With prices slowly climbing back after two years of declines, sellers and makers say now is the time to invest or improve a collection
If you happen to be a collector of Rose Cabat’s “feelies” pots, the last few years have been a very good time to buy. At 96, Cabat is the oldest professional American potter who still nimbly crafts small, narrow-necked ceramic pots in her Tucson studio.
Prices on the silky diminutive pots have steadily increased in price, besting their auction estimates no matter if sold in California or Pennsylvania. But last year prices for some of Cabat’s “feelies” dipped – as did many examples of American art pottery. Buyers were able to find pots selling between $100 and $200. Other artisans say the investments made today in antique and contemporary American art pottery tand to deliver big dividends. It’s not only because the economy is beginning a slow climb back to prosperity; artists such as Paul Katrich say the art pottery market is drastically underexposed compared to other categories of 20th century design.
“Tiffany glass, for example, receives a great deal more attention than pottery of the same period,” he said.
Katrich is an exhibitor at the 30th annual American Art Pottery Association (AAPA) Convention April 21-25 in Cleveland. That’s when more than 50 artists and experts will present pottery from antique to contemporary. Cleveland was selected because of the volume of famous American potteries created in central Ohio, such as Rookwood, Weller, Grueby and Roseville. Pots made by these makers have seen a dramatic increase in the prices paid for rare examples in top condition.
This is especially true in the arts and crafts market. An excellent, 4-inch Grueby arts and crafts vase, circa 1905, sold for $4,000 at a March 27 Skinner auction – obliterating its $600 to $800 presale estimate.
“For the same price that you would pay for an Arts and Crafts bookcase these days, you could purchase a collection of beautiful pottery – one that can be added to and upgraded in time,” said Arnie Small, AAPA president. “And while the value of Arts and Crafts furniture has dropped lately, Arts and Crafts pottery has maintained and grown in value.”
Recent prices for middle of the road Arts and Crafts pottery show a 9-inch, matte green vase with reticulated rim in a twig and flower design sold for $200, the low end of its $200 to $400 estimate at a Burchard Galleries sale in January 2009. In September, a 6-inch vase from Zanesville Pottery, circa 1920, also in a matte green glaze sold for $45.
American art pottery is a very broad market, allowing collectors to enter at virtually any price point, said Greg Myroth, owner of JustArtPottery.com. For the last year or so sales through his Web site saw strong activity in the lower end of the market.
“It wasn’t so much that prices were lower, it was more like the collectors who usually bought $500 vases decided it was not necessary so they started buying $200 vases. They set their sights lower,” Myroth said. He said he is starting to see activity again among more valuable vases in the $2,000 to $3,000 range.
“At the upper end of the market, there are still a lot of people adding to their collection. To some extent it is an investment.”
One area that is still active and has held its value is the contemporary market, reflected by demand for works from artists such as Cabat and Katrich.
“There is still a lot of quality work – the work is unbelievable,” Myroth said. “From companies like Ephraim and artists like Katrich – it’s just great pottery and in a sense it’s very affordable.”
But Myroth is reluctant to discuss pottery in those terms.
“Certainly you hope it will appreciate, but you want to buy it because you like it, not because five years from now you think it’s going to be worth a lot of money,” he said.
April 21-25, 2010
Holiday Inn/Cleveland South, located at the Rockside Road exit of I-77 in Independence, Ohio
One of the most anticipated highlights is the Friday night auction (April 23 at 5:30 p.m., with a preview starting at 3:30 p.m.) This will be a live and online auction, conducted by celebrity auctioneer Greg Belhorn, of 350 lots of exceptional pottery.
To view an online auction catalog, visit www.belhornauctions.com.
Considered the country’s best, the art pottery show and sale will be held April 24 and April 25.
Hours for the sale are noon-5 p.m. April 24 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. April 25.
For information on seminars, tours and events, visit www.aapa.info.
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