Art Pottery

Pottery and Porcelain

Mid-Century Design

Glass,      

Metalware,      

Paintings

Links

Meet the Gin and the For

Meet the "staff"

The Corpurrate Story

Contact Information (Phone, etc.)

Essays and Information:

A Divine and Delightful Madness: An Intro to W. German Pottery (The most recent essay.)

Learning the Basics about West German Pottery (This is an older essay.)

West German Pottery Marks

W. German Companies, Designers, and Studio Potters

West German Picture Gallery and Identification Aid (pictures of items we've had over the last 3 years)

To Buy or Not To
Buy:  Going Where
Price Guides End

Get the Picture Straight: The Basics of Selling Glass and Pottery on the Internet

E-MAIL US

Ginfor's Odditiques (click to
return "home")

Pedagogy, Philosophy and Nonsense (my "other" site: writing, learning, and odd ideas like long hair and fairy god-princesses)

 

GINFOR'S ODDITIQUES

"Get the Picture Straight: The Basics of Selling Glass and Pottery on the Internet" by Forrest D. Poston   

CONTENTS

Introduction

     Why

     Time

     Trust

The Photography
     Get the Picture
     Your Photo Studio
     Tips
     The Full Shot

The Writing: Title and Description
     The Title
     The Description
     The Psychological Element: Style

Things to Know
     Marked vs. Signed
     Buying the Mark
     Pontil Marks

Some Thoughts About Where to Buy and Sell

Sites
     Pottery
     Glass
     General
     Book Sites

Thoughts About Books
Closing Thoughts

Nothing in this booklet should come as a surprise to you. I don't claim to have a secret that will guarantee you become a millionaire with $20 and a few hours a week working at home. If I knew that secret, I wouldn't be writing this booklet. I'd be out playing tennis...on my own court. My goal is simply to get you to stop and think a bit about what you're doing, how and why you're doing it, and how it affects your life. We live in fast times and often let our actions outrun our thoughts, but at some point more speed produces a decreasing return, or possibly a major pile-up. To avoid that, I'll also talk about the philosophy of buying and selling, particularly on the internet. Yes, there's a philosophy to this, just as there's a philosophy to everything. Taking the time to determine what your philosophy is and what you want it to be will help increase the fun in what you do (or teach you not to do it).

The technical matters are primarily for the new or fairly new seller looking to improve basic presentation. I can't teach you everything you need to know about glass and pottery, but I'll include tips, ideas, and internet addresses for more information. The more psychological and philosophical ideas may help sellers at any level. In those areas, I'm not offering tidy answers for you, just questions and concepts to consider. Just how the answers apply to you and your sales will be up to you to determine. Ultimately, it's always your own answers that matter most anyway, but keep in mind that those answers will continue to change as you do, so it might be a good idea to look back at parts of this booklet from time to time.

Selling is a matter of product and presentation, and the most under-estimated element behind the process is psychology, so I'll be spending a fair amount of time here on the psychology, as well as the philosophy. My qualifications to dabble in such matters aren't necessarily important because you should judge the quality of the ideas on their own merits, but for those who are curious, I've taught college part time for about 15 years (primarily composition with some literature tossed in). Teaching may be the toughest form of sales, but along the road to becoming a teacher, I sold stereo equipment, cars, and even one or two vacuum cleaners. I've been attending live auctions for over ten years, started selling in malls and shows shortly after that, and I've been playing the eBay game for about 7 years. And like you, of course, I've been the customer in more than one retail shop. All of those experiences and many that are less directly related go into this writing.

WHY

Children love asking why almost as much as many parents and teachers hate hearing it. We tend to quit asking somewhere along the line, but it's one of those things from childhood that can be useful to us as adults. The great thing about asking why when you're a bit older is that you don't have to depend as much on other people to help you follow the question. Why are you selling (or planning to sell) anything at all on the internet, and why glass and pottery?

For most of you, it's a hobby, but that doesn't mean asking why isn't worthwhile. We have an odd tendency to look down on thinking, a belief that thinking always hinders pleasure. Okay, there's a time to set analysis aside, but deepening your understanding can also deepen the enjoyment and help avoid the pain of unnecessary mistakes. I know some people who've been antique dealers for 20 years or more, and they've never enjoyed it. Like many, they chose an occupation because the money looked good. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't, but these people lean toward bitterness. Also, some of them don't seem to know much more about antiques and collectibles after twenty years of experience. Bitterness for money is a poor exchange.

Finding the items, researching them, listing them, and shipping them will include definite moments of frustration mixed with the fun. If you actually hope to make some money, you'll also be spending a good bit of time and effort. So why are you doing it? Take some time to thing about what it is you enjoy about the whole process, the buying, the selling, and about glass and pottery. Personally, I don't understand people who like one but not the other. Just looking around the room as I write, I can see glass and pottery spanning about the last 100 years. Some of it is elegant and subtle, some is more than a little on the odd and funky side. There's also a pair of resin cats, paintings, metalware, wood and books. Looking at some pieces makes me smile, while looking at others makes me think (and sometimes what I think about is why I ever bought that piece).

I love form, proportion, and color, but I'm also fascinated by the range of what people have imagined into form, the marvel of creativity. There's also the history, not only of the piece but of the time it represents, the changes in fashion, in politics, even in agriculture, that are behind the works. Changes in the form of celery holders reflect agricultural changes and the desire to show-off that seems to live in every generation. And setting all the profound wanderings aside, pieces simply feel good to hold.

Then there's the chase itself, that search for a really good piece, that hope that you'll find it and recognize it before someone else does, the struggle at the auction (struggle to outbid someone, or the struggle to keep your hand down at your side, sometimes the struggle to decide and get your hand up in time). This morning, it was the struggle just to get up in time to drive to an auction where there might be a bargain or decide if sleeping in would be the best deal for today. Of course, when you don't go you never know if you missed a treasure, but lack of sleep has also made me buy some things alert eyes would have told me to pass.

My favorite source for buying is live auctions, the way I got hooked to begin with. Along with the boredom of a long day spent waiting for the right item and the exhaustion of driving home without a single win packed away, there's the fun and education from everything going on around you. Attend enough live auctions, and you should qualify for degrees in business, psychology, sociology, and history at least. I'm also fond of shops, and I've developed a taste for buying through the on-line auctions. Flea markets are low on my list, and I only go to yard sales about once every two years, just enough to remember how much I hate them.

Okay, so maybe you don't need to know all about my reasons, but as you read, there were probably places that you reacted to what I said. Whatever the reaction was, that's a place to start working out your own understanding of why you're doing this. What is it that you like and don't like, need to increase, need to either tolerate or eliminate. Some of that thinking is best done in a quiet spot, but some of it will be best done while you're in the act. So if you were looking for an excuse to go to an auction............

TIME

As any part of the world around us speeds up, we speed up our lives. While e-mail has increased the amount of communication in some ways, it has made many of us into hurried and harried writers and readers. Have you noticed how many e-mails are only a few sentences long, and how many pay little or no attention to structure, precision or style? With that, have you noticed how many e-mails are to explain or apologize for what was badly said or left out before? Quite often, when I send an e-mail 3 or more paragraphs long, the response I get is to something in the first paragraph with no acknowledgment of the rest of the message. I'm not the first to comment on our accelerating lives, but it applies in several ways to the subject at hand.

We worry a lot about saving time, and there are some ideas spread through here that will help do that, but there's more to time than saving it. Most of you are probably familiar with the saying that it takes money to make money. Here's a variation: it takes time to save time. You've probably realized more than once that when you start to rush, you make mistakes than cost more time than rushing saves. Yeah, and you still rush. The two keys to using time are preparation and attitude.

If I wanted to, I could hop in the car, drive to the nearest thrift shop, and buy the first hooker vase I see. (Hooker is my term for any piece you buy just because it's colorful and cheap. I started off buying a lot of garish hookers.) A quick drive back to the house, one picture with the digital camera, and I could have the vase on eBay 15 minutes after I got home. From the look of many listings, that's what people have done. Yippee, I'm now an antiques dealer. Of course, the vase probably doesn't sell, but I've seen some show up week after week after week with no changes. Maybe I'm even lucky enough to sell the vase for a couple of dollars profit (gross not net). What difference does it really make? If I went out to buy again, would I be any different? Would I now know what to buy even if it's all the money I have, or what to pass even if it's a nickel? Would I even enjoy the whole process enough to make that hour or so spent buying, listing, packing and shipping worth the few dollars made?

A few weeks ago, I came across a listing where the seller listed the line name on the bottom of a vase, but said he couldn't read the rest and didn't know who made it. He then took the time to say that he liked to go buy things but considered it a waste of his time to research them. With the one word he listed, it took me one quick Google search to find out who made the vase, when they made it, and a few other tidbits about a company I thought I already knew. It took me about two minutes research time, and I made about $50. That's sure a better turn around than rushing to the thrift shop.

The teacher in me is about to come out because there's an issue here that goes past glass and pottery. I don't know very many people who really enjoy research. I found one and married her, and there are a few friends out there as well, but most of the students I've had and most people I know either hate research or enjoy it in a rather superficial way. I'm not saying that everyone needs to spend their life immersed in deep research, but it's time for an attitude adjustment. The sad part is that much of the resistance is generated by our education system where students are taught that the form of the research paper is more important than the ideas. Also, too many of my students come in with the idea that their ideas aren't as valuable as the ideas in the books. To them, a research paper simply means pulling a few ideas from here, a few from there, stir them up a bit, and it's a research paper. We may tell them that plagiarism is wrong, but what we end up having them do is only a half step, or less, from plagiarism.

Shifting back closer to the subject, this attitude makes people resist research and convinces many that they aren't good at it. (It also makes people too dependent on what the books say and on buying the mark, but I'll talk more about that in other places.) When we started our shift from collectors who bought cheap box lots to becoming part time dealers hoping to clear out the house, we were living in Logan, OH, and the Logan Antique Mall opened about a 20 minute walk away. Along with giving us an outlet for merchandise, the owner eventually decided to put together a good reference library out where everyone could use it. In a major shift from having a handful of books tucked in a back room, Joyce Fox put together a library of several hundred books with tables, comfortable seating, and good lighting. And almost no one made use of it.

This is where we need to remember a bit of our childhood, particularly that sense of fascination. We now put so much emphasis on goals that we've forgotten the joy of doing something simply because it's fun. In many cases, we've forgotten how to have fun and often don't trust people who seem to be having "too much fun." When most people look through the books on pottery or glass, they're involved only in the immediate task of finding a particular piece. Considering how often that search goes unrewarded, it can get frustrating rather quickly, and since I don't consider frustration our most natural mood, I believe that there must be a better approach, a way to replace frustration with fascination, even into adulthood.

Approached with that attitude, each search you perform, in the books, in the shops, on the net, can serve numerous purposes, especially long-term purposes. It doesn't take long to flip through more of a book, even if you do find the piece you were looking for. Let that information settle into the subconscious and build up over time, and for that you really do need to be letting yourself enjoy the process. Hurry and frustration tend to block the subconscious, both the depositing and retrieving of material. It doesn't take anymore time to enjoy what you do, and you don't waste all that energy in frustration and stress.

Eventually, this all comes in very handy. Consider two situations I've been through. There I was in a fairly upscale antique mall, going through the locked case section where there were some really fancy items. In one case, a dealer had 3 pulled lip amberina crackle glass pitchers from Kanawha Glass (not too long after the first crackle glass books came out). He had them listed as rare with a price of $85 or so apiece. It didn't take long to wonder just how he would be so lucky as to have 3 at once if they were all that rare. More importantly, it was filed away that I had already seen one (cheaper) elsewhere in the mall, and that made about 6 for the day to that point. Despite what one crackle glass author tried to convince me of, that pitcher is one of the most common pieces of glass around, pretty but common as sunny days in Phoenix. It was a matter of letting the memories accumulate as I went.

On the more lucrative side, I was at an outdoor estate auction and saw a green glass vase on top of a box lot shoved under a table. There was nothing special about the form, just a cylinder about 10" high with a little indentation near the bottom and a bit of the top folded over for decoration. It was mint green with a rather frothy bubbled look with dirt on the outside, dirty cobwebs inside, and a small chip on the rim. Still, it made me itch.

Since the auctioneer was a friend of mine, I asked him to pull the vase out of the box and sell it before I had to leave (for another auction, of course). I started the bidding at $10, and that's where the bidding stopped. When I got back to my copy of Leslie Pina's Circa Fifties Glass, I found the source of my itch. She pictures a beverage set in that color and the pulegoso technique (that frothy look). Venini. Though it turned out there have been recent reproductions, I was able to make a fairly strong attribution to Venini, circa 1935, and my net profit was just over $400.

As much as anything, I'm saying don't ignore the research and don't treat it like cramming for an exam. You remember those nights of cramming before a test. You took the test the next day and forgot pretty much everything five minutes later. If you want to sell pottery and glass, do it because you love the pieces, and learn about them for the same reason and with the same attitude. For many of you, it's like the beginning of any romantic relationship. Everyday means something new, something exciting, something frightening, and plenty of embarrassing mistakes.

After 17 years of marriage, Ginny and I have learned quite a bit about each other, forgotten some, and there's still more to learn. No matter how much you learn, what you know never really outweighs what you don't know. If you find that frustrating, you may as well stay in bed. If you're willing to let yourself be fascinated, even excited, then get up and find yourself an auction, show, yard sale, or something.

And after all these years, do I buy things I shouldn't? Oh yeah. It hasn't been that long since the last time I unpacked the day's hopes only to hear Ginny say, "You bought what? For how much?" I no longer buy pieces with the most common phony Nippon mark, pieces clearly pictured in the section of a Nippon book, but I still make some mistakes I shouldn't if I really took the time to look at and think about what I was buying. When you stop making mistakes, a big part of the adventure will be gone. So keep a little of your gambling instincts alive as you learn. Time is one of your best friends, or can be if you stop rushing from stress to worry and back again all the time. You don't have to slow your pace necessarily, just ease your mind.

TRUST

Trust is an odd thing. Why we give it or refuse it can be simple, or subtle, or bordering on nonsense. Some people trust me when they find out I write poetry, others when they see a picture of me with cats. When I teach, some students see my long hair and despair of ever learning anything. Another saw a picture of me from the short-haired high school days and said that if I'd looked like that the first day of class, he would have left.

That's all important because we buy antiques and collectibles at least partly on trust. Even in an antique shop, when you can hold the piece yourself, if you don't know what it is, you buy partly based on trusting that dealer. Now, consider that on the internet your potential buyers are buying from an unseen stranger, miles away, without the chance to touch the piece or see it in three dimensions. That takes a lot of trust. The shopper doesn't know whether you have the honor of Abe Lincoln or the spirit of Jack the Ripper. The more we hear about internet fraud, the more people will assume you're Jack until you convince them otherwise. They don't have to like you, but they certainly won't buy if they don't trust you. That's why so many things in other sections will refer back to trust and confidence. Don't be offended, but you're on trial everytime somebody looks at your auction or store, and in sales we're usually guilty until proven innocent.

Long, long ago before heading to grad school to learn how to be an unemployed teacher, I sold stereo equipment for a company that wasn't really all that well liked. They had the best prices in town on stereos, appliances, and all sorts of good things, but they were known for pressuring customers. Many of the people who walked in were already angry and stressed because they resented being there at all. If they'd had a bad day at work, it was even worse.

Despite the company reputation, I was about the softest sell around, and I'll admit that I sometimes enjoyed the confused look when I didn't give the expected push. The more upset someone was, the more determined I was to get a smile. Sometimes it didn't happen until the paperwork was all settled, but I usually got at least a grin. Now, I didn't sell as much as the guy who was willing to tell a customer whatever would sell them the most expensive piece in the room (true or not), but about half of what he sold got returned. In sales, you want the customer to come back, not the merchandise. On top of that, I really believe that a person in a good mood buys more than a person in a bad mood. Isn't it great when you can combine altruism and capitalism? Well, kindness at least. There's more on the advantages of a good mood in the section about writing the description.

Go to "Photography"

The Writing

Things to Know

Books and Closing Thoughts

 

 

 

Art Pottery

Pottery and Porcelain

Mid-Century Design

Glass,      

Metalware,      

Paintings

Links

Meet the Gin and the For

Meet the "staff"

The Corpurrate Story

Contact Information (Phone, etc.)

Essays and Information:

A Divine and Delightful Madness: An Intro to W. German Pottery (The most recent essay.)

Learning the Basics about West German Pottery (This is an older essay.)

West German Pottery Marks

W. German Companies, Designers, and Studio Potters

West German Picture Gallery and Identification Aid (pictures of items we've had over the last 3 years)

To Buy or Not To
Buy:  Going Where
Price Guides End

Get the Picture Straight: The Basics of Selling Glass and Pottery on the Internet

E-MAIL US

Ginfor's Odditiques (click to
return "home")

Pedagogy, Philosophy and Nonsense (my "other" site: writing, learning, and odd ideas like long hair and fairy god-princesses)