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 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 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.
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.