be easy to spot these repairs with a black light, but today materials are used which can fool that test. When examining a piece, always remember that the Zephyr Lily pattern has a dull finish. If if has a glossy and high-shine finish, it has probably been over-sprayed. Zephyr Lily can be safely cleaned with warm soap and water, and many times this over-spray will peel off when being cleaned like a snake shedding it's skin. You can also safely use common kitchen cleaners such as 409 that will cause many repairs to melt off. You can also scrub them lightly with a non-scratch scrubby pad, but never use metal steel wool or SOS pads. If there are repairs they will usually just peel right off with light scrubbing. Don't kid yourself: a very large percentage of the time when people sell pieces "as-is" they are repaired. We have been to auctions where there were dozens and dozens of Roseville pieces, and found every single one to have been repaired. Although a practiced eye can usually detect the repairs with a bright light and magnification, even the best get fooled occasionally. Always purchase from dealers with strong reputations who will accept returns.
For the last 20 years there have been Zephyr Lily reproduction pieces produced in China available on the market. They cannot fool a practiced eye, but can certainly fool the novice. The first clue is that on the bottom, the clay will usually be a brilliant white instead of the yellow Ohio clay. The second clue is that the colors are usually off by quite a bit, as are the details. Lastly, the "Roseville" signature on the bottom is not correct. They pop up here and there at auctions, but most collectors see them immediately for what they are. We see them less and less as most auction participants call them out for what they are, but be aware they do exist.
Always look carefully at pieces for chips, cracks, and damage. A small "fleabite" can be the difference between a great piece and one that is almost valueless. Check the edge of the base all of the way around, the rim at the top, and try to look inside for any cracks. Then examine the edges of the handles for chips, and especially cracks where handles meet the main form. The ones that we usually miss are on the flowers themselves, but the Zephyr Lily pattern has smoother flowers than most so they rarely get damaged.
The Zephyr Lily pattern seems to be nearly immune to crazing, we rarely see crazed pieces come up. I would steer clear of any crazed piece since there is an abundance of uncrazed pieces available.
Many patterns such as Pinecone were run in molds so many times that you can find examples with nearly every detail smoothed. This is known as "bad mold" or "poor mold". While in the Zephyr Lily pattern some molds are sharper than others, I am yet to see a produced piece that I would consider a "poor mold". They must have become more diligent in changing the molds in the 1940's, so this is not normally a concern with this pattern.

The Roseville Pottery Zephyr Lily pattern is popular with collectors, and armed with a little knowledge it can be a fun collection for you as well. Take your time, learn about the shapes and the colors, learn to spot the bad apples, and you will soon amass a beautiful collection to be proud of!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Guide to Collecting Early Rookwood Pottery

Early Rookwood Pottery advertising tile.
The Rookwood Pottery Company was founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since their inception, the company continued to produce innovative art pottery for over 100 years. Always striving to stay ahead of current trends, their styles changed with the times, new lines being created and old ones being retired. Although they created an almost mind-boggling assortment of pieces, most collectors know very little about the earliest of Rookwood art pottery. In this article we shall explore the various lines, styles, and artists who created these early wares, and help set Rookwood Pottery on it's journey.

Early Limoges Rookwood pottery vase with fish.
Limoges and Cincinnati Faience
When the Rookwood Pottery began, they were considered the primary innovator of under-glaze painting, which is a process of applying various colored clay as a palette and painting it onto a piece of pottery before applying the final glaze. Their early work was referred to as both "Limoges" from the region in France which had pioneered the process, and as "Cincinnati Faience" in an attempt to differentiate it. The Cincinnati Faience style was usually produced on hand-thrown pieces, often carved and incised, with very thick decoration under the glaze. Some people refer to this work as "Halloween Rookwood" due to the subject matter, which often shows various grotesque insects, birds, dragons, fish, bats, spiders, spiderwebs, and nets. Nearly all of this thick, heavy under-glaze was created by Maria Longworth Nichols and Albert Humphreys, although Helen Peachy and several other members of the Cincinnati Pottery Club are known to have produced some. Very often there is added gold gilding above the glaze to highlight details. Collectors of Limoges face a daunting task, very little has survived outside of museums, and pieces by the founder of Rookwood often come with a hefty price tag. She produced very little after 1883, so this date is usually assumed as the end of the Rookwood Limoges line.

Lovely Japanesque Rookwood miniature perfume jug
The addition of several new artists refined the subject somewhat, adding sparrows, bamboo, owls, and other popular themes providing a more delicate design. Much of the artwork was taken from various Japanese texts, and as such is usually referred to as the "Japanesque Rookwood". The artwork is generally considered not to be a replication of Japanese style, but more of an interpretation of what Americans thought Japanese art was at the time. Most of the Japanesque pieces were decorated on molded pieces, and often on such mundane things as porridge bowls or ginger jars. Matthew Daly, Joseph Hirschfeld, Martin Rettig, Alfred Brennan, William McDonald, Hattie Horton, Laura Fry, Clara Newton, and Albert Valentien pioneered these Japanesque styles, mixing various sparrows, butterflys, owls, cloudy skies, landscapes, bamboo, and floral themes. Many of the artworks were originally standardized, with all of the artists decorating pieces with the same image, and they all appear nearly identical. However, very quickly each artist began developing their own styles and repertoire, expanding the variety of artwork available. Pieces by Daly and Valentein are considered slightly more collectible than the other artists in the Japanesque style, but they are generally not considered much more aesthetically pleasing than the others. Collectors of Rookwood Japanesque art pottery tend to pay less attention to the artist and more attention to the overall rarity of the piece and the subject matter. Most of the the early themes disappeared after 1885 and were replaced almost completely by floral compositions. This tradition continued somewhat with the cameo and dull glaze lines, well into the 1890's.

Early Rookwood vase carved by Harriet Wenderoth.
Incised and Carved
A third, and very overlooked early style was the production of pieces which were not decorated under-slip with colors, but instead were carved and incised. Various artists with talent in woodcarving as well as young schoolgirls were given the opportunity to decorate pieces and used a variety of methods to produce them. The simplest methods used nail-heads or dies to create repeating patterns on a piece of pottery, but some produced very intricate and delicate carvings. Fanny Auckland, William Breuer, Katherine deGolter, Agnes Pittman, and Harriet Wenderoth each have their own unique style, but those pieces which were hand-carved rather than impressed tend to have a better appeal to collectors. One notable exception is Ms. Auckland who has found quite a following among collectors. By 1883 the production of these carved and impressed pieces vanished, and carved pieces were rarely manufactured again until the Arts and Crafts period decades later.

Often overlooked by experts, the early Rookwood art pottery lines can provide a rich experience for collectors looking for unique and interesting pieces to display. Whether it is the heavy and often grotesque Limoges style of the founder, the delicate Japanesque style of the early artists, or the true roots of Art and Crafts in Cincinnati, there is something for everyone. Most major auctions will have a few such pieces, and collecting them can be a challenging and life-long endeavor. Aside from auctions, there are many sources on the internet where you can find Rookwood pottery for sale, although few have the art pottery desired by collectors of the early works. Now that you know what to look for, it is time to get out there and find them! Learn more about Rookwood Pottery at the Rookwood Collectors Group.