I wish I had written this column about antique "chintzware" two years ago, when there were no books and few articles on the subject. Today, there are several references dedicated to the relatively modern line of "transferware" (print decorated pottery) and articles sprout from magazines like wildflowers. In the spring of 1995, Antique Talk might well have suggested that you scour the countryside looking for the colorful "chintz" decorated earthenware, snapping up pairs of candlesticks for twenty bucks, and tea and coffee pots which could be found in shops for less than fifty dollars, and various dishes and plates tagged at chintzy prices. With almost twenty companies having manufactured hundreds of shapes in a gross of colorful patterns you could have purchased thousands of pieces and would no doubt be a millionaire today. But, alas, this column is tardy and instead of being your champion, I am your archenemy.
Let's make up. First, know that it's not too late to unearth great buys in chintz. Despite a 400% rise in value over the past few years, the majority of antique prospectors and dealers are still incognizant in the subject.
Chintzware is pottery decorated in a colorful pattern resembling chintz fabric. From the Hindu "chhintna" meaning "to sprinkle with," the hand-colored cotton cloth was introduced to the West in the late 17th century by East India Tea Company ships. Inexpensive and colorful, chintz became so popular it was outlawed by British Parliament in 1722 to protect the English textile industry. Instantly, the law was circumvented by "Calico Printers" who print-decorated plain white fabric, creating an even more appealing and affordable product.
Executed by hand-painting in the 1700's, chintz vessels were later decorated mostly by transfer printing as technology evolved in the early 19th century. While these wares are both attractive and precious, they are not what the 1,000+ members of the international "Chintz Collectors Club" seek today.
The first "modern" chintz pattern was introduced in 1928 by England's "Royal Winton" potter, "Grimwades Ltd." Known as the "Marguerite" pattern, its inspiration is said to have come from a design worked on cushion by the wife of company founder Leonard Grimwade. In 1932 Grimwades introduced its "Summertime" chintz pattern, a bouquet of roses, daisies, violets, harebells, and other summer flowers. Summertime was a huge success, especially in North American, and the company soon began producing a great variety of wares decorated in colorful chintz patterns. Other potters like Brexton, Elijah Cotton Ltd. (Lord Nelson), James Kent, A. G. Richardson (Crown Ducal), and Wedgewood & Co., followed Grimwades lead producing glazed earthenware in a variety of colorful chintz patterns.
Appeal and rarity and outbalance age in determining the value of chintzware. Collectors world-wide now hold tea parties where they can show off their new finds. Pretty patterns, sought-after marks, like "Grimwades Royal Winton Ivory England," and excellent condition are determinants of value. Mostly, collectors seek large and rare forms. Pitchers, coffeepots, lamp bases, clocks, lighters, sugar shakers, wall pockets, bells, and complete tea sets can fetch hundreds, and once in a great while, even thousands of dollars.
Chintz is still being produced today and determining old from new is difficult. If you want to speculate I advise you to qualify your seller. A family heirloom tag sale might be a good place to purchase for example. Be cheap. Investors should acquaint themselves with qualified dealers, buy the best, and build a good library.
Two years from now, I'll be wondering what we should have been talking about today. That's half the fun of this ever-changing business.