Monday, November 14, 2011

Thrift Score Monday: Pottery Jackpot

About two weeks ago, I was in a local Goodwill store. I'd never had much luck at that particular store, but I needed to kill some time.

I was about to give up when I noticed an employee roll a "just arrived" cart of fresh inventory out of the stock room. From about fifteen feet away, I suddenly spotted an ivory pottery vase that called out to me. Even from that distance, I knew it was special--I could tell by the quality of the glaze, the design, the shape. Pottery never fools me.

I've been collecting art pottery from the 1920s, 30s and 40s for twenty years. It's one of my favorite things on earth. It's not something I can explain--I just love the cool heft of the clay, the qualities of the different glazes, and the art deco and arts and crafts shapes. Green in my favorite, and ivory is a close second.

As I got closer, I began to hear the soundtrack to "Chariots of Fire" in my head. [Really.] I'm pretty sure I began to move in slow motion. The other people swarming around the cart became blurs in my peripheral vision. As I reached the cart, I was temporarily confused by the stuffed animal that had been shoved into the mouth of the vase, but I quickly figured it out. I picked up the vase. I felt the weight, the coolness, noted the sophistication of the designs on the side panels. And then, I flipped it over, already suspecting what I was about to see. . .

That's right, folks...ROOKWOOD.  For those of you unfamiliar with vintage pottery, Rookwood is an iconic American pottery company that produced work between the late 1800s and the 1960s. Their work is gorgeous, highly collectable, and often valuable. The backwards "R" and the "P" surrounded by flames is their trademark; the "XXXIV" denotes the year of production (1934); 6476 is the shape number.  The hideous underlined "2" in black marker is courtesy of the rude Goodwill employee who priced this item. (Sorry to sound always bugs me that Goodwill sees fit to write all over their merchandise in marker, but this time it really upset me! Didn't they know this was a treasure!? Since they priced it at $2.99...I guess not.)

After checking the mark, I held my breath, closed my eyes, said a quick prayer to the pottery gods, and inspected the piece for damage. One rarely finds collectable pottery at Goodwill...NEVER anything of the caliber of Rookwood...and on those rare occasions when a lone McCoy or Hull piece turns up, there is ineveitably damage.  I was, therefore, beside myself when I realized that this vase appeared to be in mint condition, save for a little surface dirt. MINT CONDITION! 

The vase was gorgeous. Each side panel featured a different animal, in a very arts and crafts style:

{Bird on a branch}

{Birds--swallows?--in flight.}

There's another panel featuring tree frogs, but I didn't get a shot of that one. I love the organic, natural design and the crystalline ivory glaze. The piece is so intricate, yet so subtle.  Love at first sight would be an understatement.

I caught my breath, cradled the vase with two hands, and headed to the checkout. The teenager who rang me up may have thought I was a bit crazy, seeing how I refused to let her touch the vase and instead held it up myself for her to scan. I refused her offer to wrap it and instead gingerly placed it in my large purse. (Yes, she stared at me a little.)  When I got to the car, I wrapped it in a blanket and placed it in the passenger seat next to me. And I'm not afraid to admit that I seatbelted it in.

The vase is worth several hundred dollars in today's market (closer to $600 a few years ago, pre-recession).  I want to sell it. I should sell it. I have enough pottery in my home to decorate ten houses. The thing is, though, that I love this vase. And for a lifelong thrifter and pottery collector, it will always remind me of one of those rare moments when all the foraging, the sorting and the scrounging pays off. Will I list it in my shop? Maybe someday. For now, though, I'm savoring the moment and enjoying this beautiful piece, which sits in a place of honor in my living room.

Did anyone else unearth any treasures while thrifting this week? I'm linking up to the following blogs to find out!

Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday
Her Library Adventures' Flea Market Finds
Nifty Thrifty Tuesday at Coastal Charm
Twice Owned Tuesday at House of Grace
Club GW with Charm Bracelet Diva
The Pennyworthy Project at Hey What's for Dinner Mom?
Debbie Doos Newbie Party
What I Love About the Thrift Store at Cap Creations
Thrifty Things Friday @ The Thrifty Groove
Sunday's Best Linky Party! 
Chic on a Shoestring Decorating


  1. that is one of the best finds I've ever seen. Try some rubbing alcohol on the sharpie marks.
    I'm jealous but happy for you!

  2. Thanks Velda! It's the best thing I've ever found at Goodwill...that's for sure. I'll try the alcohol tip!

  3. Congratulations! You deserve to keep it. It found you and now it belongs to you. Great find!

  4. Wow, love that vase. I do not know anything about pottery but can see in the pictures that it is quality. So cool that you are going to enjoy it for a while.
    Oh and did you try a magic eraser? It might take the black off.
    Karen G

  5. That reminds me of when I found designer illy espresso cups at the Goodwill, 4 for $0.99 each! I didn't know exactly what they were at the time but I knew they were special! The cool thing was that 1 of the four was from a bar set and was not worth very much, so as I sold the other 3 on ebay for a giant profit, I saved that inexpensive one for a token of my first big find!

    The thing about Goodwill: They are starting to get smart about things that will sell well (Pyrex), but the really big awesome things they can really see past!

    Great job!

  6. great post!! I love the Chariots of Fire move because I swear!!! I hear it too--when I spy something and I slo-mo sprint over....

  7. What a great find! Congrats! I think I'd sell it though!

  8. KK: You make me laugh. :) Chelsea: You are so right about GW! They often miss the good stuff. Thanks for the comments, all!

  9. What a great buy...maybe it's a good think GW didn't know the value of the vase, I'm sure you wouldn't have gotten it for that price (smile). How I wish we had a GW over here. I'm a new follower, please drop by for a visit when you have a chance.

  10. I am soooo jealous! What a treasure you saved just for YOU!

  11. That is so cool! I know nothing about pottery but it is pretty and amazing how collectible it is! I like to savor some of my finds before I list them too! Thanks for linking up to the Bonnie Burrow Thrift Challenge today!!

  12. Please forgive me but I had an "I hate you" moment...In the nicest way possible *winks* I'm just green with envy! What a fabulous find! It's true they're rare at the Goodwill, but every once in awhile a treasure sneaks in and you get LUCKY! (Which to me means when education meets opportunity *winks*) I had to crack up at your "Chariots of Fire" comment....I can just picture you running in slow mo towards that box! Lol! Vanna

  13. That vase is beautiful. Also loved hearing about his pottery, I wasn't familiar with it. Doesn't it just feel so special when this happens. Thanks so much for sharing at Sunday's Best. Now following you.

  14. Oh, Amazing find!!! I LOVE Rookwood and have a few pieces myself. You are sooo right about how it always feel cool to the touch. I tingled just reading that! That one looks like a particularly good one. If there's any kind of initial, look it up, it may be a special artist's piece and worth even more! Congrats!!!!

  15. Lucky, lucky gift! What an amazing find! It's just beautiful.

  16. Wow, just found your site and was reading through some of your posts. I live in Cincinati, OH where Rookwood Pottery is located. They took the factory and made it into a restaurant and you could actually sit in some of the kilns that they turned into little rooms. ( and you can see picturs of it; really cool. Many older homes here have tile around the fireplaces from Rookwood. You truly have an eye for things! AMAZING!!!!

    1. How cool...thanks for letting me know! I visit Cincinnati periodically (*IKEA!*:) and I'll have to put this on my list of places to check out. Can't believe I didn't know about it! xoxo ~Heather

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