PBS is dishing up an extra helping of kitchen nostalgia every week during its hit show “Downton Abbey.” The fresh attention on antique kitchen wares is turning up the heat in the kitchenalia market, as people flock to antiques shops and shows to accent their kitchens and collections with pieces of the past.
A raft of positive economic news is the latest elixir for collector plates that have suffered basement bargain prices for more than a decade.
“We are seeing some values return on plates from the 1920s, but they must be in Mint condition,’’ according to William Antonacceo of A.C. & E Auctions and Appraisals of Verona, Pa. “One of the challenges with these collector plates is that so many were mass-produced, and coupled with shrinking market demand, made them difficult to sell.”
But the collector plate rally is now being driven by Baby Boomers anxious to capture some
Molly Perkins of Waynesburg, Pa., reports that her Thomas Kinkade holiday plates are now valued at more than $250 a plate since the artist’s death. The self-described “Painter of Life’’ won success with brushwork paintings and collectible plates that focused on idyllic landscapes, cottages and churches – highly popular works that continue to be big sellers for dealers and collectors nationwide.
“I think much of Kinkade’s work is so collectible and popular because his work resonates in the personal lives of his fans,’’ said Perkins, a retired school nurse.
Other Kinkade fans like Minnie Monk of Burlington, Vt., said her Kinkade collector plates remind her of the late great Norman Rockwell, who traversed the backwoods of Vermont for characters to help illustrate Saturday Evening Post magazine covers,’’ said Monk. Ironically, Kinkade called Rockwell his earliest hero.
And that remains a big theme for many collector plate clubs.
Rita Rohm of Chicago collects the famed NASCAR plates and never misses a new addition to her overcrowded cupboard shelves.
Bill Rodgers of Pittsburgh still cherishes his dad’s collector plates featuring old Western landscapes and scenes by the famed Charles M. Russell. “They are simply part of the family,’’ he said.
Bob Simon of Royal York Auction Gallery in Pittsburgh said collector plates are reminiscent of an era when families collected a cache of nostalgia in hopes of cashing in on their vintage values.
Sluggish job growth and changing demographics put collector plates in the dust bin of history for the past decade. Plates once valued at $50 to $75 are now selling for $10 a plate.
Still, optimists like Jim Johnson believe that people will continue to buy specialized plates. Johnson has a set of collector plates featuring dogs on the sales block at E.N. Miller Antique Mall in Verona, Pa.
And Jill Oberman of Washington, Pa., reports that her Franklin Mint “cat plates’’ just fetched $100. “I sold two of them to my neighbor for her aunt’s 90th birthday.’’
Few companies in the entire world have touched the lives of more people than the Franklin Mint. For more than 45 years, the Mint has created works of fine art, magnificent art objects and treasured collectibles to share with friends and family.
“I think we will see a resurgence in the value of these collector plates as more and more people seek new ways to connect with their past,’’ said Frank Willis, a retired history teacher from Franklin, Tenn. “For example, interest in all things related to the Civil War has made a big comeback, as well as plates with a pioneering, Western theme,’’ said Willis. “What we need to do as collectors is to get more young people involved with collecting instead of being glued to the computer. ‘’
And Willis’ sentiments are echoed by Barney Cole of Pittsburgh, who plans to help his two sixth-grade daughters appreciate his mother’s old collector plates of elegant European ladies.
“Old is best, and I think we need to start helping our children see the future in the past. The value of hard work, family and history so often featured on these collector plates is worth preserving for the next generation and for generations to come,’’ said Cole, a freelance graphic designer.
About the author: Chriss Swaney is a Pittsburgh-based freelance journalist for Reuters, The New York Times, Pittsburgh Engineer and Horse World, and an avid antique collector.
| Things to Know About Collector Plates
• Most limited edition plates are reproductions of original paintings, and artists will often license their artwork to more than one plate manufacturer. This means you’ll likely see the same art on plates from various makers and they all may be genuine limited edition plates.• First edition does not mean a plate is automatically more valuable – it only means it was the first plate in a series. Value is based on supply, demand, materials and workmanship, not necessarily because it was issued first.• Limited edition plates are often numbered – and if they are not, then none from that certain template were numbered. It’s all or nothing. Plus, plates cannot be identified by serial numbers alone.• The Bradex number is important in identifying a collector plate. All limited edition plates are assigned a Bradex number, however the number is not always listed on all plates.• Keys to deciphering a Bradex number: if the number is Bradex: 84-B10-18.2 it means the plate was produced in the U.S. (84 is the code), by Bradford Exchange (B10 is the indicator) and it is the second edition plate of the 18th series (represented by 18.2)
Source: “Demystifying Limited Edition Plate Identification,” by Lillian Glockson, The Plate Lady™® of Tampa Bay, http://theplatelady.com/sandraplates.htm#21
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