Marblehead Pottery History
Most of us like to think of the Marblehead pottery project as just a side-venture of Dr. Herbert Hall’s therapy program. For some reason the idea of (and pardon the political incorrectness) “mental patients” crafting one of a kind works of art is very appealing to the nostalgic collector. However, 99 times out of 100 you aren’t buying a vase actually made by someone with a nervous disorder. Dr. Hall quickly learned that his patients weren’t up for the highly skilled task of accurately decorating or throwing pottery. Needless to say, someone with OCD, or a more severe condition, isn’t very well suited for demanding pottery projects. The few pieces of pottery that do have ties to patients were made mostly in 1904 and 1905 during the Handcraft Shop period (1904-1908). Despite its humble beginnings, Marblehead pottery was a very professional operation that lasted for more than two decades.
Part of the success of Marblehead pottery is directly related to Dr. Hall hiring capable and motivated people. Arthur Baggs joined Marblehead in 1905. At the time Baggs was a student at Alfred, which is the famous school in New York that produced so many of the big names in the American ceramics field. Baggs completely took over the Marblehead pottery project in 1908. He changed it from a simple sanatorium craft project into a successful commercial venture. Baggs was completely in charge of Marblehead pottery from the time he bought out Hall in 1915 until Marblehead closed in 1936. Marblehead pottery was shown at exhibitions across the United States from 1907 until 1938. It won some prestigious awards including first place at Robineau and the highest award at the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston.
Marblehead Pottery Values
Most people want to know what their Marblehead pottery is worth. We break values down into three different but very wide ranges. Keep in mind that these prices apply to pottery that is in virtually flawless condition.
This price point is reserved for less than 1% of Marblehead’s output. For a piece of pottery to be worth this much money it really has to be iconic Marblehead, as in you could recognize it across the room. That could be something like a panther vase. It could also be something especially early and unique. (You can learn more about dating on our Marblehead pottery marks guide.) Long story short, the pottery has to be really special to be worth more than $10,000. Many beautiful and rare pieces just aren’t important enough to warrant paying five figures from them, hence why the supply is so small.
$1,000 – $10,000:
We realize that $1,000 to $10,000 is a wide range, but many different pieces of Marblehead pottery fall into this price point. We said many different things, not many things. In fact, probably only 10% of Marblehead pottery known to exist would even be this good. We expect pieces worth this amount of money to at least have some decoration; decoration and some carving would be preferred. You might expect to see an odd form fall into this price point. Some undecorated pieces might sneak into the very bottom of this range. However, they would have to be in absolutely perfect condition and be larger than average.
$1,000 and Less:
This is the type of Marblehead pottery that you are likely to encounter at your local antique show or on any number of online websites. It is just something that you would only buy because you are on a budget. The pottery probably won’t have any decoration and the shape will be small and/or uninspired. This is the kind of pottery you can almost buy at will; however, it can be very difficult to sell.
Marblehead Vases & Other Shapes
We have included pictures and values for some of the more interesting Marblehead vases you might run into (if you are very lucky). We also have pictures for some of the more unusual pottery forms executed by Marblehead. We closely associate Marblehead with lightly contrasting stylized floral designs. However, Marblehead can sometimes be much more than that. They used glazes ranging from dark blue to yellow. They also made pottery in all different shapes and sizes.