There are many reasons you may want to determine the value of your art pottery. A few of the potential reasons include a pending sale of the piece or collection; curiosity of the value; a price is needed for insurance purposes or estate, trust planning, settlement or probate. It is important to understand the different methods of appraising art pottery and estimating the value, as well as the limitations associated with each method of determining a price or value of an individual vase or entire collection.
1. Online Pottery Appraisals
We conduct 100s of online art pottery appraisals each and every year. We have done online appraisals for one piece as well as 150-200 piece art pottery collections. We are often approached by clients who have inherited an estate collection of art pottery such as Roseville, Rookwood and they have limited idea of the value and how to go about selling the collection. In many cases, relatives are involved who may want to keep individual pieces from the collection. So there becomes a need to determine reasonable valuations of individual pieces in order to adequate reimburse the estate for the items they are keeping. Other times the family is simply wanting to liquidate the entire collection and wants to make sure they maximize the sale proceeds of the estate. In most of these cases, given the quality digital photography available today, it is possible to do an accurate and cost effective online appraisal for just about any art pottery collection.
It is important to make sure your appraiser either online or on-site is an actual expert in art pottery. Just as in stocks, real estate and many other investments, art pottery price swings are frequent and sometimes dramatic. Unfortunately prices don't necessary just go up over time. If your appraiser is not well versed in the current market prices being paid for art pottery, you may end up very disappointed with the results of your appraisal.
We recently worked with a client who paid over $50,000 to have the contents of an inherited estate appraised. This estate included many lines of antiques and a 300 plus piece collection of art pottery. Unfortunately the appraiser who may have been up to date in arts and crafts furniture, had limited experience with art pottery. The estates' appraisal gave no consideration to the condition of the art pottery (much of which was damaged or restored) and simply used out-dated reference books and increased prices for inflation over last decade to come up with values. In many cases, the actual selling price for the art pottery from this estate was 50-60% of the appraised value. To make matters worse, the estate had already paid estate taxes based on the estimated fair market value of the collection. So regardless if you are doing an online appraisal on on-site appraisal it is critical the appraiser be experienced with art pottery.
2. Research the Value of Your Pottery Online
There are a number of ways to research the value of your art pottery online. Probably the easiest and best way to determine an accurate, current market price for your pottery is to lookup past auction results on eBay. In order for this to be an accurate assessment of the value of your piece you must find a similar example. Obviously this is much easier to do if you are researching a production Roseville 6" blue Freesia vase than if you are trying to determine the value of an artist decorated piece of Rookwood pottery.
When using eBay to estimate the price or value of your pottery it is critical to limit your research to items that have actually sold. A seller can set the asking price for an item at whatever level they choose to. Often times these asking prices are significantly above what a actual buyer will pay. It is not uncommon to see Roseville pieces on eBay or other online antique malls priced two or three times what they are actually selling for. So be sure to recognize the difference between what the items are priced at versus what they actually sold for.
In addition to looking only at sold items for price comparisons, it is important to check condition descriptions. If your item is damaged, a general rule of thumb is that the value will be about 50-75% of the price a collector would pay for a mint example. Even minor damage on a vase will typically have a significant impact on the price.
There are very few mint examples of art pottery on the market. That is why truly mint pieces command and deserve a price premium. You can't expect that same price premium if you vase has damage or repair of any kind. In the same way, if your Weller vase is in perfect condition, it is worth more than a comparable one with damage.
3. Sell Your Pottery In an Auction
One of the best ways to determine the current value of your art pottery today is to simply put it up for auction and let the competitive bidding determine the price. Assuming the auction is well attended and advertised, this is a good way to determine the current market price a willing buyer will pay for your item. There are many ways to sell your items through auction. These include eBay, artpotteryplace.com or other online auction site, live internet only bidding as offer by Just Art Pottery Auctions, and live auctions offer by other auction houses. In future articles we will discuss the best ways to select an auctioneer.
One way to determine pottery prices you don't see listed above is price guides. Unfortunately given the variability in prices most art pottery price guides are out of date by the time they are published.