For anyone who’s gotten a good look at Scout Savant blog, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of pottery. Today, I’m gonna go a little bit in-depth about the Rookwood Pottery - classic American pottery that is hot with collectors. It’s not the easiest to find in the wild, but it’s a favorite of mine to snatch up when I have the chance.
A quick history - Rookwood Pottery Company was founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols Store, and has become one of the most collectible Ohio pottery companies out there, if not the most collectible. Many of their pieces have found their way into art museums and recently, they even teamed up with the Cincinnati Zoo to create an ornament for the famous hippo, Fiona. All of Rookwood Pottery Company’s pieces are known to have a very distinctive mark and are always dated on the bottom with roman numerals so you know exactly how old the piece is.
Why do I buy? I’ve always loved the simplistic clean look of the early to mid period stuff. The colors and designs are classic and not overly flowery making it appropriate for many types of interiors. On top of that, the prices have been dropping on Rookwood as aging baby boomers dump their stashes. Of course, the best Rookwood pieces will still bring in the big bucks - that hasn’t changed - but vases I could never hope to buy for $300 10 years ago can be had now for 1/3 of that if you are patient. Now’s a great time for a collector to build a collection that will increase in value. Just focus on a few things –
- Mold Crispness: As ceramic molds get used over and over to produce a piece the decoration becomes more muddy and less defined. Crisp molds make for higher dollar pieces
- Condition: should go without saying, but don’t buy a chipped up and cracked piece.
- Glaze Coating: look for an even coating that does not cover the decoration. You don’t want it too thin or too thick, just nice and even. Also, don’t buy the later gloss glaze pieces, stick with the classic matte finish.
- Color: pick up colors that are contemporary to interior decorating trends. Lighter shades like sage, lavender/purple and yellow are in and typically seen in Rookwood pieces.
It’s really hard to spot these in the wild because collectors have been buying up every piece of this for 100+ years. The hallmark is as well-known to pottery collectors as a Nike swoosh is to a sneakerhead. Believe it or not, eBay and other large national auctions are great places to pick up these pieces right now.
For example, this was a sweet buy for a collector (you won’t be able to turn around and flip this one for twice what you paid, but give it time). It was a factory flawed 1931 (a little past what is considered “prime” Rookwood) urn style vase. The speckling in the glaze was considered a flaw, but it really adds to the piece. The asking price was $55 - you probably could have put in an offer for $45 and walked off with it. Good glaze coating, and I think that the flaw will actually increase the value over time since it adds uniqueness and texture to the piece that is 100% unique, but hey, that’s just my opinion.