Parisian vase received as tip tops tales of antique acquisition

TERRY MAURER, WHAT'S IT WORTH?May 5, 2013 

We've heard many tales about how antiques and collectibles came into someone's possession: Their mother, grandfather, great aunt or friend had it and gave it to them. The item was purchased at a flea market, garage sale or antiques mall. It was rescued from a Dumpster.

All kinds of stories.

In today's What's It Worth? an Oregon reader has the best story yet.

Q. Years ago, I was working as a server in a lounge in Western Washington. One night, as a tip, a customer left me this vase. He also left a message with it saying there was some value to the piece, even though it was damaged. The vase is about 12 inches high and marked on the bottom. Can you tell me more about it? -- Jody in Enterprise, Ore.

A. No question, Jody's story tops the list of tales we've heard over the years.

This is what's called "Old Paris porcelain" by collectors. It was made between 1820 and about 1900, and we'd date it to the earliest part of that period.

Old Paris isn't a particular company but refers to this type of porcelain, made in the general area of Paris in the 19th century. While there were a number of firms making it, very few pieces are marked.

Fortunately, this vase has a clear bottom mark -- a blue "J P" in capital letters -- for the firm of Jacob Petite, who worked in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, from 1830-62.

Each little flower and leaf was molded separately, attached to the vase and then kiln fired -- a time-consuming and costly process that required great skill.

Most likely originally one of a matching pair, this vase retains some value -- even though it is heavily damaged. Readers may not be able to see the detail of the floral decoration or the damages. Almost every flower has chipped petals or other damage. The losses are extensive.

In perfect condition, it would be worth $1,500. For a perfect pair, the value would be more like $4,000.

As is, this vase would carry a retail price tag of no more than $200.

On the positive side, because there is so much small, attached decoration and the chips you see everywhere are also small, the damage is almost invisible from a distance and the vase looks quite nice if one stands back about 10 feet.

Q. I've had these marbles for a long time, and while we don't believe the to be valuable, would like to know something more about them and how old they might be. They seem to be made of clay, not glass. -- Pam in Pasco

A. They are called "Bennington marbles," after the glazes used by 19th century commercial potteries in the Bennington, Vt., area. It is thought, however, that no marbles were made in Bennington in the 1800s -- that's just how these got their name.

Benningtons most often are blue or brown (the single marble shown here is blue). Some other colors were made and there also are speckled marbles. The clay was shaped into a ball, then coated with glaze and fired.

They fall into the "common" or "commie" category for collectors. There are lots of Benningtons out there. A blue or brown Bennington marble is about as common as it gets.

How common are they? Well, just before we went to press with today's Herald, I did an internet search for "Bennington marble" and found 1,220,000 matches! Looking for eBay sales listings alone, there were 56,200 "hits." That's an awful lot of marbles.

While they are attractive in their own way, collectors hardly give Bennington's the time of day. And, certainly, not very much value, either.

A dollar or two is about what this marble is worth.

-- Terry Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com

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