Nicodemus pottery is a type of American, red-clay art pottery.
Chester Nicodemus moved from Dayton, Ohio to Columbus in 1930 to teach at the Columbus Art School. During this time he commissioned sculptures, water fountains, vases, limestone and woodcarvings. In 1941 he left the field of teaching to pursue pottery making full time, using local red clay containing a large amount of iron. He called the ware Ferro-stone because of its durability. He made teapots and other utility wares but because of market changes he began producing animal and bird sculptures, nativity sets and Christmas ornaments. His glaze colours included turquoise or aqua, ivory, green mottle, pussy willow (pink), and golden yellow. The glaze was applied so that the warm colour of the red clay would show through, adding an extra dimension to each piece. Examples usually bear the impressed mark, "Nicodemus." A protégé, Ellen Jennings, designed many of the smaller animals. These are usually marked with the initials “E. J.” with the word “Nicodemus” also present. His works are highly prized today. As more collectors discover his superior talent, they are seeing prices escalate.
Regardless of what you decide to collect, it is important to realize condition is critical. Even very minor damage will impact the value of most common American art pottery. We recommend to all new collectors we work with to stick to mint pieces until they have a better feel as to where their longer-term interests may lie and a better knowledge to determine the extent of restoration or damage on a particular piece and its associated impact on value. We often see new collectors buying damaged pieces because they appear to be cheap compared to mint pieces. Unfortunately what they often come to realize if they go to resell the piece is that unless the piece is rare, most experienced collectors will wait for a mint or professionally restored example to come along.
In regards to starting out with more widely available and commonly traded lines such as Roseville or Weller, as most new collectors learn more about the various makers of American art pottery, it seems they typically end up shifting their focus from one maker or particular pattern to entirely different lines or makers. Since most collectors, new and experienced, are on limited budgets of some type, many ultimately end up wanting to sell or trade the pieces that they had started out collecting. So by starting with the more commonly traded lines like Roseville and Weller, new buyers will typically have a more widely available market for adding to their collection and for future trading or resale purposes if that becomes desirable.
Since so many of the beginning collectors we see are often interested in selling their first items as they redirect their collection budget, we also recommend considering lines that appear to have stronger potential for price appreciation.
Since most of us have limited budgets for our collecting hobby, this often necessitates reselling or trading items when our interests change. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and, in fact, is one of the things that make collecting American art pottery so much fun. Remember, the most important thing is to collect what you like and have fun.
A cracked Nicodemus pottery dachshund sold for $80 at Apple Tree Auction Center in June 2005
A Chester Nicodemus pottery bull figurine brought $210 at Rachel Davis Fine Arts in September 2012
A cracked Nicodemus pottery ashtray sold for $10 at Apple Tree Auction Center in June 2005
Three Nicodemus pottery figures sold for $55 at Dirk Soulis Auctions in April 2011
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