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Ask a Worthologist: The ‘Thrift Store’ Bowl

by Mike Wilcox (03/17/14).

This thrift-store find was a real winner. It’s a rare Roycroft piece from pre-1920.

Gerald S. found this silver bowl at a second-hand shop. It wasn’t until 
later that looked at he looked closer and decided to find out more about it by contacting us.

He emailed us via WorthPoint’s 
“Ask a Worthologist” service to find out exactly what he had, and his inquiry was forwarded to me. Here’s his question:

“I picked up this bowl at one of our local charity shops. It appeared to be silver-plated copper. The silver was worn on some areas. I liked the look of it—it had a kind of hand-hammered look, and I
figured it was probably just an antique-looking European reproduction from the 1960s. It was pretty dirty, 
so I cleaned it up when I got home. The more I looked at it, the more it looked like it was handmade. Please have a look at the markings on it and give me an idea of who might of made it
and how old it really is.”


Here’s my response:

This an amazing find, especially to find it unnoticed in any sort of thrift-type store. This bowl is an Arts and Crafts period piece made by Roycroft, which was a handicraft
 community in East Aurora, NY.

This Roycroft Sheffield mark proves the origins. It’s a real Roycroft and could be worth $2,500 or more.

Elbert Hubbard, a soap salesman for the famous 
Larkin Company, founded Roycroft. Hubbard had been quite a successful salesman 
for the company but was dissatisfied with his life. He traveled to England, where he was influenced
by the work of William Morris, the father of the English Arts and Crafts movement and founder of the Kelmscott Press.

Hubbard returned to the U.S. and 
began to write, and following the example of William Morris he founded his own publishing house, Roycroft Press, circa 1895. The success of the publishing house funded expansion of the community to include the furniture and metal-ware production we are all familiar with today.

This bowl predates 1920. It does not appear to be in any catalogs after that date that we have. It was an expensive item when new, one of the most expensive items in the 1919 catalog.

There is one listed in the Elbert Hubbard museum with a Karl Kipp marking, but there does not
seem to be much information about this bowl in the reference material available.

The most recent 
example we have seen of your Roycroft bowl was sold at auction for $1,200 in mid-2009, but
 others have sold for more than $2,500. With the rarer Roycroft pieces like this, it’s difficult to determine a
 value, as they appear so rarely at auction that just having two or three collectors at the same sale can 
drive prices well above previous sales records.


Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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