Dear Helaine and Joe:
Attached are three photos of a signed “Weller” piece that I remember from my grandmother’s home during World War II. She kept it on a glass shelf among her prized possessions. It is approximately 8 inches tall and is in perfect condition with no chips, scratches or mars of any sort. How much is it worth?
Dear P. B.:
Perhaps the first rule of selling art and antiques is to always have a good idea what something is worth before trying to sell it. This may require some professional assistance, and make sure before you hire someone to assess your possessions that they are knowledgeable and familiar with the marketplace both locally and nationally.
Weller is the name of a pottery making company that originated in Fultonham, Ohio, in around 1872. The proprietor was Samuel A. Weller, who some might call an “entrepreneur,” while others would judge him to be something of an opportunistic scoundrel.
His first products were reportedly flower pots, which he began decorating with house paint and selling door-to-door in nearby Zanesville, Ohio. Weller was successful and began expanding his pottery making facilities into Zanesville.
In 1895, Weller purchased William Long’s Lonhuda Pottery in Steubenville, Ohio. But after Weller learned Long’s secrets for making underglaze decorated brown wares, he kicked Long to the proverbial curb and introduced his own brown glazed wares, which he dubbed “Louwelsa.”
The 1895 to 1918 period was an era of expensive, essentially handmade, hand-decorated art wares for Weller, but by the company’s middle period (1918-1935), the movement was toward the making of commercial art wares. These were largely molded with very little hand decoration. During this middle period, Weller introduced a line of wares known as “Brighton,” and this kingfisher flower frog is a member of that extensive grouping.
The term “flower frog” means the piece was designed to sit in the middle of a bowl that would hold water and be used as an aid to flower arranging. The stems of flowers could be inserted into the small holes in the base of the piece and worked into a (hopefully) attractive design.
The Brighton group consisted of such things as representations of peacocks, bluebirds, ducks, parrots, canaries, butterflies, what looks like a bird of paradise to us and a rare dodo bird. The figures were covered with bright, high gloss glazes that generally differed at least slightly from piece to piece.
The Brighton figure of a kingfisher is one of the more common of Weller’s Brighton features, and this particular bird is an image that can be found decorating other Weller lines as well. Prior to 2008, this Weller kingfisher flower frog was somewhat more valuable than it is today, and for insurance purposes, P. B. should value this perfect example in the range of $300 to $500. The real value, however, is in the family sentiment, not in the dollars.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.