Steve: I’m going to ask you one more question and then we’ll explain a little bit.
Steve: What exactly would majolica be made from? Would it be made from a painted metal, would it be some sort of clay material or would it be a blown glass?
Ken: Glass is what popped into my head.
Steve: There you go. You’re wrong. Okay, I knew I’d catch you on that one.
Ken: I thought it was glass, yeah.
Steve: Okay, majolica dates all the way back into the 1500s and a lot of the pieces that we’ve found over history have been dug up or retrieved from Italy. It’s not really known if this stuff was made to start all the way back in the fourteen to 1500s in Italy. They think that it may have come from one of the Spanish islands and traded up and down the coastline. But, basically, majolica refers to some sort of earthenware or clay. It’s a type of pottery and it gets its name because it had what we call a tin glaze.
They would actually take oxides and metals and, basically, paint it on the type of clay and then heat it. What this would do is actually give it a white opaque glaze and then they could turn around and actually paint on the earthenware or the clay in a lot of different colors. A lot of colors were applied to this majolica, then it was fired and this is what was traded. It was used for decoration for a lot of bathroom type of things holding water because it was glazed and it wouldn’t leak.
What’s pretty cool is most of the stuff was decorated with things from Greek mythology, animals, plants and things like that. What’s cool about antiques and the history about them is we look at these things and go oh, really cool decorations. Look, they thought of something neat. They’d put a bull dancer or a bull jumper where the fellows would be in arenas and they would actually put their hands on the bull’s horns and jump over their backs and stuff. You think wow. This guy was really neat to think about coming up with an idea like that.
Well, what you have to realize is they drew pictures and painted pictures of what was going on in their lives. To us it was like wow, this is neat-looking stuff. This was the way they lived. I mean Greek mythology back in the fourteen and 1500s was not just a mythology, these people actually believed in these gods. This is what determined their history. I mean this is what determined their lives and so these things that we call mythological now, we find a lot of these pictures on the older pieces of majolica. What’s kind of neat is people say well, how do you tell what timeframe this is from?
Ken: Carbon dating?
Steve: They actually can do some carbon dating with that stuff. Yeah, they can, but the easiest thing is to look and see what colors the stuff is painted. You have to understand, too, it’s not like there was a whole band of Sherwin-Williams guys sitting around making colors so people could paint their majolica, okay? It was what your scientists or your alchemists at that time could come up with that they knew would come up with a particular color.
What they would do is take certain metals, beat them up and combine them to make oxides to paint with. When we look at the color purples or we look at green, these were a lot of the primary colors in the early majolica stuff. We know that came from the metal manganese and that would give a purple color to the oxide. Now, if they wanted to turn around and come up with green, if they beat that up as copper and made an oxide out of it, that would give them the color green. If they wanted an orange color, they’d have to use iron. If they wanted cobalt, which was a later color, that gave them the color blue. Antimony, which is another metal, would give them the color yellow. So when we see these different colors on the majolica in the decorations that helps us to date that stuff.
Again, as I’ve opened up a lot of these boxes getting ready for this sale, I looked at pieces that I’ve accumulated over the years and some of the stuff was actually repaired with handmade staples. They didn’t have glue at the time and they would actually use staples to hold these pieces together. When you look at that, it helps you date a piece by the repairs, as well as the colors of it. When I first started, I looked at these pieces and said I don’t know what this is, but it’s pretty cool. I’ve never seen anything like this before, so I’m going to put it away.
As I open boxes up, I can sort of see the way I’ve grown over the years and the amount of knowledge that I’ve picked up over the years. Some of it you retain and some of it you don’t. It goes by the wayside, unfortunately, as we get older, but it’s neat to see. I can see it in myself as I’ve gone through and opened these boxes how I’ve accumulated different things and they were learning pieces for me, which is kind of neat. You’ll probably see a lot of these at the sale and some of them in the auctions.
Let’s see here, what can I ask you? Okay, in Victorian times at the 1855 Universal Exposition, what company showed their variety of majolica? Was it Minton, was it Wedgewood or was it the Trent Pottery Company?
Ken: Oh, Mitten, Mitten.
Steve: What, Mitten?
Ken: The ‘M’ one.
Steve: Why because it sounded like minced meat?
Ken: I don’t know. I just like it.
Steve: Because you’re looking on your phone. Okay, I see. He’s looking. You know, I’ve lost a lot of respect for him now. I thought he was learning all this stuff and he’s sitting there with Wikipedia on his phone here.
Ken: So, in other words, I’m right?
Steve: Actually, the answer was Minton and Minton was a company in England. Majolica, again, was Italy and the European countries and things like that and it worked its way into England. For years and years Minton was a tile company. They actually made different tiles and they began making majolica pieces, as well. They were on exhibit at the exposition in 1855 and a lot of the French connoisseurs and collectors were exposed to this for the first time really in a big way.
Again, as we talk about antiques it’s not like you could see an info commercial on television. You couldn’t go to Woolworth’s. They waited for these huge expositions and all these countries from around the world would exhibit different things, arts and crafts and things that were making the world a more civilized place. They were starting to see industrialization a little bit. There were all kinds of new and exciting things at all these expositions and, again, they were staged all over the world. But in 1855 the Minton Company, who’d been around before that, introduced a large array of majolica wares and became quite popular.
We talk about this and we’ve just talked about it a little bit here. What designs became famous decoration themes for Majolica? Was it cauliflowers, was it pineapples or was it berries?
Ken: I’m going to go with pineapples.
Steve: Well, you’re one-third right because all three of those were actually themes that we find on a lot of majolica. Not only themes, but they would actually take that particular shape and make usable wares, whether it was a pitcher or a plate, things like this. A lot of times the pineapple would be intertwined into it as a handle. The cauliflower, they would actually make dishes that looked like cauliflower. They would make teapots and things with cauliflower on the top.
Again, these were things that were everyday items. The majolica reflected everyday ware, as well as some of the really finer earlier stuff like the mythology things. Again, it wasn’t a real expensive type of ware, but where were the artists going to come up with different ideas. We find a lot of woven basket-type things. We talk about the Art Nouveau period with the intertwining of man and nature. Well, we find that in majolica, which was in that same timeframe. It was somewhere all the way in the fourteen-fifteen hundreds, but when it got to Europe and America now we’re in the Victorian times, eighteen fifties all the way up to nineteen hundred. So we find that it encompassed part of that Art Nouveau period and we get the intertwining of the emersion of nature again. So we find vines in the forms of majolica. We find woven trees and pinecones and all kinds of different nature-type things as a real focal point for Wedgewood.
There were different pieces that had oriental designs because, again, oriental stuff started moving back and forth among the colonies and in Europe. So some of the artists said all the oriental fans, that would be a very cool type of topic, something like that, or the chopsticks, kimonos, the different embroideries and things like that that they found from the orient. A lot of this stuff was actually incorporated into some of the designs of majolica and you’ll find these.
The reason I bring this up, years ago I had put a piece of majolica away from me because I just didn’t have enough room at the house. This was a compote, which is a piece you can put a cake on or different foods on. It’s a stand, it’s got a little base and it comes up. It can either have a flat surface or it could have a concave surface that you could put fruit in. But I had picked up a piece of majolica in a collection with this oriental design and I said gees, I’ve never ever seen anything like this in the majolica. I was used to most of the green colored majolica that used to have little pink or brown infused into the color with a big leaf on it.
You’ll still see a lot of this stuff at garage sales. When I used to go out picking, I would always see some sort of a majolica plate because, again, it wasn’t real expensive stuff. It was utilitarian. It was an ashtray, a bowl or something like that and you could always pick it up because it was ugly. People would be like oh, I inherited this from my grandmother or somebody like that. I don’t know why they had it, it’s ugly and I don’t want it anymore. It would be out there in the garage sales for a dollar, three dollars, five dollars.
When I bought this collection, I had never ever seen a piece decorated in an oriental design and I put it away for myself. So this is other stuff that you’ll see, unusual stuff. You just don’t see it like you used to anymore. You see it on TV, in the pickers and things like that. Even if you want to come out and see some unusual pieces just because it’s kind of neat to see and I’ve talked about them on the air, stop out at see us on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd. These pieces will be up for sale.
Ken: Get ya’ some.
Steve: Get ya’ some because you won’t see it very often. This is the kind of stuff that you’ll see in some of the museums, if you enjoy looking at that kind of stuff. Now, the designs progressed all the way ‘til the early nineteen hundreds. What company produced Toby Mugs in response to the popularity the majolica? Was it Doulton, was it Wedgewood or was it Hoffmayer?
Steve: I knew I’d get you with that because it sounded impressive. I just made that one up.
Ken: Oh, okay.
Steve: Actually, Royal Doulton and Wedgewood. Doulton came up with Toby Mugs. Originally, they were started as earthenware, a clay-type of thing, and then later on they became porcelain as the popularity rose. You’ll see a big distinction between the earthenware clay-type of thing and the porcelain, which was fired a lot more times. It’s a lot more well-done type of a thing. So Doulton was the answer on that one. Now, what type of glass was produced from the early nineteen twenties to the early forties? Was it depressing glass, depending glass or depression glass?
Ken: Depression glass.
Steve: Sometimes we refer to it in the trade as depressing glass, as well. This was something that was mass produced. It was cheap. It was used mainly in the kitchen and things like this. During the Great Depression in the ‘30s, people didn’t have a lot of money to spend on beautiful-looking things, so they made the most of what they could and a lot of companies jumped on the bandwagon and began producing Depression glass. Like we say, it was much cheaper. It wasn’t a real great-quality thing, but it’s become quite collectable.
Depression glass back in the ‘70s and ’80s was a really, really hot collectable. Not so much anymore, but there are a lot of people who collect it. But that answer would be Depression glass. What colors would you not expect to see in Depression glass, pink, green or amber?
Steve: You actually see all three of those colors.
Ken: Oh, really?
Steve: Probably pink and green are the two biggest colors that you will see when it comes to Depression glass, but you’ll also find them in yellow, black, cobalt, ivory, jadeite, which is sort of a mixed green and white kind of color, frosted. You’ll find these colors with a frosted finish on it, almost like it was sandblasted. We talked about this last week, but iridescent. We talked about how some of the art glass would have an iridescent finish on it. They actually would take that and spray that iridescence and then fire it onto some of the Depression glass and you will find this.
When I first started, I didn’t realize that a lot of the Depression glass was clear with an iridescent finish on it and I’d put it away in boxes. I said one day I’m going to learn what the heck this stuff is. I don’t know what it is now, but hopefully I’ll learn. Over the years, I realized that a lot of this glass I’d put away hoping it was some sort of an art glass because it had iridescence to it was nothing more than Depression glass. Then you would find it in the different colors, which was even more amazing, and I learned again that it was just strictly Depression glass. How many companies do you think produced 95% of the Depression glass in the entire country, seven, 11 or four?
Steve: You’re on a roll. That’s wrong. Actually, there were seven companies that produced probably better than 95% of all the Depression glass in the country, which is kind of amazing because there was just millions and millions and millions of pieces cranked out there. Some of the companies were Hocking, U.S. Glass Company, Atlas Glass, Janette, Federal, Indiana. I think that’s most of them. I may have missed one or two, but those are some of the companies. Most of the Depression glass did not have any kind of a name or symbol stamped on it. Hocking, once it became Anchor Hocking, started to put a little insignia on the bottom of some of their stuff, but for the most part most of the Depression glass is not marked.
What distinguishes how collectable it is? There were different patterns that were embossed or impressed into the different pieces of glass and some of them were actually the opposite. They were mold blown and the designs would actually stick off of the glass. These were a little more costly to make, so there weren’t as many of them made. The less there is of a particular item, most of the time, the more collectible it becomes, the more expensive it becomes. So in the heyday, we find that some of the pieces of Depression glass were selling for three and $400. The same pieces that were selling for three and $400 now are selling for twenty to thirty. Again, like I’ve talked about before, antiques are cyclical. Collectibles are cyclical. They go in cycles and right now the Depression glass is just not as popular.
We find all kinds of patterns and shapes. What time period do you think we would find a piece of Depression glass? Usually it was a cream and sugar set and it was very geometric-looking. Would it be in the 1920s, 1930s or 1940s?
Steve: And why would that be?
Ken: I don’t know.
Steve: Oh, so you just took a shot.
Ken: Pretty much.
Ken: It was kind of Art Nouveau.
Steve: Keep going.
Ken: Art Deco.
Steve: There you go. See? Now I feel like I’ve accomplished something. You actually learned the term Art Deco and associated with the 1920s because most of that stuff was very geometric. This was just a quickie that I said you know what, I’ll see if actually listen sometimes and you did.
Ken: What, you think I’m over here sleeping?
Steve: Yeah, most of the time.
Ken: Playing Backgammon on my phone, what?
Steve: Exactly. Who’s winning at that right now anyway?
Ken: Not me.
Steve: It’s funny because this was just real quick to show you how you learn. You get this information and you can apply it so that if you’re out there prospecting at the garage sales and things like that and you see a piece that’s pink glass, green glass, it’s yellow, it’s amber and it’s got a very geometric pattern to it, you look at it and say to yourself okay, I remember that even Ken Lovejoy said in the ‘20s there was Art Deco that was very geometric. It’s Depression glass that Steve said was made from the ‘20s to the ‘40s. I think this is Depression made in the Art Deco period and it’s probably quite collectible and you would be right.
Like I say, the Depression glass itself is not so much collectible as it used to be, but the fact that it is Depression glass makes it collectible and the fact that it’s Art Deco period makes it collectible. So when you’ve got two things going for something like that, if it’s not a lot of money, then it’s worth taking what we call that shot and buy it and somebody is going to want to buy it from you. But, again, before you take that shot, do a little research and try and find out what items like that actually sell for. So that’s just a little quickie on that.
Ken: Yeah. Four minute.
Steve: We’re almost out of time, so if you heard the name Fostoria, what item do you think that would be made out of? Now, I know the oldies generation, my age, it pops right into our mind. Would it be made out of paper goods, would it be glass items or would it be metal baking items made of aluminum?
Ken: I’m going to go with glass.
Steve: You’d be correct on that item. The Fostoria Glass Company was started in 1887 in West Virginia and the main reason it was started there was because they had discovered natural gas in West Virginia. It’s funny how many things we take for granted and how antiques and companies started. They started in Fostoria, Ohio because they had natural gas, which was new, but it was cheap, efficient and clean. Besides that, Fostoria, Ohio said hey, we’re going to give you between five and ten grand if you open up this company. Things haven’t changed too much at all, except you don’t a whole lot for five or ten grand anymore incentive, but they gave them the incentive to open up there because it would open up a lot of jobs, it would be a new company, it would be revenue coming in and back then in the 1880s five or ten grand was a lot of money.
Ken: A lot of money, big money.
Steve: So they opened up there. Again, you’ve got to remember, blowing glass was a real art. It wasn’t something that everybody knew how to do. So what we have is a bunch of artisans who got together, opened up this company and started producing tableware, lamps, bar goods, but low and behold West Virginia runs out of gas. That’s not just a term ‘running out of gas’. They ran out of gas, so the company got up and moved. In 1891, they moved to West Virginia rather than Ohio and produced a lot more furnaces.