The Joys of Collecting

Collecting antiques and collectables is a wonderful hobby and you do not need a large bank account in order to get started. The word ‘antique’ often makes us think of high end collectables such as expensive jewellery, fine furniture and Georgian silver which you would usually find in the fashionable auction houses such as Bonhams, Christies and Sothebys and most of these would be well out of reach for those of us with modest incomes. Don’t despair, if you love antiques and collectables and you want to put together a collection of your own, there are a number of sources that you should explore.

Your first stop should be your local auction house or auction centre where you can attend auctions on a regular basis. In my area there are six auction houses within striking distance and I could be attending several auctions a month. Most auction houses these days publish their catalogues on the internet a week before the auction. This is very useful as it gives you an overview of what is on offer and you an then make a decision on whether the trip is worthwhile. Most catalogues will contain estimates of what the particular pieces should fetch and this enables you to weed out all the items that are beyond your budget.

Quite a lot of auction houses run their auctions live online and this means that you can bid from your own home. This is particularly convenient during the winter months when the weather can be bad.

An important tip: always attend the auction preview which is usually a couple of days before the auction. Photographs on a website can look amazing but you really need to look at the pieces themselves in order to check for damage etc. China and porcelain photographs particularly well and the real think can be quite disappointing as photos often do not show up scratches and chips. Remember though that when you buy second hand vintage china you cannot expect it to be in mint condition.

Another excellent source for hunting out antiques and collectables are antiques fairs and markets. These are especially useful because you can chat to the invidivual dealers who are usually very helpful and are always open to a deal, as long as your offer is sensible and not a million miles away from the asking price.

Lastly, don’t forget your local charity shops and car boot sales. There are several charity shops in most towns and are often well worth checking out. Car boot sales have really taken off and many are held weekly, and often on a Saturday or Sunday. The prices are usually very reasonable and just like the fairs, always haggle – there is usually a bargain to be had.

Collecting Vintage Spongeware

Spongeware used to be considered cheap and cheerful and, especially in the 19th century some potteries did not want it known that they were producing anything so common.  Spongeware was often a lifesaver when the potteries were short of orders and this filled the gap nicely.   It became somewhat of a cottage industry carried out by women and children working at the kitchen table.  They would pick up the blanks from the pottery and once the sponging was complete they would return the pieces to the pottery for the second firing.

Key potteries making spongeware included Llanelly in South Wales and David Methwen & Sons in Kircaldy in Scotland, as will as George Jones and WM Adams & Co in England.  The large majority of the pieces were not marked and therefore quite difficult to identify.  Because it was cheap to buy it would be in everyday use in the home and it is therefore quite hard to find pieces without damage.  Spongeware would have been used in farmhouses to serve porridge and soup and was often kept on the stove meaning that scorch marks and blackening was not unusual.

Comprehensive collections are rare and even the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has only a small selection of the more refined mid 18th century Staffordshire creamware on show. Continue reading “Collecting Vintage Spongeware”