From the Worthologists’ Files: Royal Worcester Bird Figurines
One of the advantages of being an appraiser is the sheer volume of incredible things one comes across on a weekly basis. Not all are hugely valuable, antique, rare or even all that sought after. Many times their value is only sentimental, but they often come with priceless provenances. Our Worthologist file cabinet is a treasure chest of such items– appraisal requests from our clients ranging from stuffed aardvarks to folk art zithers, all of which I’ll cover here in this column.
Limited Edition Collectibles have gotten a bad rap in recent years, mainly because the term was abused in the 1980’s and 90’s by companies flooding the market with collectors plates, figurines, and decanters made in the tens of thousands. The market for them eventually collapsed along with values, but some of these “Limited Editions” actually were just that, made in very small editions that still have a strong base of collectors. Our client came across one of these items and had this to say about this pair:
“This pair of porcelain birds belonged to my Grandmother, she collected mainly English figurines by Royal Doulton. I was able to find a lot of information about the Doulton pieces and values for them, but values for Worcester bird figurines are all over the place. Any information you have on it would be greatly appreciated.”
Appraising higher end porcelain bird figurines can be difficult, they are a rather small collector’s niche and often go unidentified as genuine limited edition items. They can get lumped in with later mass produced examples at estate sales and sell for far less than they would at an auction specializing in decorative arts. They also are very appealing to impulse buyers at auctions, who can bid them up well over their estimated values. For this reason, the appraised values for them can vary enormously depending on their quality and rarity.
Your “Mockingbirds” are one of these “rare birds” that do get mistaken for much lower quality types. Yours is a very nice Royal Worcester pair, designed by Susan Doughty. Doughty was best known for her very lifelike porcelain models of birds that she designed for Royal Worcester from 1933-1960. Her first series of birds were of American species. Later in her time with Royal Worcester, she went on to do a series of British birds which were not issued until after her death in 1962.
Doughty designed a series of 36 pairs of birds. This pair of hooded warblers by Doughty sold for $1999 in January 2013.
Doughty designed a series of 36 pairs of birds and only three individual birds of which I’m aware. All of the birds designed by her were made as very small editions. In this case of the “Mockingbirds,” they were issued in 1940, and only 500 were made. Considering the quality of the Doughty birds and the very limited number of them available, they probably will appreciate in value over time. This particular pair of mockingbirds in recent years has sold in the $800.00- $1500.00 range at auction.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement. He can be reached through his website Antique-Appraise.com.
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