Welcome back to the third installment of our Selling Vintage A to Z series. To see previous posts in the series, click on the page at the top (or dropdown on mobile) where all the A to Z posts are handily gathered together! Today’s letter is the letter C (whoa! Sesame Street flashback!) and we’re discussing Chalkware.
This post has affiliate links.
I think of chalkware items as having two peak phases of production and distribution and fairly different styles between those two phases.
The first phase was in the 19th century and pieces (often figurines) were made in Staffordshire and other molds and marketed to be an inexpensive version of more expensive porcelain pieces.
Chalkware bust found on Worthpoint. Latter half of 19th century.
Early 19th century chalkware cat...found on Worthpoint.
The second phase was the first of half of the 20th century and pieces from this era have more of a kitsch feel. They were various items such as figurines and were given out as carnival prizes. Kewpie dolls were a popular product but there were also busts, small statues and wall hangings.
I just came across this beauty at an antique store.
The trend continued on into the 50s and 60s when more kitschy and anthropomorphic chalkware products were popular…wall plaques for the kitchen and bathroom for example. (love it when A to Z topics crossover!)
From the same antique store:
We can’t talk about value of chalkware items for the reseller without discussing what chalkware is made of. Basically chalkware is made from Plaster of Paris and then painted with a water based paint. None of that spells durability. I took a couple pictures at a thrift store recently to show you what chalkware looks like on the inside. (This piece was already broken, I promise!)
This wall plaque was actually from the 1970s I believe but by a company that is well known for their mid century chalkware. Miller Studio (as seen on earlier packaging). It’s a name to keep in mind for reselling.
Here’s what the piece looks like on the inside.
Looks like chalk, right?
Chalkware items break, chip and fade very easily. When I was searching for examples of the early types of chalkware, I was having a hard time finding any for sale on Etsy or Ebay. “Early” was coming up as 1900s-1930s carnival pieces. I finally found some Victorian 19th century pieces by checking Worthpoint and they were from auction houses. Pieces from that long ago have not survived all that often. That cat up above? Over $9000. The bust? $2200+. So yes, rarity has a powerful effect on value. I found a nice article here that explains more about the 19th century chalkware and how to identify it.
That’s not to say the carnival pieces aren’t collectible. There is definitely still a market and prices vary widely based on subject matter and condition.
So yes, condition and subject matter affects saleability.
For example, I have had these 2 plaques in my Etsy shop for quite awhile.
Do you want to see the backs?
Probably not the most desirable subject matter. I may give up on trying to sell them. Then again, I may edit the listing a bit with some of the information I learned writing this post and see what happens.
On the other hand, I had these Miller Studio rooster plaques in my shop that sold very quickly.
Of course, NOS (new old stock) and roosters! Plus mid century coloring and a cool box. It’s a win-win! I actually just picked up a single one of these last week that I need to list.
Here are a couple other examples of mid century chalkware pieces that I’m always on the look out for. Folks decorating their bathrooms 1950s style don’t feel the room is complete without something like this:
See more mid century chalkware here.
And a quick word about condition. Due to the composition and age of these pieces, some wear is to be expected. If your pieces are perfect…that’s great! Newer pieces (50s-70s) with major chips or breaks can probably be given a pass. Not worth picking up unless they can be repaired easily. The older the piece, the more wear and damage is forgiven.
Thanks for joining me in the letter C. Sign up for email updates on new posts over there on the side (or maybe down below on mobile)…and you can also sign up for our monthly newsletter where we discuss vintage and thrifting finds as well as reselling tips and tricks.