K is for Kingsware

Most collectors have heard of it, some have actually seen and handled it, a few avidly collect it. Kingsware is without doubt one of the most highly under-rated collectables in the current market place. This may be because most collectors do not relate it to their actual collecting field, or possibly consider it to be beyond their means. I have never actually heard anyone say they did not like it. Kingsware is an incredibly beautiful form of pottery, certainly closely involved with the bottle world in as much that no whisky jug collection would be complete without a Kingsware flask or two. The domestic ware such as jugs, vases, tobacco jars etc are in themselves a huge field for the specialist collector to dabble in.

The fact that these highly prized items bear one of the ultimate hallmarks of quality, namely Royal Doulton, also ensures their lasting and ever improving investment criteria. One of the great things about them from a collectors point of view is the massive range available and their accessibility on a world wide basis. Also I think collectors recognise the many opportunities to specialise within an overall category. Kingsware was exported by Doulton via their major customers such as Dewars, Greenlees, Bullock and Lade, Glenlivet, Watsons and many other fine purveyors of whisky to all corners of the world. Countries that imported very large quantities of Kingsware containers and go-withs , such as Spain, Australia, Africa, America, Canada, New Zealand (to name but a few) are now the happy hunting grounds for worldwide collectors. With the popularity of Kingsware growing over the last fifteen to twenty years, some absolutely stunning collections have been put together, and yet nobody can say "I have them all", and this is why they make such great collectables.

As the hobby of bottle collecting has grown, so has the medium for advertising those collectables. We now have access to some great magazines on world wide basis, along with the major growth of associated auctions and sales. The Internet, a relatively new medium, is already well used by collectors and dealers with sales and online auctions almost on a monthly basis. This new usage of information technology is opening up avenues for collectors hitherto undreamed of. E-mail communication provides us with an instant low cost message service with an ability to transmit excellent colour photographs. What used to take ten days to get around the other side of the world now takes seconds. This new technology has brought Kingsware into the reach of more collectors worldwide. In Australia alone, the last three years has seen half a dozen new collections set up. One of the great things about Kingsware is that there are no boundaries to its collectability. You can readily access items to suit your pocket - the domestic ware can be bought for as little as $50 Australian, or you can go the whole hog and seek highly prized specimens of which two sold recently for the princely sum of $10,000 each !!

For those people who are not exactly sure what Kingsware is, the following might help ;

Mainly sought after in the whisky flask category, it is the most interesting and attractive of the Doulton processes in which to indulge. The base colouring is generally of a glossy chocolate brown, with the colours of the decorative features being fused in a single firing operation so that the overall creation is a soft rich subtle effect which is pleasing to the eye. Many of the characters used for decor are from Dickens or are of Scottish origin such as "Bonnie Prince Charlie" . The earliest pieces are from 1902 (The Night Watchman) to around 1939 (Mr. Pickwick from Dickens)

Values of whisky flasks range from approximately $250 Australian for the commoner pieces (depending on condition and colour) to around $10,000 for super rare items such as the "Galleon". Other extremely rare pieces could pop out of the woodwork from anywhere and at anytime. eg "The Pheasant Hunters" was discovered in 1995 and has not yet been price tested. Any one of five known super rarities, if put to auction would be guaranteed to exceed $10,000. Even the fittings ie sterling silver flask stoppers and chains, which highly enhance each piece, are well sought after and can fetch around $100 for the standard ball type stoppers.

Queensware is an offshoot of Kingsware, and no collection would be considered balanced if one or two pieces were not there. Queensware was an experimental presentation, aimed more at the ladies, but it did not fire up the late Victorian / Edwardian's imagination. It is best described as having a light cream glaze with similar characteristics to Kingsware and with the discolouration more pronounced. Being less popular of course in those days makes it so much more rare and correspondingly more sought after today. Another variation of Kingsware is the equally rare "airbrushed" technique, the colours being applied after the firing which gives a very much more pronounced colour effect.

Any collector wishing to learn more about the wonderful world of Kinsgware would be well advised to obtain a copy of the book - "Collecting Doulton Kingsware" by Jocelyn Lukins (U.K) 

Information here provided by Jon Warren of Australia