Rookwood Auction Reveals Collectors’ Whims

If it was Rare and Important, it did fine.

If it was simply Nice or Good, it struggled.

With nearly a glut of Rookwood pottery hitting the auction blocks in May and June, most of it within a stone’s throw of the original kilns in Cincinnati, Rookwood collectors had the luxury of waiting for the perfect piece in perfect condition before they raised their bidding paddles.

The star of Don Treadway’s auction last Sunday, a rare 20″ high Rookwood vase decorated by John Dee Wareham that had remained in his family since 1903, did not fail to disappoint the crowd, as it was hammered down at $60,000 (prices do not include the buyer’s premium, vase pictured at top).

Earlier in the sale, a rare 8.5″ vase featuring irises painted by Sara Sax in 1900 under an unusual Black Iris glaze shot by its pre-sale estimate of $5500-$7500 to finish at $11,000.

Indicative of the distinctions Rookwood collectors made in this sale are these two similar examples:

A 9″ vase featuring a Venetian scene painted in 1932 by Ed Diers under a flawless Vellum glaze came into the sale with a $2000-$3000 estimate (pictured here). It jumped to $4500.

Just two lots later another vase, this one 8″ high and bearing a “beautifully executed river landscape” also painted by Ed Diers (1914) and also under a Vellum glaze had a $1000-$1500 estimate. It stalled at $900.

That’s called knowing your artist….

Beginning Rookwood collectors are fortunate to have literally hundreds of examples priced for less than $750 to choose from, whether it be at auction, in shows or in shops, and can then learn the subtle distinctions that separate a $900 vase from one that appears very similar but that suddenly sells for $4500.

This is water you want to wade into rather than dive headfirst.

Good Luck!

– Bruce Johnson

For complete auction results, please go to

Next week: Gustav Stickley Arrives in San Diego.