Q: I have 24 museum-quality Gibson girl plates. I am old and would like to sell them. How do I go about this?
A: We knew when we read this letter that the Gibson girl plates were the essentially blue and white ones made by Royal Doulton in the early 20th century. Subsequent e-mails confirmed that. But we also learned three of the 24 plates had been broken over the years, so even though you saved the pieces, we are talking about only 21 plates.
When the photographs arrived, we also learned you had some accessory material to go along with your plates, which is a plus. We wrote about the plates once in 2011. But since then, pricing has changed.
The plates were made by Doulton and Co., which can trace its origins back to 1815 when Doulton and Watts began operations in Lambeth, England (a part of greater London). The firm Doulton and Co. began operations in Lambeth in 1858 and did not begin marking its wares “Royal Doulton” until 1902.
Charles Dana Gibson was an American artist and illustrator who was born in Roxbury, Mass., in 1867. He started creating the iconic Gibson girl in about 1890. The images of this fiercely independent and beautiful woman is said to have been based on Gibson’s wife, who was born Irene Langhorne in Danville, Va. Irene’s sisters were also part of the inspiration, one of whom was the famous Nancy Astor, more commonly known as Lady Astor (the first female member of the British House of Commons, and Viscountess Astor).
The images on the plates were taken from Gibson’s illustrations for his sixth book, “A Widow and Her Friends,” which was first published in New York and London in 1901. The copyright on the Royal Doulton plates is listed as 1900 on some and 1901 on others, but production could not have begun until 1902 and we understand it lasted until 1915.
When we first started being interested in antiques, the plates were hard to find and relatively expensive, but today, there are plenty being sold both at a retail level and at auction. Prices can be very disappointing. We have found prices for pieces offered on the internet can range from $20 to $45, but a few examples had prices in the $50 to $300 range. (Currently, Replacements.com is offering the pieces they have in stock for between $84.95 and $99.95 each.)
The most expensive plate seems to be “Some think she has remained in retirement too long,” but unfortunately, this is one of the plates you report as being broken. As for the plates being “museum-quality,” we know examples are in some museums, but for the most part, they are not the sort of things most museums are seeking to add to their collections.
As for where to sell them, we think online may be best. Most brick-and-mortar auction houses are not doing well with plates like these at the moment.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Av., Knoxville, TN 37917, or e-mail them at treasuresknology.net.