Clobbered Porcelain May Garner a Higher Price

A pair of clobbered Chinese urns decorated with blue-and-white pictures of houses and a river were overpainted with colored flowers, leaves and a cracked ice design. The pair sold for $5,750.

The English word “clobbered” has been used since at least the 1600s, but its meaning has changed. It still means beaten up, badly injured or damaged. But the word had a very different meaning in the 1700s. It describes porcelain dishes or ornaments with blue-and-white underglaze decoration that were altered. And in an auction catalog or antiques display, the clobbered alterations are not bad and not damaging, but enhancing, and not a reason to pay a lower price.

The Chinese made most of the blue-and-white pieces in the late 1700s to early 1800s. They were shipped to many countries and overpainted with colored glazes because the public would pay more for colored urns or dishes. The decorations did not follow the blue-and-white outlines of the original glaze, but were applied as new pictures and ornamental designs over the old glaze. The English did the same overglaze decorating, but many thought it was damaged, not improved. The Germans called it “schwarzlot” (blackish) decoration.

A pair of “Chinese Export clobbered porcelain vases” were sold at a New Orleans auction for $5,750. Clobbering in green, pink, yellow and copper red in the mid-1800s has added to its value today.

Q: I have a Carlton Ware walking teapot, four cups and sugar bowl with Hawaiian decoration. What are they worth?

A: Walking Ware tea sets are creamy rounded earthenware pieces mounted on quirky legs. They were designed in 1974 by husband-and-wife team Roger Michell (1947-2018) and Danka Napiorkowska (b. 1946) and made in their English studio called Lustre Pottery. Pieces were handmade by Roger, then decorated by Danka. Later, Walking Ware was also made by Carlton Ware, a Stoke-on-Trent pottery factory started in 1896. After a trip to the island of St. Lucia, the couple designed the Caribbean Series in 1978 with a tropical theme decoration in light blue, green and yellow. The legs are wearing white socks with a blue band and yellow shoes. Pieces were made by Lustre Pottery and also by Carlton Ware until they closed in 1986. Limited-edition items were made in the 2000s. Plain Walking Ware pieces sell from $10 for an egg cup to about $50 for a teapot. Caribbean-decorated pieces sell for about twice that.

Q: I have an old steamer trunk made by John H. Dick, Chicago. I don’t know anything about the trunk.

A: John H. Dick was in business in Chicago and made trunks and other travel bags in the late 1880s and later. Steamship travel became popular in the late 1800s. A steamer trunk is a flat-top trunk not more than 14 inches high that could fit under the bunk. Flat-top steamer trunks sell for $10 to $50.

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