If you are not yet a collector, but this booklet has given you the desire to become one, then these few comments may be helpful. First of all, collect because it is fun to do so. Do not collect in the hope that it will be a good investment. It may turn out to be just that, but you can never be sure. Attractive or unusual glazes, uncommon designs, advertising items and rare, hard-to-find pieces will likely increase in value, but the more common ones such as mixing bowls, crocks and plain hotel china will likely not increase very much, and in some cases could even lose their value.
What you should pay for a piece is really up to you. Price guides are just that, only a guide. If you really need a piece to complete a set, or you just want it because it was named to a merchant from your hometown, then price may not be of too much concern. But, to make sure that you do not pay an outrageous price for something, by all means, pick up whatever price guides you can find, but be warned there are not many that mention Alberta-made pottery.
By far the best way to become knowledgeable is to visit antique and collectible stores, go to the special antique shows that come to town, and go to auction sales. You can still pick up some good bargains at auction sales, especially rural ones, but the best bargains will likely be found at garage sales and flea markets.
One of the best things you can do as a new collector is to introduce yourself to those who are bidding against you at an auction. When you meet fellow collectors a whole new world will open for you; most will gladly share both their information and collections with you. It might not happen when you first meet, but once you find that you really share a common interest, I am sure that they will open their homes to you. Perhaps the main question to ask yourself is “What should I collect.” The answer depends on many things: your interests, how much of a challenge you want, the depth of your pocketbook, how much room you have to display your collection, and perhaps even what will the rest of the family put up with.
I will not try to answer all those questions but perhaps a few guidelines will help. If you want a real challenge—the most difficult of the potteries to find—then try collecting P.I.E. or New Medalta Ceramics. Your collection will never be a big one, but you will certainly end up with a unique collection. While some dealers are aware of how hard it is to find the items made by these companies, the prices as a rule are still not too high due to few collectors chasing after them.
I would not even suggest that you try Medicine Hat Pottery Company Limited (1912-1914) or Clark’s two companies as you might look for a year before you even get one item. The Alberta Potteries though, both Wyatt’s and Yuill’s companies, are another good choice if you want a fairly challenging area yet one where you could, in time, get a collection of a hundred or more pieces. Once again, the prices for most items are not outrageous, and many pieces can be picked up in the $20.00 to $30.00 range.
The items made by Sunburst, Hycroft and Medalta (1966) Limited are what I call the poor man’s collectible. Most of their decorated, commemorative, souvenir and advertising items can be acquired in the $10.00 to $20.00 range, and you can still find quite a few around the $5.00 mark. These companies are also the best bet for showing up at garage sales and flea markets. Sunburst closed in 1975 while the other two were still producing items into the 1980s, and for that reason, you still find many of its products being used in homes.
Even if you just specialized in one of these companies, you could easily accumulate a collection of over 100 different items. But watch out; once you start adding different decorative patterns, colours, advertising slogans, souvenirs and commemorative items, your collection could quickly grow to 300 or more. For example, one Hycroft collector who largely limited his collection to named pieces (advertising-commemorative-souvenirs) now has around 300 pieces! And it’s still growing.
Medalta has been collected for a long time, especially since the Symonds’ published their book - Medalta Stoneware & Pottery for Collectors. It has acquired the reputation as the “thing” to collect; and, of course, with more people chasing after it than the other potteries, the price has gone up accordingly. Medalta is no longer cheap to buy, especially the advertising and highly decorated pieces. Unless you have a mansion, or better yet your own museum, it would be pointless to try to collect an example of every different product made by Medalta. Over the years, they designed over 700 different products, and that is not including the various sizes that many of them came in.
But if you chose to specialize in a particular area such as mixing bowls or pitchers, you could limit your collection but still have fun putting it together. You might even want to expand your pitcher collection to include ones made by all the different potteries rather than just Medalta’s, and my guess would be that such a collection could easily add up to more than 150 different pitchers!
The items made by the Medicine Hat Potteries (1938-1955) are still fairly easy to find and as a rule about half the price of Medalta items. Since they also had a good variety of different products—200 to 300 is my guess—you can certainly build quite a large collection if that is your desire.
What you decide to collect, may come to you only after you have tested the field to find out what you really like, or how hard it is to collect in a given area. There is nothing more frustrating than going to stores, antique shows or flea markets, week after week, only to find that they have none of the items which you are collecting. It is no fun at all if your search has been made too difficult.
What you will find is that collecting is a great way to meet people and make new friends with those with whom you share a common interest. Hook up with another collector—hopefully, one whose interest is different from yours—to make the flea market and antique sale rounds. Two pairs of eyes are always better than one. It is also a great way to get out for some exercise, and best of all you will have a lot of fun.
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