How To Buy Pottery

If you enjoy haunting flea markets and garage sales to buy pottery, you can better invest your dollars by learning a little bit about this art form and what to look for to make a wise purchase.

There are three types of ceramic ware made by potters who subject items fashioned out of clay and other materials to high temperatures to create utilitarian items as well as works of art.  Earthenware, stoneware and porcelain are all types of pottery worth purchasing.

Among the most popular styles of pottery sought after today is Fiesta ware, which first premiered in 1936 in vivid colors including red, cobalt blue, green, yellow and ivory.  Vintage Fiesta ware is the predecessor to modern Fiesta ware, launched in 1986 and featuring dishes in 17 colors.

Red Wing Pottery, premiering in 1878 and named after the town of Red Wing, Minnesota (where it is still being produced today), is another highly sought-after pottery brand.  Crocks and jugs are the most predominant shapes offered by Red Wing Pottery.

The Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware Company was founded by father and son team J.W. and Nelson McCoy back in 1910 to produce utilitarian mugs, plates and bowls, in addition to such novelty items as flower vases and cookie jars fashioned in the heat of the potter's kiln.

When you find a piece of pottery that captures your attention because of its color or design, there are several things that you should look at as you are evaluating the piece.

Carefully inspect each piece of pottery you are interested in buying for chips; these may appear as nicks as deep as 1/4 inch or smaller flakes less than 1/4 inch deep.  Hold the piece under good light to detect any pinpoint nicks, which are very small round chips, marring the surface of the pottery.

You also want to be aware whether the pottery piece has any significant cracks. A crack is a thin break line that may run from one edge of the piece to the other; it may affect the pottery's ability to hold water or be used in any practical application without eventually stressing and breaking.  Small hairline cracks that look like spiders' webs on the surface of the pottery is called crazing, and although these cracks affect the look of the pottery, the structural integrity of the piece isn't affected.

Hold the pottery piece up to the light at a variety of angles to see if there are any deep or surface scratches that affect the piece.  Check to see if food or water has left a permanent stain inside any pottery pieces such as mugs, cups and vases; such stains may affect the pottery's future value and your ability to use it.


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