Moravian Green Fish Flask, ca. 1810

Value (2004) | $27,000 Auction$30,000 Auction

GUEST:
I found it in the shed in a box. It had this little note tied to it which was from this woman who was my husband's great-great-great-grandmother. In the note she's giving it to her grandson. She says she's had it 86 years, I think, at that point, and she gave it to him in 1889 and I just always thought it was really special.

APPRAISER:
And have you ever tried to have anyone else tell you anything about it?

GUEST:
You know, I took it to an antique shop locally one time and the guy said, "Hey, you know it's cute, but it's probably only good for, you know, family history, so keep it and enjoy it."

APPRAISER:
Well, this actually is a very early piece of American ceramics.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
It's a Moravian pottery piece made by the Moravian Potters of Old Salem, North Carolina.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And the pottery there in Old Salem was built around 1780. And the Moravians came there and they were making redware pottery and things like that. In the 1770s, not far away in South Carolina, John Bartlam founded the first English-type pottery in the United States, at Cainhoy, South Carolina. His foreman was William Ellis. And after Bartlam failed, Ellis went to the Moravian potters and taught them how to make pottery in the English manner instead of the German manner, and do press molding. Now, this is a press-molded little flask in the form of a fish. And he also taught them to make bottles in the form of squirrels, bears. And they are very, very highly collected these days. And this, though, is about the smallest I have ever seen.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
I mean, this is for someone who couldn't take much whiskey.

GUEST:
Yeah. (both laughing)

APPRAISER:
It has a green glaze, which... These animals mostly either had green or brown glazes that they made. And Rudolph Christ was the master potter there in Salem between 1785 and 1821. And this was made during his time, so that's how old this is. I would say that this fish dates between 1805 and 1815. So you've got a fairly important piece of pottery here. It's possibly the finest piece of American pottery I've ever seen on the ROADSHOW-- the earliest, most colorful pottery of its type. I know you noticed it's got a little crack under the lip.

GUEST:
Well, a piece is missing.

APPRAISER:
But a piece of this importance, it doesn't make much difference. It can be restored for a couple hundred dollars, something like that-- not much.

GUEST:
Wow, okay. Wonderful.

APPRAISER:
Now, as to a value, get ready.

GUEST:
Oh, no.

APPRAISER:
$27,000 to $30,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my gosh. Oh, gee.

APPRAISER:
How does that strike you?

GUEST:
Pretty amazing. (laughs) Wow. It made my day, believe me.

APPRAISER:
Made my year. Thank you very much.

GUEST:
Wow. Oh, my gosh. They say good things come in small packages.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
The Stradlings, Antiquarians
New York, New York
Appraised value (2004)
$27,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Event
Reno, NV (August 14, 2004)
Period
19th Century
Form
Vessel
Material
Pottery

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