What’s It Worth?: Stoneware depicting South African animals

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What’s It Worth?: Stoneware depicting South African animals

What’s It Worth?: Stoneware depicting South African animals

Q My parents have recently moved to assisted living. My mother insists the following plates and two mugs pictured are worth something. I believe that my grandmother gave them to my father. She worked as a nurse on cruise ships before, during, and after the war. I believe these came from South Africa. Any idea if they are worth anything?

A Commemorative earthenware tableware is directly descended from the very expensive Chinese export porcelains — porcelains made in China specifically in the Western taste to appeal to Western markets. Beginning in the 17th century, very wealthy Europeans could acquire and even custom-order porcelain tableware from China.

By the early 19th century, potters in Britain had developed stoneware — an inexpensive, sturdy and easily mass-produced alternative. Stoneware offered a low-cost method for decorating and personalizing. Transfer printed stoneware involved engraving an image into a copper plate, printing the image onto tissue paper — basically a decal — and firing that image onto unglazed pottery blanks. Its immediate success led very early on to the development of commemorative plates.

Thus, middle-class travelers could purchase inexpensive mementos from their travels, middle-class merchants could customize promotional plates, calendars and tiles; by the mid-19th century consumers could even subscribe to annual series like Christmas plates. British companies Wedgwood and Royal Doulton were both hugely successful marketers of commemorative plates.

From the image, you seem to have pieces from at least three different series by two British manufacturers. Your elephant plate was made by Royal Doulton. Royal Doulton introduced this 10-scene African series in 1936. Six of the ten were animals from South Africa’s Kruger National Park. We can date your plate to sometime after 1952 when Royal Doulton began issuing the plates with the wild animal border.

The other plates are by Wedgwood and feature animals from the Kruger Park series and South Africa’s Union Park series. Each of the designs on these plates is an engraving of an actual photograph; Hilda Chomondeley, wife of the nature reserve warden J. Stevenson Hamilton, designed the borders on these plates, depicting flora and fauna of South Africa. You have plates from the first and second editions. I can’t see images of the mugs well enough to identify them. Wedgwood stopped producing this line in the mid-1970s.

These plates are attractive and educational but not terrifically valuable. Most people who collected them used them decoratively, so the plates weren’t subject to the chips and breaks of everyday tableware. The entire collection of six plates and two mugs would likely sell in the $60 to $100 range.

I hope your parents enjoy the wording I found on a Johannesburg retailer’s publicity pamphlet:

A set or piece of Wedgwood Kruger National Park is a wonderful souvenir if you’re looking for refinement or a collector’s item. Wedgwood items are classy things to put on your mantel piece or in your display cabinet at home for everyone to admire!


Jane Alexiadis is a personal property appraiser. Send questions to worth@janealexiadis.com.

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Published at Thu, 12 Jan 2017 18:00:29 +0000