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( Originally Published 1963 )
China, whether it is pottery or porcelain, is valuable. It is a highly personal possession, so personal that in some civilizations people were buried with pieces of their own. Rarely does a set survive fifty years of use intact, and so people always are ready to buy odd pieces in order to fill in a set. Some pieces are of interest historically because of their patterns or design. Others are valuable because of the pottery where they were made or the type of pottery they are.
Condition affects the selling price, although perhaps not as much as the kind of pottery and its age. Tableware on which the decoration has been rubbed or worn off by use is less valuable than that on which it is still clear and brilliant. By the same token, Staffordshire transfer-printed ware that has clear and sharp transfer-printing and clear colors is more valuable than that with blurred decoration and muddied colors. This generalization can be nullified by the subject matter-for example, a historical or commemorative plate.
According to George Savage, a recognized expert on pottery and porcelain in England and America, a cracked piece with brilliant decoration in good condition is more valuable than a similar piece that is not cracked but has decoration in poor condition. Mr. Savage also considers that chips are not important if they are not too conspicuous. Actually, chips are almost inevitable.
Crazing may appear on both soft-paste porcelain and earthenware. This is a network of tiny cracks over the surface. Because it results from a manufacturing defect, it is quite different from the crackling induced as decoration by the Chinese and a few Western potteries.
Any mending or restoring should be done only by experienced and skillful experts. Very few of these are skillful enough to reconstruct a piece from fragments. A clumsy or botched job has next to no value, for a person could neither display nor use the piece.
China is never difficult to sell. In fact, it may sell speedily. Some pieces that obviously are not really old enough to be labeled as antiques sell for unexpectedly good prices as novelties. Calendar plates made in the early 1900's sell for $4.75 to $7.50. Hand-painted china moves more slowly, but a dessert plate with flowers in the center and gold on the rim is worth $7.50 or a little more.
Cantonware does not bring as high prices as you might think. Plates now sell for $8 and up, platters $15 and up. Transfer-printed Staffordshire in lavender, green, and brown brings better prices than other colors. There is a tremendous amount of Staffordshire around and it differs widely in quality and interest. In this large and varied group prices too have a wide range, depending on age, condition, color, clarity, and pattern. A blue plate from T. J. & J. Mayer with a crack and a chip will bring no more than $2.5(1 even if it was made in the 1830's. A similar plate in good condition will bring twice as much. A dark blue Ridgway plate in good condition is worth $15 and up.
Flowing Blue, like some shades of Staffordshire, is becoming quite scarce, so it can be sold for premium prices. Six Flowing Blue dinner plates made by James Edwards that were purchased in 1939 for $1 each could now be sold for many times that amount. A matching platter in as perfect condition as the plates was sold for $5 in 1939 and certainly could be resold now for $25, possibly more.
The price for a Toby jug made in Bennington, Vermont, depends on the subject, but most of them start at $75. A Bennington tobacco jar is worth at least $25. A cauliflower plate in American majolica currently sells for about $16.50 if it is in good condition.
Anyone fortunate enough to have any Tucker porcelain can dispose of single pieces at high prices. Plates start at $25, platters at about $50. A handleless cup with saucer is worth at least $45. Pitchers, urns, and covered dishes bring much higher prices.
Spatterware or spongeware also brings surprisingly high prices, probably because it was made in smaller quantity than the variously colored transferprinted Staffordshire. A spatterware plate in perfect condition may be sold for between $50 and $%5. Sugar bowls and platters are worth more, for prices range from about $65 to $90. A teapot showing good color, without chips or cracks, brings not less than $100 and perhaps as much as $125.
With the current interest in Mochaware, it will be bringing prices as high as, if not higher than, Spatterware. Already, mugs are selling for $45, and a 6 1/2-inch-high jug in Cat's Eye pattern for $85. Such prices, of course, doubtless will be easier to obtain in a metropolitan area where there are interior decorators than in smaller cities.
Whether you're trying to sell some pottery or porcelain or merely want to brag about it to your neighbors, it's important to call each type by its correct name. Earthenware is not porcelain, although it may be fully as attractive. The fact that a piece is stoneware does not mean that it's rough or crude.