“Unmarked Porcelain,Who Made It?”


A Paris Porcelain Plate
“Old Paris Porcelain” Plate

Unmarked 18th- & 19th-century porcelain is a puzzle to even long term Dealers and Collectors.  Attributing a piece can bring more one several conclusions the longer you look at it, each clue bringing either one step closer too an identification, or simply more confusion. It gets even more confusing if the design resembles a well known makers such as Meissen, Minton or Sevres.

There was one group among the potters of the late Napoleonic era until the Franco Prussian War |(1815-1871) in Europe who often did not mark their wares, located in Paris, France, home to several small porcelain factories and decorating shops producing  porcelain in the style of the Famous Sevres porcelain works.

A “Sevres” Porcelain Plate

Today these pieces produced or decorated by these smaller studios are called Paris or Old Pris Porcelain, after their location. These potteries located in Paris had to compete with the famous and well-established Royal Manufactory at Sevres, which enjoyed Royal patronage and financial support. They managed this by being quicker to adapt to new fashions in design and catering to the new and rising merchant class or the lesser nobility who wanted the status and look of Sevres porcelain, but at a price more pleasing to the pocket book.

Most reference sources indicate that as much as 70 percent of Paris porcelain made went without any company marks at all,  or as yet have not been identified and cataloged, which makes identifying these pieces today to a definitive maker almost impossible. Another factor that makes identification a problem is many of the decorating studios in Paris used blanks, called “white wares” made at Limoges or even by Sevres, but generally not marked with their origins until the late 19th century.

While the work of these Pareisain studios does not have the pedigree of those by Sevres, the quality of the decoration can be quite high, in some cases as good as any byt the big name porcealin makers of the same period. Myself, I consider Paris Porcelain to be quite a bargain, plates like the one shown often now sell at auction in the $150-$2oo range, compared to Sevres plates selling in the $300.00- $400.00 range.

Mike Wilcox

Wilcox& Hall Appraisers

Is it Genuine or Reproduction?

Genuine or Reproduction French Style Mantel Clock
A modern Italian Reproduction in the Style of a 19th century French Mantel Clock

“Genuine or Reproduction?” should pop up as a question any time an item that’s generally considered a bit rare begins to all of a sudden appear in place they don’t normally do, such as country auctions and yard sales in significant  numbers, one has to wonder.  If it’s an Antique looking one that a Collector or Dealer has never run into before in the last 20 years—one would be correct in assuming someone, somewhere is making reproductions.

Such is the case with this clock, if you saw its image online or in an auction catalog, you would have a hard time determining it it was genuine or reproduction, from images alone  it would appear very much like a 19th Century French Empire mantel clock. It’s actually a very late 20th Century reproduction, in the style of late 19th-century French mantel clocks.  The ones I’ve examined have German movements by “Franz Hermle”, a German company that dates back only as far as 1922 and is known for producing movements for other makers . Some of the clocks that have come across my desk like this one seem to have origins in Italy, with names such as Imperial or Lancicni

I’ve seen this particular clock in the last five  years sold as part of a matching garniture set that came with two matching candelabras.  or just the clock on its own. Of the ones I’ve run across, they were marked by two makers,  “Imperial” or “Lancini , some labeled “Made In Italy.”

This particular clock matches ones made in Italy by “Farbel Fonderie D’Arte”, which has been producing reproductions of 19th-Century style clocks since 1966.  As far as I’m aware they still make this model, along with a line of other reproduction 19th century French clocks.

While these are reproductions, they are very good quality and go for remarkable prices even at auction The good news is even though these clocks are not original 19th Century French examples, these Italian clocks are extremely well made and fetch high prices even at auction. This past year a clock very similar to this one, complete with the matching candelabra, sold for $650. Another back in February sold for $1,000. The clock on its own, without the candelabra, has sold at auction in the $350-$550 range over the last two years.

Mike Wilcox

Wilcox & Hall Appraisers

A Peek at an Antique Murder Mystery in progress

Here’s a peek at a bit of chapter one of a Antique Murder Mystery I’ve had on the back burner for a while, I might just serialize it here… Enjoy.

“Picker Fred lived a lot closer to town than I did, twenty years ago his place was well off the beaten path, but now the suburbia was creeping ever closer to his ramshackle farm with it’s outbuildings jammed with Junk and Antiques . There had been a lot of pressure on him from council to sell out to developers, he told them all politely to kiss his ass and had applied for Heritage site status for the farm. The property was ringed on all sides by a thick wild growth of lilacs with a winding pot-holed drive up the middle,some ¼ mile long. As I turned up the drive I noticed his papers were still laying by the mail box, which was unusual as Fred was an early riser, read all his papers and drank 4 cups of industrial strength coffee all before most people had had their morning pee.

Most people sense danger long before it hits them, they just try to ignore that primitive part of the brain that reads the signals, like the signals mine was sending me now . Anyone who has been in life threatening situations and survives is changed forever, some live in constant fear, others always on the offensive and some like me, feel danger like cats & dogs feel an earthquake coming and leave town. Every time the hair stands up on the back of my neck and my stomach knots  I hope I’m wrong, but I seldom am, the way I felt right now I’d bet all of the $22.85 I had in my pocket that all of Fred’s 10 or so cats were long gone. I was wrong at least about one cat, Fred’s old mutant Tom,  a bobcat /Siamese cross with seven toes on each foot, it glared at me  from on top of Fred’s unmoving chest, ears back daring me to approach.  I didn’t want or need to, Fred’s unseeing eyes stared up at the sky and his forehead was stove in, my stomach that had survived all previous insults heaved my breakfast into the lilacs.

After the initials shock and the shaking stopped I stood up and looked around, the blood had not yet begun to congeal nor were any flies around. From what I knew from years of TV crime drama’s it meant Fred had not been dead very long, who ever did this must have left not a half hour before I got there. I tried to think if I had passed anyone on the road driving up, and recalled no one coming south. I spotted a small piece of metal on the ground off to the side of the driveway and absentmindedly put it in my pocket. “Ah shit, god dammit Fred” I thought and dialed 911.




Mike Wilcox


Lost Treasures, Priceless Art, Rare Prints

Currier & Ives Print
A Genuine Currier & Ives “City Of New York” Print. One recenmtly sold for $7000.00 at auction

Ah yes, “Lost Treasures”, “Priceless Art”, “Rare prints” , such are the titles of many a media story when some item appears out of nowhere and is worth thousands if not 100’s of thousands. While such finds are legitimate, like the Powerball lottery happen to very few people at millions to one odds. Still, even people like myself who’ve been it he business for years keep looking, even with these odds we still keep an eye out for that Rembrandt etching in a box lot in a farm auction, or that very rare Currier & Ives print hung up in the outhouse of an abandoned farm.

Sadly most of what we see in the appraisal business are usually turn of the 19th Century mass produced copies of the works of a famous Artists. Most of these were sold in Five & Dime type stores, a lot of them formerly prints cut from feed store or insurance company calendars, pictures great Aunt Harriet could not bring herself to throw away in 1923 and popped it in a cheap frame.

The main reason we tend to look at art as having potential great value does have a great deal to do with media finds of rare pieces, but more for the reason that Art it is looked at as a great mystery, the realm of the Expert to tell us “What’s it worth” . Unlike most antique items that are identifiable by well-documented markings found on china, figurines, furniture and lamps, the markings on prints are often not well documented or have been trimmed off to fit a frame. In such cases the “Expert” needs to be consulted and in the general public’s eyes if an “Expert” is required it equals “Big Value”. Experts do have their place, and if you a have any doubt at all at about a piece of art work you should think about making some calls around to galleries and dealers to get a referral .

For those so inclined there are whole libraries of  books and DVDs devoted to identifying prints, their editions, biographies of the artist and the publishers involved. Many of these you can view for free online or in local libraries,
For anyone who is thinking about collecting or buying & selling genuine prints, that would be my first recommendation. There is another option to determine if what you are looking at is an lithographic print or etching or a  mass produced copy that only requires a trip to th Dollar Store for a cheap magnifying glass.

Image of dot used in mass produced prints
A blown up view of the “Dots” in a mass produced print can look like

For those of you that just want one simple way to determine if the Currier & Ives print of the ‘City of New York ‘  in your hands is worth $7000.00 or $70.00 I have one simple clue….. Dots….. ”

Mass-produced 20th-century prints are produced in the same fashion as  newspapers put photographs into print: with an image made up of thousands of tiny colored dots (as can be seen in the blown up image to the left). If you look closely at a picture in a newspaper, the entire image is made up of a series of tiny dots, looking almost like a honey comb. The vast majority of original prints are various forms of etchings, engraving or lithographs, all of which have their own unique markings, and require some training and practice to identify, but one thing they won’t exhibit is the all-over honey comb of dots found on a mass-produced print.






Mike Wilcox


Undervalued, 20th Century First Edition Books

Stephen Kings First Best Seller

If you are interested in an inexpensive investment you can actually enjoy in more ways than one? One that can only cost you few bucks in some cases?  The look into 20th Century “First Edition Books”.
Most people look at collectible First Editions to be the preserve of experts with deep pockets. Nothing could be further from the truth, collecting First Edition books doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, and even books by the most famous authors can be very affordable.  I’ve personally added my “Firsts”  to my own collection I’ve picked up from Goodwill type shops for under $2.00 that look like they never been opened, let alone read.

Generally the same laws of acquisition and value apply to books as to most other collectibles, but with books like modern first editions condition is of prime importance. The book, as well as the jacket, should have as few defects as possible, such as tears, bumped corners or stains. Look for books that look like new and you won’t go far wrong. Books, like many other collectibles, are priced based on how many were printed and  the current demand from Collectors. A general rule of thumb is that the first books by an author who’s work ends up on the best sellers list  goes on to become a best seller can often be a very hot item, the reason being  the first editions tend to be printed in a far lower printing than the ones by the same author after he or she is making the rounds on Oprah’s or Jon Stuart’s show. A prime examnple would be Stephen King’s first book, “Carrie,” which was published in 1974, one signed by the author can sell for more than $7500.00,  if in “Very Good” condition. In comparison, a signed first edition copy of one of his much later later books, like “The Tommyknockers,” published 1987 can be found for less than $400.00 as of the date of this article, while unsigned copies often go for less than $25 at a Bookseller.  One quick way to increase the value of any first edition you have written by a living author such as King, is by having it signed when the author is on tour promoting their books in your area.

The Sun Also Rises
The first edition of The Sun Also Rises published in 1926 by Scribner’s. The dust jacket was illustrated by Cleonike Damianakes.

There are still bargains out there by hugely famous authors who are no longer with us, like Earnest Hemmingway. Even though a good first edition signed copy of his first book, “The Sun Also Rises” is listed at one bookseller for over $195,000, a first edition the last book he wrote and published after his death, “The Garden of Eden,”  can be found for about $85.