Lenox China Sample Plates

Value (2005) | $4,000 Retail$6,000 Retail

My father passed these plates down to me, and the way he came about owning them was that he worked for Lenox about 40 or 50 years ago. And one day his boss sent him and another young man to their storage room and told them they had to clean it out and throw everything out that was in there. So they started doing that, and after a while, when they were filling up the Dumpster, it sort of hit them that this was silly-- that they were throwing away some very nice things, so they decided to climb into the Dumpster and get a few things out and take them home, and that's how he had them and passed them down to me.

Actually, today, you brought more plates than this. We couldn't show them all. But we picked out some examples of the best ones. These are sample plates for the Lenox Company. They would have been shown in jewelry stores, gift stores, department stores as samples of plates that you could buy. Now, you're very familiar with Lenox, which is still in business today. They make big sets of china-- everything from very expensive stuff down to everyday stuff of all different price levels. But at one point a long time ago, they made these specialty hand-painted plates which you could special-order.

My dad mentioned that he thought they might be display plates.

Right, and they were probably out of date. They were sent back to Lenox and put in the storeroom-- they didn't make them anymore. But actually, these are all little miniature paintings. They're works of art on porcelain. You have examples here of some of the top artists that worked at the Lenox factory between the teens and '20s up through the 1950s. This example here is by an artist named Jan Nosek, who worked in the factory, and this is an example of some of the types of plates you could have, which were birds. So you would get 12 plates and each one would have a different hand-painted bird on it.

Oh, okay.

Another of the most common things that you would order would be fish and here's an example here. And this one's signed "W.H. Morley," which stands for William Morley. You also have a plate here with a cherub on it. And this is by a really obscure artist who didn't work there very long, but obviously he did very high quality work, and his last name was Wirkner. He was a German immigrant. His work's very rare. Now, this is another example of, for instance, you could order flowers, like roses, that we've got here. Now, this plate has really rich, raised gilt, gold designs on the rim, so that would have been super-expensive. So you would have gone into the store, and you would say, "Okay, I want roses but I want the solid-gold border." Or you could say, "I want fish, but I want a rim-shaped plate," which is a plate that has a molded rim, which is the most common way that you see plates made. Another way that you could choose would be a coupe-style plate. A coupe shape has no rim. It's just a continuous, smooth, flat surface. There are all different variations. These plates are very collectible. People bought them to use with their china, to mix and match for special occasions-- if you were serving fish, if you were serving game. Now, one thing that they looked for is they'd buy artists and these are some of the artists that are the most desirable. The smaller plates that are not artist-signed would start around $200 or $300 each. If they're signed by an artist like Nosek, they would go up to $400, $500, $600 a plate, including this one here, which is a really spectacular one. This one might retail from a specialist Lenox dealer for as much as $1,000. This one is unsigned. It would be interesting to know who did it. But that will definitely be more than $500 for that plate. And this particular plate which is the most valuable, with the cherub, would probably retail for at least $1,000 but possibly close to $2,000.


The retail value for just these seven plates would be somewhere between $4,000 and $6,000.

Wow. That's pretty amazing.

So your father, as a young man, he didn't know what he was doing, but he did a good thing. You're really lucky he rescued them.

That's great.

Appraisal Details

David Lackey Antiques & Art
Houston, TX
Appraised value (2005)
$4,000 Retail$6,000 Retail
Tampa, FL (June 25, 2005)

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