Even though the age of these tiny treasures make them precious collectibles (as far as pre-Victorian through Victorian collectibles go) Staffordshire figurines are readily available and often times very affordable.
These delightful figurines were made inexpensively and sold at reasonable prices. They were present in many homes across England and eventually collected in America through the 20th century.
The subject matter was quite varied from domestic animals to exotic animals, hunters to royalty to politicians as well as structures and buildings.
This accessibility and wide-spread availability makes collecting Staffordshire a very appealing pastime.
The range of subject matter and colors also allows for effortless integration into many of today’s homes. Decorating with Staffordshire figures is a wonderful way to connect the past with the present by paying homage to a simple art form and appreciating a beautiful and elegant period in history.
1. Of the figurines, famous people and exotic animals tend to be the most valuable.
Hunting figures and dogs were the most commonly produced so their value tends to be a bit lower. As for famous figures and politicians, the exception to the value rules of thumb are the famous figures that were produced in large volumes such as Queen Victoria. The value is not as great, merely because of the quantity produced.
3. Unlike many antiques, the condition of Staffordshire figures is not as important.
Due to manufacturing flaws and paint imperfections from unskilled artisans, conditions can vary greatly from piece to piece. It adds to the character and the folk art appeal. Even minor cracks and chips due to age tend to affect the value very little, if at all.
4. Beware of reproductions.
Reproductions of Staffordshire have been produced through the 20th century and some are still being created today. Look to items made prior to World War 11 for the greatest value and quality.
One way to check the age is to look for worn gilding. Newer pieces have bright brassy or yellow gilded details while the antique counterparts tend to have a dull, worn look to the trim. Be sure to check the bottom as well. Most old Staffordshire lacks backstamps or manufacturing marks. Newer reproductions are usually marked. Check that marks have not been scraped or sanded off.
5. Avoid forgeries. Detecting fakes can pose a challenge.
Some manufactures go so far as to rub dirt into the finish or glaze. They are trying to create the illusion of age. Check the colors and details, as they were originally painted by unskilled laborers. If a figurine looks too perfect or the details appear to be transferred on instead of hand painted, it’s probably a fake. Another way to check is the weight. The older figures are typically heavier than the newer ones.
For more on Melinda Graham, visit surroundingsbymelinda.com.