Treasure: Early Pewabic lucky rummage sale find
As a proud Native Detroiter, I’ve long been attracted to Motown memorabilia. I’m a
for vintage postcards of downtown, Stroh’s advertising and other things from our shared past that bear that distinct Motor City stamp.
One of my many weaknesses is Pewabic Pottery, located not far from my home. When I worked at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the 1990s, I spent many happy hours among the bowls, vases and other vessels that were part of the museum’s extensive collection, developing my eye and dreaming of one day having vintage pieces of my own.
While I love the pottery’s newer designs, my favorite pieces are those with the unique luster glaze that usually marks an older piece.
I was lucky to find a piece at a thrift store about a dozen years ago for $3 and stunned when it appraised at the 2013 Antiques Roadshow for $800. I never dreamed I’d find another vintage piece – much less two -- on the second day of a church rummage sale.
Never say never. That’s exactly what happened last fall, when I decided to stop at a local church on the second day of their annual sale. The church usually had delicious Greek baked goods, and I figured I’d bring some home at least, and maybe a book or two for my night reading pile.
I was stunned to see two small pieces of pottery on the vase table with the tell-tale gleam of Pewabic luster glaze. My heart beat a little faster as I turned them over to confirm my identification, only to find a small barely readable circle stamp that proved me right. The price? $1 each. One had a small chip, but that didn’t stop me from happily adding it to my pile.
I took both home along with some yummy baklava and Greek bread and give them a place of honor next to my other Pewabic find.
The two small pieces were among the things I took to the recent Antiques Roadshow visit at Meadow Brook hall, where pottery expert David Rago took a look,
“The wonderful thing about Pewabic is that it is hand-thrown and not cast,” he told me under a sunny Rochester sky. “The luster glaze on these is better than most. Some tends to more of a green cast.”
Both pieces showed years of being boxed up and undusted, he said, giving me advice on how to clean them. “The best thing to do is clean with soapy hot water and buff them with a fluffy towel, which will bring up the luster,” he said. Could he date these? “Pewabic made the luster pieces for a long time, from the teens into the 1960s,” he said, adding the market started slipping in the 1940s and 1950s.
He valued my pieces at $500-$750 for the piece in perfect condition; half that for the one with the small chip. He said he’s always happy to see Pewabic when he comes to Michigan, but seldom sees early pieces, which can bring top dollar at auction.
“The really early stuff is marked with a maple leaf,” he pointed out, adding “I’ve sold that for $20,000 to $30,000.”
Upcoming appraisals in Troy and Detroit
Missed your chance to go to Antiques Roadshow? Still curious about your treasure? We are having appraisals at 10 a.m. July 17 at DuMouchelles and again on July 19 at the Michigan Design Center. If interested, please send an email to email@example.com with the “Upcoming Appraisals” as the subject line. Tell me about your item, where you acquired it, and send a photo or two. If you are chosen, we will contact you with dates and details.
Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to firstname.lastname@example.org. If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.
About This Item
Items: Pewabic pottery
Owned by: Khristi Zimmeth
Appraised by: David Rago
Estimated value: $275-$750 each