Hi Helaine and Joe:
This pair of vases belonged to my husband’s grandmother. We inherited them when she died and are wondering if they are valuable. They are marked “England” along with some numbers on the base. One has a small crack but the other is in good condition. Anything you could tell us about these vases would be greatly appreciated.
Looking forward to hearing from you
B. S., The Villages, Fla.
Dear B. S.:
A few weeks ago, we answered a question about a vase made by an important English potter that was worth thousand of dollars and was very rare.
This week we want to point out that for every vase like that, there are hundreds of thousands of others that are essentially worth little. The vases in today’s question are earthenware, made sometime between 1891 and the end of World War I, say circa 1910, and unfortunately, they fall into the latter category.
Some earthenware items from this era can be exquisite and made to exacting standards by an artist who sold his wares at upscale venues such as Liberty & Co. and Tiffany’s. But the vast majority was less glorious in workmanship and retailed for a small amount of money at mass-market outlets. The lesser objects are now often referred to as being “cheap lines.”
They were molded, sometimes a bit crudely and for the most part inexpensively embellished with transfer prints of floral designs, as well as some quasi-historical scenes. The pottery pieces decorated cottages and row houses across the English-speaking world, and today they are still cheap, as a general rule.
The pair of vases in today’s question is actually a tad better than this. They are hand-painted, but poorly so with globs of paint that go here and there around the rims and tint the applied leaves and flowers in a rather haphazard way.
The circumstance that elevates the pair is the applied leaves and flowers, which did require the work of some semiskilled labor. B. S. should note the numbers found on the bottom of her piece were placed there by the workmen who did the embellishment.
It looks like workman “347” did most of the work, with some other workmen doing their bit here and there and adding their numbers or symbols to the bottom. The marks are there because the workmen were getting paid on a piece basis and had to leave a notation of who had done the work to get paid.
The “England” is probably there because the manufacturer thought the vases might be exported to the United States, and the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 required the country of origin to be noted on all foreign items shipped into the U.S. The vases were probably designed to be mantel decorations, and we do like the raised lizards (alligators?) with the open mouths on either side of the top. Insurance replacement value with the damage is probably in the $125-$175 range for the pair.