Indecision Can Cost You. Martin Bros. Pottery

Martin Brothers Figural Tobacco Jar Sold for $34,500 Dec.2006 at James D. Julia Auctions. Provided courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc., Fairfield, Maine

I ran across an interesting piece of pottery when I was at a house sale one time. It had a texture somewhat like Doulton Lambeth, the same gray and blue coloring, so it immediately drew my attention. I could tell the piece was salt glazed and knew it could have a fair value. When I checked the bottom, it was signed Martin Brothers London in script. As this was a while ago, my memory tells me it was a tobacco jar in the shape of an owl.I had never seen a piece like this before. When I asked the price, I was told $2,500. After a little thought, I offered $1,500 and was turned down. I decided to walk around for awhile, and then go back. It was at this point I made my biggest mistake. You see, I broke one of my own rules. I should have picked up the piece and carried it with me until I had made a definite decision on it. I didn’t, and you guessed it. When I returned, the item had already been sold at $2,000.It is not possible to carry the knowledge in your head about every piece you might encounter on your hunt. But, if you take possession of it when you find it, then you will have time to call someone or to look in you books or on the Internet, if you have wireless access. This way, you won’t let a real treasure slip away, like I did.

You can be certain when I returned home, I did a little more research on this British company. I discovered that Martin Brothers became known for their eccentric and grotesque birds and sculpted face jugs, vases and many other items that were reminiscent of the Middle Ages. The company was formed in the 1870’s, owned by four brothers, Wallace, Walter, Charles and Edwin. The company closed in 1915. They mainly made salt glazed pottery, and these are the pieces that are sought after today.The company closed in 1915.

This piece I let slip by might well have been worth $7,500 at the time. Today, much much more. So remember the name Martin Brothers. Add it to your list of possible treasures. The Kovels price guide lists some pieces that will tell you these are items that you hope to run into. A bird vessel, 1897, 10 inches tall is listed at $13,530, a humidor shaped as a bird, hand carved, 11 ½ inches $10,450.

In September, 2005, at Craftsman Auction, a pinched vessel 7 by 6 ½ inches with four expressive faces on its sides brought $15,600. Two years later in March of 2007 at this same auction house, a stoneware jar with a cover in the shape of a grotesque monster brought $17,625.

December of 2006, James D. Julia Auctioneers of Fairfield, Maine, released news of a Martin Brothers bird figural tobacco jar selling at $34,500.

Most people that are just looking to make a little money on the side will have no idea how valuable these items really are and they just might be your competitors at the next sale.

Go Martin Brothers! And I hope to hear where some of you find a treasure by this company this year.

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If you haven’t yet had a chance to see what we’ve got listed in the 31 Gallery & Marketplace, click on over and take a look. You might even find a real bargain. We’ve got many high quality items priced reasonably. If you have a high quality piece you’d like us to find a buyer for, why not consign your item to us. No high fees when you sell with us.


One Response

  1. I can’t believe it, I just ran into one of these Martin Brothers birds. The one I have only about 4″ tall with Web feet. I don’t know what it is worth, or where I can go to sell it.

    Can you point me in the right direction?


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