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  • Writer's pictureTrader Chris Staff

THAT OLD VASE: Is it worth thousands?

Hardly a month goes by here at Trader Chris Consignments that someone doesn’t inquire or offer us antique ceramics to sell. I’m not talking about Wedgwood, Meissen, or Ming; I mean American pottery from the Arts & Crafts era (1880-1940). Values vary greatly, but usually fall in the $25-$100 area.

Every once in awhile we find an unusual piece, like this blue vase. Highly valued by collectors, Newcomb College pottery is often valued at $1000-$3000, with some examples selling for even more.


If you find a clearly vintage vase or pot with gentle lines and subtle colors, check the base for the NC (Newcomb College) mark, and initials. That old vase just might be an unrecognized Newcomb piece worth thousands. Our most recent sale in September 2021 resulted in this 7-inch-high Joseph Meyer vase selling for $2,000.00.

Newcomb College makers mark and intitials
The "NC" makers mark and initials identify this piece as Newcomb Pottery.


The “Arts & Crafts” movement began in Britain a little earlier than the American Arts & Crafts era. It was a reaction against the industrialization of home furnishings, and classicism in the fine arts. What Arts & Crafts meant, simply put, was a return to handmade work, designed with traditional motifs and using traditional materials.

H. Sophie Newcomb College was founded by Josephine Newcomb in 1886 in memory of her daughter Sophie. Newcomb was the first women's coordinate college within a United States university (in this case Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Its purpose was to educate young women in the liberal arts, but also give them training in more practical fields. One of these turned out to be designing and decorating pottery. The actual throwing, carving, and firing of Newcomb pottery was done by hired male potters, but the design and appearance of the works were left to Newcomb’s students. The result was a legacy of well-crafted, useful ceramics with subtle styles, perfect examples of the Arts & Crafts aesthetic. The pots, vases, and other pieces are carefully marked as to their year of creation, and which master potter oversaw the creation process. The longest serving master, Joseph Meyer, worked at Newcomb from 1897 until 1927. His “JM” marking is the most common maker’s mark you’ll see.

When Arts & Crafts as a movement faded into Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Newcomb pottery’s popularity faded. Production discontinued in 1940. Only later were these simple gems recognized as the fine works of art they are.

At Trader Chris, we always turn pottery over to look for a maker's mark, and encourage you to do the same. You may have a treasure! If you would like help identifying your antique ceramics or have questions regarding their current market value, you can obtain a free estimate here.

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