Top quality Art Deco sells best

By Danielle Arnet, Tribune Media Services
Posted Sept. 16, 2011, at 3:29 p.m.

Q: I inherited this Czechoslovakian bowl. Based on the mark, I know it was made between 1918 and 1939. I found other china online that was produced by the factory, but nothing close to this bowl. Any info?

A: With the query, our reader included several clear images (thanks!), including one of the bottom stamp. It reads “M Z Altrohlau, CMR, Czechoslovakia.” The factory is commonly called Altrohlau.

Founded in 1810, it is in what is now the Czech Republic. In 1909, Hutschenreuther took over and marked products as above until 1945. The company still operates, under new ownership and a new name.

No measurements were provided, but the bowl seen in an image appears to be 8 inches to 12 inches in diameter, with blue glaze on the exterior and brilliant yellow with white dots on the interior. The design and color scheme put it in the Art Deco period, and that means late 1920s-30s.

Dan Alias, co-owner with partner Jeff Nelson of the 75-dealer Broadway Antiques Market, bamchicago.com, in Chicago, knows his Deco. He told us that our reader could not find similar Altrohlau pieces because this bowl is a studio piece.

Most of the factory’s output was mass-produced decorative tableware or place settings of china, and that’s what he found online. Look on eBay or replacements.com to see examples. Note that most are traditional florals.

Many manufacturers have two or more lines of output. Goods at the top are designer wares. In ceramics and glass, they’re called studio. Unique and produced in lower numbers, they are pricier.

Another line is intended to make the designer’s brand available to the public. While quality, those goods are mass-produced and mass-marketed, and come at a lower price point. Think Alexander McQueen (clothing and accessories) and Michael Graves (housewares) for Target. In ceramics, think Wedgwood.

Smart collectors know that studio pieces are what serious collectors want. But given the nature of collecting, even studio wares have a hierarchy. Goods must be the best of their type.

The reader’s bowl, says Alias, is nice, but not premium Deco. “Five years ago,” he added, “this would have been around $250. Pottery has taken a tumble these last few years, unless it is something truly special.” Retail today is far less.

More: When Alias told us that business at BAM is very good, we perked up. You don’t hear that from many business owners today.

Why, we asked, would antiques and collectibles be doing well in this economic climate?

It’s resale, he told us. Or as he put it, “the rise of the secondary market.” Alias reports especially great resale with furniture.

Laid off from their jobs or employed and hunting for cash, new sellers are selling off their collections. On their end, new buyers are happy to find well-made older goods that are cheaper than retail. The result is that high-end dealers are hurting while the public embraces more down market goods and looks-like style that they can afford.

Look around: Auction houses are filled as collectors unload. Ditto flea markets. It’s also a whole new game at garage sales, where dealers and pickers fight to get first crack at goods entering the market. Competition is fierce.

The Internet has its part in all this. Smart buyers check on eBay, LiveAuctioneers.com and 1stdibs.com (for high-end goods) before committing to a buy.

Q: Do you advise on newer collections? We have extensive collections of Hallmark ornaments and porcelain dolls. Many are mint in box. How do we sell or should we hang on to them for now?

A: After the bottom fell out of the collectibles industry (talk about a bubble!) decades ago, it never recovered. Odds of it rebounding are dim.

On the positive side, Hallmark and the dolls have a core of dedicated collectors, so there’s hope for resale.

Before you sell, check eBay for prices on your items. Look at completed sales, as well. Read listing copy carefully. Note emphasized points.

Online is the best way to sell collectibles because that’s where motivated buyers hunt.

Auction action

A rare cast-iron cigar store Indian that brought $9,775 recently at Bertoia Auctions was an excellent example of the type. Standing 27 inches high, the casting of a warrior with an ax in his hand was well done. The wood base marked “Cigars” was in excellent condition, as was the figure.

Collector quiz

Q: Who were Tiff, Allan, Casey, Twiggy, Ricky and P.J.?

A: All were dolls in the extended Barbie family. Source: “Vintage Barbie Dolls: 2nd Ed.” by Hillary James (Schiffer, $24.99). Subtitled “With Barbie and Skipper Fashions and the Whole Family of Barbie Dolls.”

Danielle Arnet will answer questions of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/09/16/living/blogs-and-columns-living/top-quality-art-deco-sells-best/ printed on April 23, 2014