Look out for these top collectibles in 2016
The more things change, the more they stay the same: Applicable to so much in life and trends, this saying also applies to the world of antiques and collectibles.
The types of objects that people love and want to have in and around their homes don't really change very much. Although prices rise and fall in accordance with age, condition, demand and availability of a particular treasure -- and, of course, new items come into favor in the collectibles market each year -- we have found through our travels that the belongings people crave remain fairly consistent over time.
Most collectors do not decorate their homes around one specific collection, but instead combine styles and periods of objects that work well together. Likewise, the pieces we have earmarked for our list of 2016's hottest collections range from very early and valuable antiques -- case gin bottles, firkins and Deruta ceramics, for example -- to items a bit more modern and certainly not as pricey, such as costume jewelry, mochaware mugs and Depression glass. Rounding out our list are twig furniture, miniature paintings, carpet pillows and ladles. All of them embrace a country style and aesthetic with a historic commonality that binds them in style.
This year's chosen items -- which appear in no specific order of popularity -- share a common trait with those featured in years past: As varied as these goods are, collectors who love them find a way to include them in their decor. We invite you to come along and discover -- or rediscover -- our treasury of highly sought-after collectible country fare.
Depression glass originally came about as a marketing tool. Five- and ten-cent stores, powdered-soap producers and other dry-goods companies gave it away as an incentive to shop in their stores or buy their products. With their varied crystal and cut-glass patterns and pretty colors (the most popular being green, pink, yellow and amber), Depression glass pieces have a huge appeal to country decorators wanting a colorful tablescape but for whom fine china is beyond their budget.
Much Depression glass was made from the turn of the 20th century through the 1940s by several manufacturers. Today, Depression glass is as popular as ever and is widely available at yard sales, antiques shops, flea markets and auctions -- even in Grandma's attic. Although many collectors lean toward a favorite color or pattern, others enjoy mixing and matching. Most of the objects seen here are called Cabbage Rose/Sharon.
Depression glass prices vary widely. When it first came on the vintage and antiques market, it was low-priced by the standards set by fine china. Even today, pieces can be had for less than $10, although rarer examples can cost a great deal more -- some experts assert that a handful of items have recently been priced into the thousands of dollars. However, most of the homeowners we spoke with who love and collect Depression glass still view it as a real bargain. Prices for the wares below range from $12 for the salt and pepper shakers to $20 for the vase to $30 for the bowl and the pitcher.
Small oil paintings
Usually created on canvas or Masonite, these small-size oil paintings, portraits, landscapes and seascapes are often copies of early and larger antique masterworks done by professional artists as well as talented hobbyists and students. The draw of these little pictures is that they are lovely as well as affordable -- at least compared to the originals. Besides their size and overall condition, their value is determined by the skill of the painter and the frame, if there is one. Thanks to their miniature size (often just inches in height and width), these paintings are convenient to hang in small wall spaces, display on tables or tuck into shelves.
Miniature paintings are increasingly popular in antiques shops and design stores, whose proprietors say that pieces that cost in the low hundreds of dollars several years ago have generated noticeably higher prices in the last several years. As moderately sized living spaces become more appealing, this year seems to have brought an even greater interest in smaller works of traditional art.
Of the paintings shown, the seascape has the greatest value, about $350, partly because of its period frame in excellent condition. The fine painting pictured on the tabletop would bring about $300. Due to their lesser painting quality, the two others are worth about $150 each.
Walk into almost any prim or Colonial home and you are as likely as not to see a stack of firkins in graduating sizes. Perfect accessories for just about any room, the vessels can still be used to store almost anything. The small barrel-shaped wood boxes started out a couple hundred years ago as storage units for both liquids -- if they were lined in metal -- or solids, such as fish, sugar or grain, when they were all wood.
Often painted in varying shades of milkpaint and frequently lidded, firkins are staved, feature bent wood handles and have finger-lapped construction. As with many early American furnishings, the most expensive firkins are Shaker-made; compared to a non-Shaker example valued at less than $100, Shaker-made pieces -- which exhibit characteristics of simplicity and craftsmanship very apparent to a trained eye -- often cost into the hundreds of dollars each. No Shaker firkins are shown in this article.
Collectible objects that are useful for storage are often prized in the marketplace. Thanks to its craftsmanship, condition and desirable color, the blue example at top left would cost as much as $260. A bit worse for wear but still intact, the one at top right is worth about $150. The reddish firkin at bottom left has a couple of typical condition issues but still bears great primitive style, and it should bring about $125. The firkin at bottom right doesn't have a lid but does have universally desirable blue milkpaint, so it might be worth as much as $85.
Vintage costume jewelry
Much like clothing, jewelry trends come and go depending on the style of the times, and inexpensive costume jewelry has long been a favorite accessory of the fashion-conscious. Whether or not you like to accessorize your wardrobe with vintage necklaces, earrings and bracelets, it can be a lot of fun to decorate with these beauties. Some collectors fill small bowls with them or lay them out on a dresser scarf to showcase their shine, shape and color.
It's easy to find early examples at estate sales or yard sales and in plastic tubs on countertops in antiques and vintage shops. Costume jewelry is readily available, so it is not at all unusual to pay less than $10 each for bracelets, pins, necklaces or pairs of earrings. Of course, they can cost a good deal more, but the point is that if these baubles interest you for their decorative value, they are readily available for very little investment.
The collector of the jewelry shown doesn't remember most of the original prices. Of those she does recall, the black beaded necklace sold for $15, and the circular pin resting on the necklace was $5. The monogrammed pin cost a slightly pricier $60 because of its silver content. When one considers the workmanship involved in many of these pieces -- they are often handmade -- it's remarkable how inexpensive they are.
Textiles have always been extremely popular with collectors. Even textile fragments or rugs with faded colors, wear and holes can still be considered finds if they have the right provenance. It is not usually practical to lay worn and holey antique rugs on the floor because they don't look great and are so easy to trip over. However, if you find portions of these rugs, even in rough shape, they are still worth having -- these floor coverings can be turned into pillows by cutting around the damaged areas and using the remaining segment as a cushion cover.
Prices for fragments or even already-created pillows range widely depending on where they are purchased and the age and condition of each piece. Most of the pillows are fronted with the rug fragment, which is supposed to face out, and backed by velvet or other sturdy material. These carpet pillows are not for sleeping on, the material being far too rough to be comfortable.
Carpet pillows can range from less than $20 into the hundreds of dollars based on how fine the carpet is, the skill with which they were made and the venue from which they come. This collector was lucky and found all four of the pictured pillows for less than $25 each, but they can be priced far higher depending on the venue where they were purchased. Of course, the DIY-er has an advantage over those of us who aren't as handy with needle and thread. These pillows seem to continue to grow in popularity and definitely have been one of the hottest collectibles in the market recently.
As kitchenware, ladles are about as historic and collectible as it gets. Made of materials from tin to copper with any level of quality, ladles make a terrific design statement either grouped or placed individually in a kitchen or dining area. Obviously used originally as serving utensils for soups, stews and other liquid dishes, ladles fit in with almost any kitchen decor. The design potential of putting similar material ladles next to one another or having a variety grouped together is open to individual interpretation and paves the way for any number of creative possibilities.
Mainly handmade, the ladles shown run the gamut from the more sophisticated hand-tooled copper ladle (second from top) that cost a collector $90 to the primitive half-copper, half-brass ladle (bottom) that would cost around $45. The blue-and-white swirl graniteware ladle (top) is a rare find worth about $30.
Originally an inexpensive form of slipware for the masses costing just a few pennies more than undecorated tableware, mochaware possesses beauty and scarcity that make it widely appealing. First made in Great Britain in the late 1700s, mocha was also eventually produced in France, America and, in the early 20th century, Eastern Europe. Mochaware's name comes from a type of rock bearing similar striations in its surface, not from the coffee-like coloring of many examples. Although some purists consider only treelike or dendritic patterns to be true mocha, the collecting community has grown to embrace motifs such as the checkered mugs seen here as versions of mocha.
One of the most collectible forms, these checkered miniature pitchers, mugs and creamers feature fascinating variations in pattern and coloring. Still affordable but consistently increasing in value, the pieces shown can be had for between $25 and $85. Antiques store owners report a rise in popularity this year; as the more expensive forms of mocha increase in price, the more affordable styles, such as checkered, also rise in value.
Made in southern Italy for hundreds of years, Deruta ceramics have long been popular for their bold colors and patterns. None of it is inexpensive. For instance, an urn made in 1900 is listed online at $35,000. Although this is certainly an exception, most of the tableware pieces made today -- including but not limited to plates, cups, large and small pitchers, bowls and vases -- can still range into the hundreds of dollars. Also continuing to grow in popularity are garden tables and furnishings and accessories, including fountains and wall sconces.
Deruta is usually seen at relatively high-end antiques shops and auctions. It is sometimes available at lower-priced venues, as Deruta-style ceramics are still being churned out by more than 200 factories in Italy. It doesn't take long to get a feeling for Deruta ceramics and spot it at flea markets and yard sales, and a good eye can help you pay pennies on the dollar. One of the most popular motifs is the Orvieto rooster design, seen here in green on a bowl valued at $125 (top left) and a dinner plate valued at $65 (bottom right). The vase (top right) and pitcher (bottom left) are also more recent examples and are worth approximately $18 each.
Twig furnishings, both decorative wares and furniture, come from two major rural regions of the United States. Willow style hails from the Carolinas west to Kentucky. Adirondack pieces are created in northwestern New York state, from Lake Placid to Lake George, as well as areas of Pennsylvania.
Willow and hickory woods from the southeast, because of their malleability -- as shown in the small glider (right) -- can be bent and turned to create many styles of furniture. The large swing shown costs about $400 and has withstood decades of use. Variations of twig furniture include almost any kind of seating from chairs to settees. The style's rustic quality makes it easy for the goods to fit in comfortably with most kinds of primitive furnishings.
Adirondack pieces, also using bent woods and twigs, are more historic and collectible. Vintage and antique examples, such as the plant stand on the left, can cost between $75 and $300 and more, contingent on quality and appeal. Contemporary items similar to the kitschy painted twig bird on the far right can be had for less than $40.
Case gin bottles
As early as the 17th century and through the 20th, case gin bottles were created to store or transport gin in cases made for that purpose, as gin was a critical commodity in the settling and development of the Western world. Usually made of dark green glass but ranging from almost black to as light as yellow, these became and remain popular as collectibles. Antiques collectors in general are drawn to case gin bottles because they make a bold design statement, and they are plentiful at antiques shops, auctions and estate sales. In addition to grouping them or inserting them singly amid other antiques, collectors use the bottles for everything from candleholders to flower vases.
Another appeal of case gin bottles is their relatively reasonable prices when compared to other antique bottles. It is not unusual to find an early example for as low as $40, but they can go up to hundreds of dollars for unusual colors or extremely large or small sizes. The more a case gin bottle shows that it was done by hand -- indicated by more plentiful bubbles or slight imperfections in the finish -- the greater its desirability.
The soft-hued bottle used as a vase (above) is worth as much as $90. The example with a "pig snout" lip (right, second from top) can cost as much as $125. The remaining bottles could be purchased for about $45 to $65.