Flea Market Finds Lead to Antiquing Adventure
For devotees of the Antiques Road Show, you know the thrill of watching people learn that their worn trinket is a rare artifact. Many of us share the same rush in spotting a yard sale bargain or flea market find. Don’t be afraid to try it.
Learning about the value is only part of the quest; the other is discovering the origin. I’ve had two great adventures and found that people are very generous in sharing their knowledge.
One quest concerns a tiny white vase purchased for 50-cents at a flea market in New Hampshire. It had a lovely fluted shape and blue smudgy mark on the bottom that I never could read. After staring at it for about ten years, while flipping through a pottery book, I saw the outline of a vase with the initials TL in it. That was my mark! Thooft and Labouchere – owners the oldest Delft pottery factory in Holland – De Porceleyne Fles (The Porcelain Jar). They manufactured what became known as “Royal Delft." To be certain, I sent a note and photos to the Kovels, famed appraisers who were writing a magazine column at the time. They confirmed the mark and estimated the vase to be worth about $60. I still have to determine a date.
The second adventure was inspired by a 3” inch pewter pitcher with a “braided” handle, purchased for a few dollars. Again the mark was elusive: a double-headed eagle with only an “RE.AN” readable. Months later, in perusing an article about Angers, the famous pewter-producing town in France, I saw the mark in its entirety – the imprint of master Louis Alegre! Could it be? I sent an inquiry with pictures to the Museum in Angers and received documentation from the Chief Conservator. He confirmed that Alegre was active between 1800 and 1835, that this was his mark, and that I had a pitcher of beautiful quality (“votre pichet est de belle qualite”).
Now I want to know how my tiny treasures traveled to New England… who brought them here… and why they ended up for sale. But maybe it’s good that antiques don’t tell the entire story. That keeps the adventure alive.