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How do you as a collector or first-time buyer of stoneware build a stoneware collection?

I would like to make the following suggestions. The first option, buying what catches your eye, is easy, straight-forward and rewarding in its own right. 

The second option, that of collecting with a specific direction in mind, takes a bit of time, thought and analysis, but the collecting might be more enjoyable and fulfilling to you, and the collection itself might have more importance from a historical perspective. 

The first step in developing a direction for collecting is to define what it is, generally, that appeals to you about the pieces of stoneware that you like. 

                   a).  Is it the form:

              - the ovoid form of the early period

              - the straight-sided form of the later periods           

       b).  Is it the decoration:

        - the cobalt, incising, coggle wheel, applied sprigging and impressed designs           

              - the intense cobalt decorations of the later periods

                   c).  Is it a part of the history of a certain geographical location or region


Having made this general determination, some research of books on the history of stoneware and other stoneware publications becomes necessary to pin point more specifically what it is that you would like to have in your collection.  For example, if you are most attracted by early form, through the reading of the history, and the looking at the pictures of early stoneware, you will be able to determine who the early potters were, where they worked, and which potters’ work you would like to collect.  If geographical location is your primary interest, research will help you learn which potters worked in the specific area that you are interested in and when they were active. 

A number of excellent books are available on this website to help you with your research.  Check your library for books and articles on stoneware.  Review old auction catalogs for pricing.  The more stoneware you see and the more you read, the better able you will be to pin point what it is, specifically, that you would like to collect. 

After the decisions have been made and your direction clear, consider how important condition is to you.  Keeping in mind that a vast majority of historical stoneware was utilitarian, will a rim chip, tight-line or kiln flaws prevent you from purchasing a rare mark or unique decoration? 

I would like to suggest to you that if you find a piece of stoneware that would fit well in your collection but the condition is not exactly what you would like it to be, you may want to purchase it in spite of its flaws.  If you later find that same piece in great condition, the first one could be sold.  You might look back someday, as I have, never having found the perfect example, and be glad that you did make that first purchase. 

Finally, find reputable dealers that are worthy of your trust.  What is their background?  What is their area of expertise?  A good, solid dealer will be knowledgeable and willing to take the time to answer your questions about a piece’s attribution and repair.  Reputable dealers will always guarantee, in writing, a general description of the piece, its damage and restoration and stand behind it 100%.


Good luck to all, and happy hunting!


Warren Hartmann


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