There has been some huge buzz around ceramics and ceramic investment over the last few years. Seen as a genuine business as valid and enriching as antiques for some investors, it has also been named as one of the main investments that Millenialls and Gen Z make. So, we decided to take a deeper delve and welcome our guest specialist on the subject, Julia Parkes.
A Bit About Me
“I was born in Stoke on Trent and come from a long line of potters: you could say pottery courses through my veins, I am therefore a ceramic expert by birth! I managed to sniff out a pottery near my home in Yorkshire where I worked for almost twenty-eight years. I’m recently retired, so am now able to pursue my passion of collecting ceramics and adding to my personal, ever-growing horde! Inherited pieces started my collection: these are my most precious, not necessarily financially but because of the association with loved ones, now long gone.
TYPES OF COLLECTOR
Don’t be put off by perceived snobbery of antique collecting. Ceramic collectors fall into varying categories of expertise and wealth, and here are a few examples.
I will start with the serious collector for whom price is no object if a particular piece is required to complete a collection.
A dealer will buy as cheaply as possible then sell for optimum profit.
A hobby collector will trawl through online auction houses and websites hoping to find that rare, elusive piece to enhance their collection, gaining the satisfaction of owning a complete collection and potentially increasing its value.
Car Booty and Treasure Hunter
Then there is the growing number of people who love nothing more than rising early on a Sunday morning to travel to car boot sales. For a few pounds they will pick up anything that catches their eye – enjoying the potential of spotting a valuable gem that the seller has no idea of its worth.
Local online selling sites are worth watching as all sorts of things appear on a daily basis. Charity shop magpies also fall into the category of hopeful profit makers.
Studio Pottery Fans
My final example is something I enjoy very much. Studio potters and recently qualified ceramicists are an excellent way in to the world of collecting ceramics. They can also prove lucrative for longer term profit.
Check out the Potfest website, where you get details for all the various shows you can visit. Potfest in the Pens is a great place to start, here you will find many potters to chat to and maybe start your own modern day collection.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
Collecting ceramics can be a fulfilling, enjoyable hobby, especially when you buy for the pleasure of owning something you really like. The enjoyment of trawling through other people’s cast off ‘junk’ can become quite addictive!
Turning your hobby into a money-making scheme would need a committed amount of homework. Do some online research and find out which particular makes or styles of ceramics have sold for a lot of money, over time you will probably begin to see patterns of makers, a particular designer or style which consistently sell well:
Clarice Cliff is always a name to be aware of as some of her rarer limited editions can fetch a small fortune.
Research is important, recently Hornsea Pottery has become fashionable to collect again for those who love the mid-century style. Hornsea was made in vast quantities and is a good value, regular find in charity shops. If the design is by John Clappison then the value and collectibility rockets.
Moorcroft is a name to look out for, as is Martin Brothers Pottery. Troika is now gaining in value again after being unwanted for years.
BEWARE OF FAKES
Copies and modern imitations can be difficult to identify eg original Delft ware is rare but there are many copies. Also Chinese porcelain can be eye wateringly valuable but the market is flooded with modern imitations.
My final example is Staffordshire dogs, many homes have them but very few of them are going to be valuable. They have been consistently made for generations so vary tremendously in price and value.
Copies and modern reproductions can be difficult to identify. Never forget that if something appears too good to be true it very often is. The more research into what to look for is essential if you are going to invest in an expensive item.
The more you get involved in the hobby of ceramic collecting the more experience you will gain, in time you will develop an instinct into what is a genuine article.
Be wary of buying on eBay. There are scores of genuine, honest sellers but do check seller reviews and scroll down to see where the item is from, as some unscrupulous companies and individuals will sell many different items from the same address, potentially all sourced from an ‘antique’ conveyor belt over in the Far East.
Another important thing to bear in mind when collecting to make a profit is the condition of a piece. Chips and cracks devalue most items considerably. Saying that, there are exceptions. If you watch reruns of Flog It on daytime TV, the renowned experts are sometimes left with egg on their face after their valuation of a particularly sad and damaged article, only to find there are two or more bidders desperate to own it and it sells for far more than the initial conservative valuation.
If you come into possession of a box of miscellaneous oddments, make sure you turn every item upside down and check out the maker’s mark underneath.
You could have in your possession a particularly rare or collectible item which on first glance you have perceived as junk! If you don’t wish to keep it then you can try to sell it for the best price possible. Knowledge is power. After researching what your item is worth, you will be in a better position to haggle and get as much as possible for it.
Bear in mind that whoever you eventually sell it to will also be looking to make a profit for themselves. An auction house will take an average of 20% + VAT commission. An antiques dealer will try to buy as cheaply as possible to make optimum profit. This is where your research gives to the power to haggle.
Selling on eBay is an option. Make sure you state a minimum price you are prepared to accept and add postage and packing. If an item has to be sent through the post it must be well wrapped and in a strong box.
Collecting ceramics of any type and of any era can be incredibly rewarding, both personally and financially.
I recommend you start small and buy things you like. If after doing some research you discover the item is worth a lot of money, or even more money than you paid for it, you will soon get the bug. If it isn’t worth much, then at least you can enjoy owning something that pleases you for little cost.