Antique and vintage collecting can be quite confusing to the novice. More and more people are looking to buy older items for both their home and to wear. These general rules for starting an antique or vintage collection can be applied to any area including furniture, pottery, glass, jewelry, and modern collectibles too.
Unless financial resources are vast it needs a lot of time and effort to build a collection. So firstly the new collector should collect what appeals. What suits the home and surroundings, something that they are willing to devote the necessary time, money, and thought to and that can be appreciated for its own qualities rather than for its financial value. As they say "The value of your investment may go down" but with antiques and vintage their own unique qualities remain and the items can always be valued for themselves.
It is much easier these days with all the information available from the Internet. A few hours spent on eBay and Google will reap huge amounts of information on the values of items, their history, online shops, and even online forums dedicated to your favorite antique or collectible.
Other good resources include specialist books, collectors clubs, dealers, and events such as fairs and auctions. Get to know the other collectors and the specialist dealers in your chosen collectible.
Some writers only recommend that you should buy perfect pieces. In general, this may be true newer collectibles should always be sought out in pristine condition. Some antiques are quite rare and have a worn, damaged, or restored piece that may well fill a gap in a collection until something better comes along. Say you are on a very tight budget and wish to collect Art Deco pottery. A collection of Clarice Cliff vases may be beyond their means but a very decorative collection of brightly painted vases can be acquired very cheaply if you can live with hairline cracks at the back, chips below the base, or internal staining.
Of course, the importance of the condition also varies with the type of item collected. Vintage jewelry should be in good condition so that it can be worn however, a little wear to a piece of furniture may not be quite so serious.
Most collectors start buying the more common and cheaper pieces of their chosen collectible and then as their collection develops they become fussier about what they buy and develop a taste for the rarer and more valuable pieces.
Similar to rarity, the better quality a piece the more costly it will be. For example, all other things being equal, handmade pieces of studio glass are likely to cost more than mass-produced pressed glass. This is because the quality pieces cost more when they are new and so there are fewer of them about to collect these days. Also, the current demand for quality items is likely to be more than for inferior items.
The price of an antique object is determined by the current demand for it and its rarity. Current demand can change with fashion and the state of the economy and so the value of your antique can go up and down. In today's market, there is little demand for 20th-century floral cups and saucers and so these can be picked up quite cheaply. A few years ago when there was a fashion for decorating homes with chintz there was a greater demand for floral china and so these cups and saucers were worth more then than now.
The best quality, condition, and rarity are always going to cost more than a common, low-grade item in poor condition.
New collectors need to consider what type of antique or vintage item suits them best and what they like best. Then they should research their chosen area, set a budget, and only then go out and buy their first piece. Bring the antique or collectible home and then start researching again. Gradually over time as the collectors’ knowledge increases so will the scope and value of the collection.
Experienced vintage art pottery collectors know what to look for when purchasing pieces to add to their collections. It is just like knowing to win bets at any unique casino.
Today, vintage art pottery can be restored. Perhaps the piece had chips, a crack or some of the glaze or gilding had worn away. These flaws are all repairable, and to the untrained eye, the fix may not be noticeable. An honest dealer will add the word "restored" to the price tag, but sadly, not all dealers will take that step.
Maker's Marks on the underside of vintage art pottery greatly determine its value. But marks can be removed, changed or added, especially those that are printed rather than impressed. The best way to be sure is to study the glazing underneath to ensure it is consistent with no signs of scraping or filing.
When purchasing higher-end art pottery, like Moorcroft, Van Briggle, Roseville, or Weller, it's always a good idea to scrutinize the piece for mark tampering. The collector isn't likely to see this in lower-end Abingdon or Beauceware art pottery.
Unglazed art pottery is generally easier to reproduce and it has been. Molds are taken from the original pieces and reproduced into modern ceramics. Often though, the original potter has pulled out those old molds to reproduce and reissue their collectible pieces from the '20s, '30s, and '40s. This practice can confuse both the dealer and the collector when it comes to valuing all the pieces. With McCoy, for example, the original vintage pieces are more refined – the details, much clearer. The earlier potters took the time to "finish" and perfect the piece before it was fired.
Collectors should be very aware of what to look for in high-end art pottery. Many pieces are being reproduced in China and being sold as original art pottery from various potters – potters that may have been out of business for decades. According to the Roseville Exchange, Roseville fakes from Asia show poor workmanship. They were made with "poor molds" and "poor glazes." An expert or a collector who specializes in Roseville pottery can see the difference.
Many vintage art pottery collections begin with one piece from one particular maker and the collection grows with the addition of more pieces from the same potter. In recent years, there has been a vintage art pottery revival. But these collections can be very expensive. Knowing what to look for to avoid fakes and mistakes when buying pieces to add to the collection could save the buyer some remorse.
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