The art of creating figurines out of various types of clay goes back many thousands of years, but the ones made in the 19th and 20th centuries are most likely what you’ll find in your own home. Ceramic figurines were produced throughout Europe in the 19th century, but by the 20th century, other countries, including the United States, had begun making them.
With so many different makers producing these wares, it should come as no surprise that some examples can be remarkably valuable today, while many other seemingly similar items are of only moderate value. And of course, there are plenty of ceramic figurines with virtually no demand at all. This post will give you some basics to look for in starting to determine the desirability of your pieces.
While ultimately there are other attributes to consider, the big three to start with are maker, subject and condition. While age and rarity are also very important, it is more difficult to determine these things than the other parameters, so let’s start with what you can easily start to research yourself.
Check for marks or signatures
First, look the piece over to see if there’s a maker’s mark or artist’s signature. These marks can be easily verified on the internet doing a search for “pottery marks.” Pieces made in France, England, Germany and Austria tend to be the most valuable, while Italian, Central European and American examples tend to be worth less. Those made in Asia, South America, Australia or other non-European countries tend to fetch the least amount of money. There are a few notable exceptions to all of the above, though, so don’t toss anything till you’re sure. For example, Italian Lenci figurines can bring a small fortune. Most often, unsigned pieces are of little value unless they are very old.
Figurines of women are popular
When it comes to subjects, beautiful women (especially nude ones) are always in demand. Figures of men bring less. Mythical figures usually do well, as do cute children (Hummel and LLadro figures are both seeing a steep decline in popularity among collectors, however). Animal figures are always popular, but don’t command what figures of people do. Figures in Victorian, ethnic or peasant styles are going out of favor, while art deco figures are seeing a rise in value.
Condition is key to getting top dollar
When it comes to condition, items usually must be perfect to be desirable. People typically want to display antique or vintage figurines in their home, and chips, scratches or other marks are never considered assets. Unless you are in possession of an extremely rare or coveted piece, damage of any kind is unacceptable.
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