Buying The Best
This can be very subjective as to what is the best? What I think is the best may be different than what you think. Please note this article is just a guideline to give you some insight to what you should collect and thus help you enhance your collection and information you need to determine “The Best” pieces that will hold, or increase in value for the future.
One of the most important details you should pay attention to is the amount of pieces that are in production. (Note: this guideline can be used for all types of collectibles not just Doulton). What this means is quite simple every figurine has a production cycle, a fixed number of pieces produced for each figurine.
The second and perhaps one of the less known facts is what or who was Royal Doulton’s market. In the 1920’s and 30’s most people could not afford to buy a Doulton figurine and Doulton’s market was confined to just its local market of the UK. Then in 1939 during the war very few pieces were made as Britain was concentrating its efforts on the war. After the war in the 1950’s Britain was broke and was in a great need of foreign investment and its industries were ordered to open its export market. This at this time meant exporting to USA and Canada.
In most cases Royal Doulton did not keep records of its production runs. However, we can get a good idea of how many pieces were made by simply knowing how long the piece was in production, the time period and the number of sightings over time. In the case of Top of the Hill, HN 1834, she was produced from 1937 to 2004. Yikes 67 years that is a very long production run. She is a very popular figurine and many of you I am sure many have this piece in your collection. Being one of Doulton’s best sellers it will unfortunately never be a Rare or Hard to find piece.
But there are quite a lot of pieces that were made for a very short period of time most of which were in production during WWII. For instance there is Millicent HN 1860 was produced from 1938 to 1949; this piece comes in a beautiful red and blue colour. Only in production for 11 years and with such a short production run there cannot be more than 250 pieces produced. Another question which may never be answered is how many of these figures survived.
One of the most important factors in collecting pieces that will hold or increase in value is you must stick with pieces that fewer than 250-500 pieces that were produced in any product cycle.
Millicent’s, HN 1860, catalogue value in 1982 was $800.00. Her price continued to rise through the great collecting era of the 1980’s to 2000’s then at the height of the market in 2008 to $2750.00. The last Charlton Standard Catalogue (12th edition) price was $2250.00. She will now have a suggested retail price of $1000.00 to $1250.00.
Based on a Royal Doulton suggested retail price list of 1953 I would surmise she was issued at about $20.00. If we adjust to inflation that would be $342.00 in today’s dollars. She is a bargain if you can find her under $500.00. I would buy one happily for that or less, but more than likely I cannot see a collector even selling her for that price. However one could become available through an estate sale. I would suspect that there are less than 200 pieces of this model made. Unlike the other two colour variations of Millicent which were made from 1935-1949. While these two other pieces were made a little longer they are still before the war making them just as scarce as the first one.
Another great piece is Jasmine, HN 1862, which will have a suggested retail price of $1150.00 to $1375.00. She was most likely issued at the same price as Millicent at $20.00 in today’s dollars that would make her $342.00 as well.
Another is Suzette HN 1577 she can be found for as little as $400.00 today but she should be a little higher, but the cause for her to be lower in price is her production run. She was produced from 1933-1949, a 16 year run with 3 years in the high production era. The only good thing about her long run was part of it was through the war where there were not a lot of pieces being made. Suzette in the more common flowered pink dress, HN 2026, was made for only 10 years, but she was made after the war and production runs were much, much higher then. She sold for originally $20.00 and now she can be bought for around 125.00.
You will note that I have discounted the piece from the suggested retail price, simply because the “suggested retail price” is just that, only a suggestion of what it is worth, or it can also be used as an appraisal figure.
Appraisal figures are generally higher to include shipping, taxes, and general finder’s costs in acquiring a piece in a short amount of time if the piece was lost, stolen or got damaged (Fire, earthquake, etc.)
Remember to always make sure you buy a perfect piece, in other words no chips, cracks or repairs. Crazing is okay as long as it does not detract from the overall beauty of the piece. If the crazing is stained or too extensive this will bring down the value of the piece. Not to say a damaged piece has no value but you can expect to pay half or less what a good one will fetch.