Van Briggle pottery was first produced in the spring of 1901 (some sources cite 1900) by Artus Van Briggle in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As an accomplished painter, he studied in France in the late 1800s while employed for Rookwood Pottery and garnered an appreciation for Art Nouveau styles while abroad. He left his position as a decorator with Rookwood and moved from Ohio to Colorado for health reasons, according to Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles.
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It was in Colorado that Van Briggle perfected the technique of making satin matte-glazed pottery akin to the Chinese masterworks he had admired during his earlier travels abroad as an artist. His new wares were made in a beautiful array of colors and shapes handcrafted in the tradition of the Arts & Crafts movement so prevalent at the turn of the 20th century.
Van Briggle, unfortunately, lost his battle with tuberculosis in 1904, which gave him little time to revel in his accomplishments before he died. However, the Colorado-based business he founded continued under the guidance of his widow, Anne, through 1912. Other entities kept the pottery brand moving forward after Anne gave up the helm.
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Van Briggle marked its pieces in several different ways early on. The marks were all incised (another word for carving or stamping the signature directly into the clay) by hand into the bottoms of the pieces so each mark may contain the same basic information but look very different from the next. Many of them also have a fairly amateurish and sloppy appearance, even on the nicest and most valuable Van Briggle pieces sought by collectors.
The early pieces made from 1900 through 1907 were all dated, making those very easy to distinguish. All pieces made prior to 1907 have the “AA” mark (which sometimes looks like an igloo at first glance) and the date on the bottom. Some include the words “Van Briggle” as well. This is also true for select items made from 1908 through 1920, but there were some items made during this period that do not have a date as part of the mark. The location of the business, Colorado Springs, Colorado, was added to pieces made after 1920 and is usually abbreviated to Colo. Spgs, Co. due to space constraints.
Some pieces were signed or initialed by the artists who crafted them; others have identifying mold numbers stamped into the bottoms.
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Determining the Value
Many Van Briggle pieces made their way across the country during the first half of the 20th century after being purchased as souvenirs by visitors to Colorado Springs. The most desirable pieces for collectors are the older dated items from the early 1900s, and prices can differ widely between older and newer wares. For instance, a dated vase from the 1901 to 1907 period can be worth thousands while a similar newer piece would only bring hundreds. Values vary depending on the glaze colors and shapes of the pieces as well. It’s impossible to generalize about Van Briggle values, so researching each piece in a collection is imperative before making a costly purchase or selling pieces you own.
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New Van Briggle Wares
The older pottery has a patina that newer pieces cannot duplicate, but some of the more recent Van Briggle items have been mistaken for older wares from time to time. It’s best to do some research on the topic to learn about the more recent styles being crafted and glazes being used before getting serious about adding antique and vintage Van Briggle to your pottery collection.
Newer pieces can be purchased ranging from $20 for candleholders to several hundred for a figural vase. A few limited edition pieces have also been produced and have sold for up to $1,500 range when they were new in the early 2000s. Special Van Briggle Collector’s Society pieces in unique shapes and colors have also been available to members in the past and hold special interest to art pottery enthusiasts.