Know-How: Are Specials Overpriced?

Standard Prices Versus Specials

After the Roding Arts 2004 Signing, Clay wrote on July 3:

I will say in advance that this will not likely be a popular theme. I just hope I am not ostracized by Hazle and this group for expressing these thoughts. Let me also say that I think Hazle pieces are among the finest in the world, and since I have over 70 I think I have "put my money where my mouth is". And as my last preamble, when I was living in England, going to Hazle Signings was always a real treat, and the latest which I could not attend have been delightfully broadcast to us by Marilyn and Chris.

Now to my point. Personally I think the signing pieces are overpriced. I am wrong if they all sell out - supply and demand governs this. But since they are not new moulds - rather nicely painted (yes LP) existing ones, they do seem to command a hefty premium. Since the "production" ones are also hand painted - just different, I am surprised by the price differential. Mind you I think they should be priced higher - but 35-40% seems a bit much to me.

Examples of a Standard Model and Counterpart Special from Roding Arts 2004:

The Sun Inn China Town
Open Edition £46.50
LP30 £70

Stephen replied:

You will certainly not get ostracized by anyone at Hazle Ceramics over this issue. We are pleased that collectors take an interest. As a Company Director price is always something I am sensitive about.

The truth of the matter from our point of view is that the regular pieces are underpriced for the work that is put into them. This has to be so in this price-conscious world where cheap imports, created in places where labour is cheap and often degraded, enter our market place and create a mind-set for people who want to buy the cheapest item no matter where it is made and under what conditions. It is that old chestnut of whether people will pay more for quality items made in the Western world with its wages and standard of living. The retailers we supply throughout the world struggle every day to get that balance right. Does it matter to them whether they are buying an item made in millions in the Far East for pence - or a English made low-run product which costs them 10 times more! You bet it does if they can make a profit out of one and not the other.

We are a very niche market and try to provide ranges that interest the gift buyer or tourist as well as collectors of fine items. (Although since Foot & Mouth, 9/11, Gulf War and High Dollar there are not too many visitors to these shores.) The regular pieces fit that wider remit. The Signing Specials are just that - special pieces created for and by the interest of collectors. Remember these were originally "one-offs". But we were asked by attendees and others to create more. Perhaps we should make even fewer and price them higher. It is a difficult balance and one we constantly struggle with.

Clay responded:

Thanks for your insightful and quick reply. I'm glad you took no offense at my comments. In hindsight maybe since I like the Hazle pieces so much I wish they were just £20 each so I could buy them all!! Alas, while they are probably worth all you charge, I cannot buy as many as I would like - I have the "demand" but not the cash.

Jodi added:

I would like to thank both Clay and Stephen for their emails, thereby bringing to the fore thoughts a lot of us have possibly had, but not voiced. I, like Clay, would like to purchase more than the purse-strings allow. On the other hand, I'm glad they're not "cheap" otherwise every house I'd walk into in Melbourne, Australia would have them hanging on their walls and I prefer to have items that are not found everywhere.

A link to the pricing thread above was re-run in March 2005. It included the comparision with Royal Crown Derby, on a separate page in this section. Alison replied:

Thanks for the pricing link, it was interesting reading. I am glad some of them are expensive as I love the thrill of receiving a coveted one for special occasions.

More of Alison's comments appear in Why Collect?

Blacks & Original Ironmonger

Blacks Ironmonger first appeared at the 2005 Cyber Signing - which has a full historical description. Someone said privately that Blacks and others were priced too high.

From Marilyn on 28th March 2005:

Garden Shop & Blacks Ironmonger

Garden Shop Blacks Ironmonger
Garden Shop
Open Edition £47.50
Blacks Ironmonger
LP50 £95

Recently Stephen said that due to the high production costs of this small business operating without economies of scale, the retail price of the standard Garden Shop should really be £70 not £47.50. The modelling outside rather precludes other themes on this building, so Blacks LP50 is likely to remain fairly exclusive. During two Cyber Signings I have seen ceramics with six prototypes becoming LP12s! The extra work researching and prototyping for a short-run should not be underestimated.

Original Ironmonger & Hardware

Christmas Ironmonger Hardware
Christmas Ironmonger
LP300 began 1992 at £42
Some signed Hazle Boyles
LM1200 began 1993 at £42
All front-signed Hazle

The Limited Edition 1500 of this beautiful building from Witney, with a real cast-iron front, was created as two Limited Moulds. (A few green "Hardware" were also titled Ironmonger.) Both are lovely pieces. But Hazle would say that modelled and painted details have improved over the years. Dealer Brian Pannaman of John English Gifts once sold a Christmas Ironmonger for £950. That is exactly ten times the price of Blacks, making this more elaborate LP50 seem amazing value at £95.

It is a fact that collectors often spend more on eBay for Hazles that are less intricate or rare than Limited Paintings. A retired Victorian Post Office recently sold on eBay for £94, just £1 less than Blacks. While quietly elegant, the VPO was one of the simplest paintings and is not that rare. I also know of a couple who initially resisted buying LPs then ended up paying extra after pieces retired! Inevitably one day Hazle will stop making ceramics. Ironically, the perceived value of her work may then increase.

Martyn replied on 29th March 2005:

Well I for one, when I saw Blacks Ironmonger on the site, expected it to be around £125 like last year's Home and Colonial and was pleasantly surprised when I scrolled down and saw £95. The amount of detail on the shop, let alone the detail of the plants growing on the face of the building warranted perhaps a higher price.

And wrote again on 14th May 2005 after receiving his Cyber Signing order:

I have to comment on the outstanding painting quality and in particular on Fireworks, Old Father Time and Heraldry. The detail, precision and sheer quantity of objects to look at (and I nearly forgot Blacks Ironmonger!) make these excellent acquisitions. The price of each was well worth the money.

Old Father Time was upgraded during the same Signing and Carol (Edwards) wrote:

I love the extra detail that’s been added - Please pass on a 'thank you' to Sharon & Hazle. Where else would you be offered a 'free upgrade' like that?!

The full story appears in Ceramic Focus.

Last modified on 18 January, 2022
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