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Stevo

Member
Hello,

My name is Stevo from UK and I am a new member of this forum. I have little knowledge of Troika apart from what I have seen and read on the internet.
I am interested in Troika pottery as an investment for the future as every time I see a piece of Troika on antiques roadshow or flog it etc it seems to be going up in value so I am thinking of buying a few pieces for my retirement fund.
At present I do not own any Troika at all and I am not sure what to buy from the internet as I have read there is a lot of reproduction and fake Troika on the market.
If that is wrong please put me right.
So, is there a archive of pictures of original pieces of Troika pottery anywhere I can refer to to check I am not buying a fake vase or pot?
If anybody can direct me to the best websites and auctions please do.
I look forwards to hearing from some of the members, regards Stevo
 

Mike

Administrator
Administrator
Welcome to the Troika Cafe, Stevo! I had never seen or heard of Troika before seeing the items on Flog It!, Bargain Hunt, and other similar UK shows, but I liked them the first time I saw them. I now have over 130 pieces, as well as some original Troika factory moulds.

There are some fakes and reproductions out there, but from the few that I have seen, they are easy to identify if you have a good point of reference of what an original piece should look like. On the UK eBay now, there are a couple of items that I would question because they don't look correct in terms of crisp edges, colors, or the decorator's mark.

One of the fakes that I handled a few years ago was an Aztec Mask, and the seller wanted £800 for it. After a very quick inspection, it didn't look correct and was noticeably smaller than the two masks I have. I suspect whoever made the mask had access to an original and made a mould from it, but ignored the properties of the material as it transforms from a liquid slip to a fired ceramic.

After the slip is poured into the mould, the mould starts absorbing the water and the slip gets thicker at the boundary of the mould. When the correct thickness is achieved, the rest of the liquid slip is poured out and the mould continues to absorb the water in the material remaining in the mould. When the material is sufficiently hard, the "leatherhard" stage, the mould is removed and the piece is allowed to air dry for days or weeks until it is completely dry. While it is still in the leatherhard stage before it dries, the "fettler" can clean up any mould seams, attach other greenware accessories, and make additional marks in the surface. This is also the time when any outgassing holes are made. This allows trapped air to escape during the firing process and reduce the likelihood that the piece will explode in the kiln. When finished with all of the adjustments, the piece is allowed to completely dry and become "greenware". As it dries, the greenware shrinks in overall size, and will no longer fit in the original mould.

The greenware is now ready for its initial firing, which will turn it into "bisque", which shrinks even more. The bisque piece is what the decorator works with to apply the colors and individual markings. The piece is then fired again and it becomes the finished ceramic. I don't know if there is more shrinkage from bisque to ceramic, but the final fired ceramic is considerably smaller than the mould where it started.

This is a long explanation to help explain why a reproduction piece made by creating a mould from an authentic piece cannot be the same size as the original piece. Unfortunately, I think some questionable sellers rely on the inability of potential buyers to know what an authentic piece is supposed to look like.

Unless there is some magic slip that doesn't shrink as it dries and is fired, the only way to start producing Troika ceramics is to use the original moulds, or reverse engineer a mould to compensate for the shrinkage. I have an original mould and piece of greenware of a medium wheel vase that I bought from a reputable seller. I also have a finished wheel vase of the same pattern that can be used to compare three of the four stages in the process. I can't be certain that the finished wheel vase came from the mould I have because moulds were discarded and new moulds made from a master when they no longer produced crisp features.

Aside from the size difference in the Aztec Mask I was considering, I noticed the outgassing holes on the front were missing and none of the lines or incisions were crisp. I think the seller realized that I knew his Aztec Mask was not authentic and the conversation ended.
 

Mike

Administrator
Administrator
Here is the link I use to check the UK auction houses for upcoming Troika sales.


I have only seen one obvious fake on one of these auction houses. When I notified the auction house, and provided supporting evidence, they removed the item from the catalog.

With few exceptions, all of my Troika was purchased from online bidding at UK auction houses through this website. I pay through the nose for shipping to Germany, but that is the cost of collecting. In some cases, the cost of shipping and insurance exceeded the hammer price of the item.
 

Mike

Administrator
Administrator
Here is another excellent source of Troika pottery.

 

Mike

Administrator
Administrator
Here is a website owned by a more avid collector than I am. I exchanged a few emails with the owner in the past, and he has a great Troika network in the UK. In fact, I think he has a much better website and offers validation services on potential purchases:

 

Stevo

Member
Hi Mike,

Thanks so much for getting back to me about the Troika. Not sure if you can help me out but there are 3 pieces of Troika on Ebay at the moment, 2 x marmalade jars and 1 spice jar / vase and they are for sale at 395 pounds for the 3 pieces. Firstly, in your opinion, are they origonal pieces and not fake and if so is the price about right? Thanks for any help you can give me on this, regards Stevo
 

Mike

Administrator
Administrator
Hi Stevo,

I looked at the trio, and they don't look correct to me. I have two marmalade pots that I haven't documented, and both of them look crisper and more refined than the two pots in the eBay auction. One could make the argument that these might have been made near the end of the Troika operations when the moulds were past their prime. However, the auction description states Penny Broadribb was the decorator of two pieces, so this rules out the tired mould theory, since she worked at the Newlyn site until 1976. The moulds would have certainly been replaced if the quality of the output started declining.

I've never seen any reference to a decorator with the initial "C.K.", but it's possible there was an undocumented decorator using that mark. Also, the "T" in Troika for the two items attributed to Penny Broadribb do not match her marks on other pieces. To me, the overall quality of the inscriptions on the bottom do not look like those of a master who has done this thousands of times. It looks more like someone trying carefully to duplicate a decorator's mark.

You could ask the seller to measure the height of each item and compare them to known authentic items. If you want to buy with complete confidence, then go to Andy's site, in Post #5 above, and look at some of the items he has listed for sale. The prices aren't shown, but the authenticity of his items are beyond question. I would also look at some of the Troika listing on the-saleroom site referenced in Post #3. I've won auctions that had a hammer price below the guide price.

Concerning the price, I have not bought any Troika items for a couple of years, but the most I ever paid for a marmalade pot was £65, plus auction fees and VAT.
 

Stevo

Member
Hi Mike,

Thats great advice thanks mate I owe you a beer or something as you have just saved me 395 pounds!!
OK, from now on Ebay is out and its Andys site or the saleroom only for authentic pieces.
If Andys site does not have any prices (I have looked and there are none) how do you know what to pay?
Do you have to contact Andy himself and ask, can you tell me the correct procedure please as I do not want to offend anybody with a too low offer.
I have just received the Troika book by George Perrott today so will get a bit more knowledge.
Do you have a personal email I could have please as if I do buy anything I will photograph it and send you the pictures.

Thanks again and best regards Stevo
 
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Mike

Administrator
Administrator
Hi Steve,

I removed your email in case you don't want to advertise it to the world, but I have it now and will send you an email later.

I think Andy's site doesn't publish any prices because the market fluctuates too much to commit to a price that might be unreasonable later when someone is ready to buy. The best thing to do is join his forum and ask him for the price of any items that interest you. From there you can likely negotiate.

If you have the time, it would be a good idea to register an account with the-saleroom and start bidding on some of the upcoming auctions. You might be surprised at how easy and quick you can build a collection. I would not hesitate to bid on the four items in the Stroud auction. These lots will be sold on 9 July 2020, so there should be enough time if you act fast to be able to bid on them online. Alternatively, if you have the time and don't mind the drive to Bath, you can attend the auction in person.

I flew from Germany to Birmingham several years ago to attend an auction in Stourbridge (Fieldings Auctioneers) and bid on a rare pillar vase. I bid up to my limit of £2,100 and was outbid by an online buyer. However, I was the successful bidder in the same auction on nearly twenty lots of Whitefriars glass, with a collective hammer price of over £4,500, so the trip wasn't a total loss. Andy's site has a similar pillar vase for sale with an asking price of £3,000.

The George Perrott book is good, as is the most recent book "troika 63-83" by Ben Harris and Lawrence Illsley. There is an updated price supplement for later editions of Perrott's book, but since it was published in 2004, it might not be relevant for today's secondary market. For example, I have two of the Aztec Masks and paid about £700 for each one several years ago. The estimated price in 2003 for a mask similar to mine was £1,000 to £1,200. The revised price a year later was £1,750 to £2,500. I'd like to see them get back to the 2004 prices...but after you've established your collection. 😁
 

Stevo

Member
Hi Steve,

I removed your email in case you don't want to advertise it to the world, but I have it now and will send you an email later.

I think Andy's site doesn't publish any prices because the market fluctuates too much to commit to a price that might be unreasonable later when someone is ready to buy. The best thing to do is join his forum and ask him for the price of any items that interest you. From there you can likely negotiate.

If you have the time, it would be a good idea to register an account with the-saleroom and start bidding on some of the upcoming auctions. You might be surprised at how easy and quick you can build a collection. I would not hesitate to bid on the four items in the Stroud auction. These lots will be sold on 9 July 2020, so there should be enough time if you act fast to be able to bid on them online. Alternatively, if you have the time and don't mind the drive to Bath, you can attend the auction in person.

I flew from Germany to Birmingham several years ago to attend an auction in Stourbridge (Fieldings Auctioneers) and bid on a rare pillar vase. I bid up to my limit of £2,100 and was outbid by an online buyer. However, I was the successful bidder in the same auction on nearly twenty lots of Whitefriars glass, with a collective hammer price of over £4,500, so the trip wasn't a total loss. Andy's site has a similar pillar vase for sale with an asking price of £3,000.

The George Perrott book is good, as is the most recent book "troika 63-83" by Ben Harris and Lawrence Illsley. There is an updated price supplement for later editions of Perrott's book, but since it was published in 2004, it might not be relevant for today's secondary market. For example, I have two of the Aztec Masks and paid about £700 for each one several years ago. The estimated price in 2003 for a mask similar to mine was £1,000 to £1,200. The revised price a year later was £1,750 to £2,500. I'd like to see them get back to the 2004 prices...but after you've established your collection. 😁
Hi Mike,
Thanks for removing my email address, I didnt think of that. Blimey great minds think alike etc, yesterday I did register with Andys site and I asked him his prices for his sale items. He has not got back to me yet but he may do later. As for the Stroud auction site I have already put commissioned bids on 3 of the items for tomorrows auction. I wasnt sure how much to go up to and I remembered you said a marmalade jar should be about 65 pounds so I went for the lower estimate on all 3 items, I think I have bid 50 pounds each for 2 items and the other is 60 pounds. Do you think I ought to bid a bit more on them or just wait and see? I can raise my bid right up until tomorrow. I am going to start small and work my way up to the bigger items. I have just been sent a tax rebate from HMRC so I have put a few hundred pounds to one side as my Troika fund before the misses and nipper spend it all for me!! If I win the Stroud auction items I may buy a few pieces from Andy if he gets back to me and go from there maybe buying one piece a month or something like that. My main worry is buying a fake thats worth nothing. I have quickly realised you have to be a bit of a detective in this game to work out if what your buying is genuine or not. Like you said if I keep to the auction sites and Andys site I should be buying genuine items. Anyway, speak later thanks again Stevo
 

Mike

Administrator
Administrator
Hi Stevo,

Now that you're registered at the-saleroom as well as Stroud's, you can log in and watch the bidding live. I've left commission bids for items when I knew I wasn't going to be able to bid live. Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn't. I don't mind not winning an item when the hammer price is hundreds of pounds above my commission, but it does sting a bit when the hammer price is one bid above my commission. Unfortunately, there's no way for me to tell if someone else left a higher commission bid, someone was in the saleroom bidding, or someone was online bidding.

On three occasions when I left commission bids, my travel plans changed and I was able to log into the auction and watch my lots. Once, I was the only bidder and won the item, but twice I was outbid by another online bidder but was able to bid online and win the items. It meant I went over my initial ceiling, but in the end I was happy with two more pieces to my collection.

If you stay with reputable auction houses, or known collectors, you will likely not buy a fake or questionable piece. If you buy an item from an auction house and it turns out to be a fake, I am sure you can return it and get your money back. Auction houses have reputations to protect and selling dodgy items is not good for their reputations. However, be wary of "in the manner of" or "in the style of" in the item descriptions. This means the item might not be authentic and this absolves the auction house of any liability.

I learned the hard way that "AF" in the auction description means "as found". This is usually an indication that there are flaws with the item. I bought the rectangular vase shown in this thread that was smashed to bits, but the photo on the auction site wasn't clear about the damage. This vase was one of several I bought that day, but I think I paid about £175 for it and was not the only bidder. Ouch.

I wish you the best on your first auction purchase! Please let me know how it went.
 

Mike

Administrator
Administrator
I just realized that I didn't answer your question about the bid limit. The prices I paid for the marmalade jars were several years ago. I thought Troika was on a price increase then, but it could still be increasing.

One tactic auction houses use is the "come and buy me" estimates. The initial amounts are low to entice buyers, but in the end the market usually wins and the prices will reach their reasonable levels. I don't know if the Stroud estimates are "come and buy me" or if the estimators know their market and set the prices accordingly.

Set your commission limit at a point you are comfortable paying. It might be good to test the waters with a high estimate on one or two items. Only you can determine where your pain threshold is, but I still remember the joy when the package arrived with my first Troika purchase and I held the vase in my hands. Even my wife was surprised at how much she liked it.

With few exceptions, every one of my Troika pieces are on display or being used. I rewired all of the lamps and bought new shades, and they are in use every day. We have vases of every size scattered around the house with dried flowers in them. The items that are not on display are because we don't have room for them yet. The only purchase I regret is the smashed vase, but live and learn.
 

Stevo

Member
Hi Mike,

Some of the estimates on the stroud auction are set quite far apart like 40 - 80 pounds so I am not sure if they are come and buy me prices or not.
So initially I went for the mid point and bid 60 pounds. However, after reading your latest post I have been back on strouds site this morning and raised my 4 bids by a few pounds so if the estimate is 40 - 80 I have now gone from 60 to 70 or 75 to hopefully secure my first piece of Troika.

Unfortunately I will not be able to watch the auction live today as I have a full diary of things to do even though I am not at work today. Bath is across the other side of UK from me so going to the auction is also a no go. I guess if I am lucky enough to win anything today I will understand a bit more about the auction market and the price of Troika.

If I do not win any of my bids then that tells me Troika prices are still on the rise and I need to bid higher in future. There are a couple of other marmalade jars on the saleroom later next week so if I miss out this time I will raise my bids in future to try and secure some Troika. I hate paying over the top prices so like you said I have set my ceiling on each bid and will not go over it, if I win I win if not then theres always next week. I have a set amount in my mind to spend this month on a few pieces and it will be a surprise when I get back from todays chores if I have been successful or not.

I will let you know later today if I have won anything in the auction at strouds, if you send me an email to my private email address I will send you a few pictures of any items I win if I am successful. Speak to you later Mike, regards Stevo
 

Stevo

Member
Hi Mike,

Well what a learning curve that was. I have just checked the strouds auction and I didnt win anything!!
Here is what happened with the 4 lots I bid on. The first lot was a chimney vase, estimate 40-80, I offered 70 and it sold for 200 pounds, the second lot was a cube vase, estimate was 50-80, I offered 75, it sold for 110 pounds, lot 3 was a small wheel vase, estimate 50-80, I offered 75, it sold for 200 pounds, lot 4 was a slab vase, estimate 80-120, I offered 100 it sold for 240 pounds.

The only piece I got close to was the cube vase although it looked like a marmalade jar to me and I was still 30 pounds off the sale price.
All the other pieces sold for more than double the highest estimate so that tells me two things.
(1) Dont trust the estimates just double the highest estimate to get anywhere near the sale price and (2) troika pottery is still sought after and going up in price / value.

There are a couple more pieces for sale next week on the saleroom website that I might have a go at but I think they will go for a lot of money if today is anything to go by. I will have to think long and hard about my bids and offers if I am ever going to buy any Troika, even the small pieces.
Andy has still not got back to me about any of his items so not sure what is going on there, anyway, speak soon Stevo
 
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