North Carolina Moravian Flask, ca. 1815
Appraised Value: $15,000 - $25,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:22)
C. Wesley Cowan
Arms & Militaria, Books & Manuscripts, Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Photographs
Cowan's Auctions, Inc.
APPRAISER: So tell me about this great little bottle that you brought in.
GUEST: Well, it was my grandmother's, and they called it a doll. She said that it was her great-grandmother's doll. My great-great-great-grandmother lived in North Carolina. But at some point, they traveled out to Missouri and then came back to North Carolina. And that's really all the history I have on the doll.
APPRAISER: And where in North Carolina were they from?
APPRAISER: That's a great little heirloom, and what do you do with it now?
GUEST: Dust it. That's about it.
APPRAISER: Yeah, and the story is that your grandmother used this as a toy?
GUEST: She played with it, she played with it. And we don't know why there's a hole in the head. I don't know if there used to be another type of hair coming out or what, but she's got a hole in her head.
APPRAISER: Yeah, she certainly does. Well, when you told me that your family was from Winston-Salem, that was one of the clues to help me identify this little flask.
GUEST: Okay... oh, you're k...
APPRAISER: And this is a very rare bottle. It was made by Moravian potters.
APPRAISER: In Salem, North Carolina. Salem was the center of Southern pottery making. The industry began there in the mid-18th century. But this style of bottle was made in the first couple decades of the 19th century. This was probably made 1810 to 1830.
GUEST: Wow, wow.
APPRAISER: Whether they were used for spirits or whatever, but the hole is where a cork was. So it was not a doll.
GUEST: Oh... (laughs) Okay.
APPRAISER: It was actually used to store liquid in. The Moravian potters of Salem-- or what's commonly known today as Old Salem-- made a number of forms like this. They made a squirrel holding a nut, a fish, a turtle.
APPRAISER: The doll is probably the one you see more often than anything. The necklace somebody added.
GUEST: Yes, I think my grandmother did that. She was very handy.
APPRAISER: Okay, so she wanted to dress her doll up. And although it's really hard to see when you look at her crossed hands, she's holding a little bouquet of flowers. Now, one thing I should also tell you about this, when you look at the side, do you see the mark here? The vertical mark here?
APPRAISER: This was made in a mold, in a pressed mold. So the clay was put together, then they pushed the mold together to make it. It was not a hand-thrown bottle, it was a mold-made flask. These are very collectible and very desirable. Have you ever had anybody look at it and say, "Hey, I'd like to buy that from you."
APPRAISER: This flask would sell at auction for between $15,000 and $25,000.
GUEST: That's amazing. So I'll keep on dusting it. Maybe I'll put it away so it doesn't get dusty. That's wonderful, that's wonderful.
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