In early August, Ruby Lane published an article in my series, ‘Evolution of an Antique Dealer’ entitled, ‘Elevating the Underrated’. That article illustrated and discussed a little bit about jasperware plaques.
This article elaborates on that subject.
Many of our collectors have honed their collections by narrowing their selection to plaques (or other objects such as vases) that feature specific things. For example, one collects only plaques with angels. Another collects only plaques with musical instruments. Yet a third collector only chooses plaques with unique and interesting floral details.
Clearly there will be a crossover between collectors and their collections. Many of the Art Nouveau plaques contain floral details but may feature musical instruments or angels as well. Most of the plaques that are allegorical or mythological contain animals or weapons. Some may only buy and collect those that contain dogs, or bows and arrows! It is probably because there are so many different ways to view these beautiful plaques that collecting them can be both a pleasure and a challenge. Can you imagine what a challenge it might be to collect only plaques with swans? Seeing as how I’ve only seen one ever (see attached photo) it might be considered a very rare subject indeed! In such a case, a collector might broaden their view to include, let’s say – water lilies!
Another unique feature about these jasperware plaques is that decorating with them can be easy, fun, beautiful, and again – challenging.
It happens (I suppose with good fortune) that I really like many of the plaques I sell which makes it a lot easier for me to sell them, but also a lot harder for me to relinquish without a pang or two of ‘seller’s remorse’!! So to make that transition easier on myself, I keep a part of two walls in my home as rotating displays. One area is in my living area just inches away from my desk and the other is in my immediate line of sight upon awakening in the bedroom.
By displaying these beautiful plaques in my home I am able to enjoy them, albeit briefly which makes letting them go when they sell much easier. Of course, I also get to keep the photographic record of them as well so I can always review and enjoy them that way too.
Because these are rotating displays and subject at any moment to change, they are hung rather randomly such that the spacing isn’t always perfect and different styles have to coexist on the walls. Amazingly, the random effect is almost always very pleasing. And that includes all the different color variations as well as size and shape variations. You can see what I mean in the photograph we included.
In a period of time when antiques are not as cherished as they once were and when values are diminishing in so many areas of the collecting trade, it is really very refreshing and heartening to see that these plaques bring so much joy and viewing pleasure to my ever-growing group of collectors. It speaks to their agelessness and endless variety that appeals to so many different types of people. It is also an arena where values are climbing rather than dropping.
Over the last few years some of my collector’s collections have matured to the point where they are now divesting their lower-end acquisitions to make room for the rarer, larger, and better condition ones. Believe it or not, that’s a lot like watching your children grow, mature, graduate high school, go to college, get married, and have children of their own, etc. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction as a dealer to see this happening and to see it happening online, in basically, one generation is very exciting to me.
It also means that my collector’s are slowly becoming my fiercest competition! This happens all the time so my fellow dealers know exactly what I mean. Finding fine jasperware plaques affordably priced for me to buy and resell is very, very difficult. I shake a lot of trees to find them. I have spent years developing contacts in my local area so that they know I will pay very fairly for these type of plaques. That also means that in order to woo a local contact I might have to spend cold hard cash on a lesser piece in order to win them over and make it worth their while to come to me again the next time they find one. I have been willing to do that under the guise of ‘the cost of doing business’. But it is always a fine line between investing in the business and turning a profit.
So as my collector’s become more sophisticated and savvy about the marketplace, they often cross paths with me somewhere in the food chain. And guess what! They always win. Why? Because as a collector they are always able to pay more than I would as a dealer!
Luckily for me I enjoy even that aspect of being a dealer. That’s because when one avenue is exhausted it forces me to challenge myself to find another area and develop it so it tickles my creative side and my desire to pay my bills propels me forward to learn something new and make it profitable too.
To date, I know of no books on the subject of (non-Wedgwood) jasperware plaques. I met someone a few years ago who was planning on writing a book about jasperware from a botanical point of view – focussing on a narrow slice of jasperware collectibles including vases, planters and any other jasperware pieces as long as they included significant floral elements. That book has yet to be produced.
Because of my own limitations I am unable to pursue such a thing but perhaps one of my readers or collector’s will pick up the baton and go forward with such a project. I sure hope so. Maybe a reader of this article will do just that! If so, let me know and I will help in any way possible.
Written by Barbara Jokel
That Was Then Antiques on Ruby Lane