One weekend in early November, more than 600 lots of early 19th century English and American pottery and porcelain were on the auction block at Horst's Auction Center in Ephrata, Pa.
Bidders on this pre-election day weekend were bidding on quality, desirability, condition, authenticity, rarity, resale or investment potential of Spatterware, Spongeware, Prattware, Gaudy Welsh, Salopian, Creamware, Pearlware, Mochaware and Tucker Porcelain.
"Good quality English ceramics exported to the American market have had a strong constituency for two generations and show no signs of going out of fashion," said Easton, Pa., dealer Bea Cohen, who bought several pieces. "There hasn't been this much quality, colorful, English earthenware in a sale for a long time," commented Leonard Balish, an Englewood, N.J., dealer who went home with 24 pieces. "It was an opportunity to get prime material, but if you wanted it you had to keep your hand up."
The big winners were two pieces of Tucker porcelain made in Philadelphia circa 1830: An undecorated white porcelain coffeepot with an acorn finial sold for $2,500 and a squat porcelain pitcher, 6 inches high, decorated with a bouquet of flowers and gold banding, brought $2,000. Both were bought by New York dealers Gary and Diana Stradling. A note accompanying the coffee pot said it was "Tucker and Hulme China, of the first porcelain manufactory in this country."
A tureen decorated with blue sprigs of cornflowers, gold banding and gold scrolled handles, probably French, was hammered down for $475, and a large fish platter in the same pattern, 25 1/2 inches long, fetched $250. A porcelain night stand with teapot on top, and with a bird's head spout, all painted with polychrome and gold floral decoration, sold for $1,250. Mr. Stradling thought it was not made in Philadelphia circa 1830. "It was possibly Italian," he said.
The winners in the Creamware and Pearlware category were mostly decorated with freely brushed hand-painted designs. Creamware is distinguished by pools of creamy low lead glaze on its underside near the foot rim. Pearlware, slightly later in date (after 1780), is whiter, its glaze pools blue because of the addition of a slight amount of cobalt as a whitener. More than 150 manufacturers were making Pearlware in Wales and in Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Devon, Cumbria and Liverpool in England, by 1800.
A fine Pearlware tea set, each piece decorated with a yellow tulip, the teapot and sugar bowl with swan finials, sold for $4,150. The teapot sold for $2,600, the sugar bowl for $950 and the creamer for $600. Another well-decorated Pearlware sugar bowl painted with bright-colored free-brushed floral decoration sold for $900, and a miniature coffee pot of Pearlware, with domed lid and acorn finial, painted with a free-brushed blue sprigged design, sold for $1,225. A loving cup, a classical form with a flaring rim and painted with a floral sprig, went for $1,000. Even the very last lot, a Pearlware plate painted with a simple brown and blue butterfly, sold for $1,100!
The china was consigned to the Horst Auction Co. by Pryor E. Neuber, who with his late wife, Arlene, collected china for more than 50 years. "I am moving," said Mr. Neuber, seated on the last row, keeping track of the sale like a campaign manager. "This is only the first of the three sales it will take to sell the whole collection. There will be another sale in spring."
Admitting that some things were selling well, Mr. Neuber was surprised others did not bring as much as he expected. "That soup plate is one of the best things; it sold for $975," he said, barely satisfied, pointing to a 9 1/2 -inch soup plate painted with three red, blue and yellow birds perched on green spatter trees and with the same green spatter splotches on the border.
He was clearly disappointed in the prices paid for Gaudy Welsh, a ware similar to Gaudy Dutch but heavier, whiter and slightly later. A rare grape pattern teapot sold for $475 and Gaudy Welsh plates and creamers fetched $130 each.
He was amazed at the price of Mochaware, the popular name for slip-banded ware decorated in a seaweed pattern that resembled mocha stone, a kind of agate. A cup and saucer with a gray ground and a black seaweed design sold for $900. A pepper caster in the same color made $725. There was plenty of support for a rare minaiture tea set, with a tannish yellow ground with black seaweed designs. It was offered piece by piece and brought a total of $2,750.
Collectors and dealers came for their specialty and left immediately with their cartons of china. The Sponge and Spatterware crowd had gone by the time the Pearlware and Prattware came up. (Prattware is a cream-colored earthenware painted in high temperature colors -- green, ochre, blue and brown, often over relief decoration, made at the Pratt pottery in Staffordshire and elsewhere.) A Prattware loving cup sold for $1,000 and a Prattware tea caddy for $1,125. A Pearlware plate with a blue feather edge and a blue transfer print of a turkey, which brought $625, was surely made for export to the American market.