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What’s It Worth: Marks Show ‘Junk Bowl’ to be Valuable Newcomb Pottery Example

by Mike Wilcox (05/01/12).

This used for was a catch all on top of the fridge for Brenda D.’s father’s handyman projects. It was always full of screws, picture frame hangers, matches and pencils, duct tape, you name it. After looking at the marks and referring to the WorthPoint Marks and Digital Library database, the bowl’s pottery, potter and decorator were identified, as well as a value for the bowl.

Brenda D.’s father had come about owning this bowl about 20 years ago at a church rummage sale. The bowl was not really what he was after; it just happened to be included in a box lot that had other items he wanted. Since its purchase, the bowl has spent most of its time on top of the fridge as a catch all of “useful things.” Brenda’s parents were moving to a condominium and were clearing their home out of nonessentials, giving the kids first choice while everything else they were not taking was going in a yard sale. Brenda thought this piece was too pretty to put in the sale and her father gave it to her. She didn’t bother to check for any markings until after she got it home, but when she did, her curiosity got the better of her and she contacted WorthPoint’s Ask a Worthologist service to inquire about this piece and her inquiry was forwarded to me, here’s her question.

“I received this old bowl from my father, who bought it at a church rummage sale about 20 years ago with a bunch of Blue Willow dinnerware for my mother. It was in a box lot of the stuff, one-price-take-all. All it was ever used for was a catch all on top of the fridge for my Dad’s handyman projects. It was always full of screws, picture frame hangers, matches and pencils, duct tape, you name it. They are selling the family home and moving into a condo, so they are clearing out stuff they don’t want to take with them. We kids get to take whatever we want; the rest will go in a family yard sale. This bowl looked too good to go in a yard sale, I never realized how pretty it was until we took it off the top of the fridge and dumped out the contents and washed it up. After I got it home I checked it all over and found that it was marked on the bottom. I’d like to know what they mean and some history about this piece.”

Here’s my response.

The N inside the C mark on the right identifies this bowl as having been made by the Newcomb Pottery and the date code JM60 dates it to 1918. Other marks on the piece identify the potter and decorator by name.

Based on your images and the marking, your father had a very elegant and expensive “junk bowl.” It’s a piece by the Newcomb Pottery, located in New Orleans. Newcomb was part of the art classes taught at Newcomb College. Production of art pottery on a for-profit basis started circa 1895 under the supervision of two art professors there, Ellsworth and William Woodward.

The pottery was “thrown” by male potters—the majority by Joseph Meyer until about 1925—while the carvings and decoration were carried out by female students. Newcomb produced high-quality art pottery until the late ’30s, closing in 1940. Newcomb pieces are well marked, and from these markings, it’s possible to determine a great many details, such as the names of the potter, the decorator and even the clay mixtures used.

According to our Marks & Digital Library database, your bowl with the date code JM60 dates to 1918. It carries the Newcomb pottery mark (the CN mark), the potter’s mark of Joseph Meyer and the decorator mark of Sadie Irvine*.

In the current market comparable examples of Newcomb pottery sell at auction in the $1,200-$1,500 range.

*Sadie Irvine was one of Newcomb’s “art craftsmen” from 1906. This term was used for students who stayed on as employees after graduation, and Irvine held this position until 1929. In1930, she was hired as permanent employee and held this position until the potteries closure in 1940. Irvine later became an instructor in ceramic arts beginning the 1940-1941 academic year, where she remained until she retired in 1952, she died in 1970.

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

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