A never-miss stop for Martha in East Hampton is Yard Sale, a vintage shop that specializes in antique housewares, furniture, and other collectible treasures. Owner Vincent Manzo is constantly on the lookout for pieces to add to the store's inventory. His regular customers have come to expect new and exciting items with each visit.
Several ceramic bowls fill the shelves at Yard Sale, and Martha particularly admires the yellowware. As its name implies, this pottery comes in various yellows, ranging from a light buff to a deep mustard. Yellowware originated in England in the late 18th century, and was soon being exported to the United States. In 1828, the American Pottery Manufacturing Company opened in Jersey City, New Jersey, and they used molded ceramic technology to produce yellowware for mass-market sale domestically. Because it was such a popular utilitarian type of pottery, many of the pieces found today show signs of heavy use and damage. Since most of these pieces bear no manufacturer's mark, it takes a careful eye to recognize genuine yellowware. There is a tremendous range in prices for yellowware; condition, rarity, and whether the piece has a manufacturer's mark are all important factors. The bowls Martha examines at Yard Sale are priced from $48 to $125, although Vincent notes that these, like the prices of everything in his shop, are negotiable.
Vincent also has several pieces of McCoy pottery on display, and Martha notices a piece in her favorite shade of green. McCoy is a uniquely 20th-century American pottery, produced since the turn of the century by the J.W. McCoy Pottery Company in Roseville, Ohio. For many years, the pastel-colored, novelty-shaped pieces were sold in dime stores; it wasn't until the last couple of decades that collectors began to notice McCoy. Identifying McCoy pieces can be tricky. Many pieces have some version of the potter's mark (the M and C overlap, and the second C curls into the O) on the bottom, but many have no mark at all. It takes a trained eye to recognize a true McCoy if it's unmarked -- your best bet is to learn all you can before you start hunting. Also be aware that, while the original factory has closed its doors, a Tennessee pottery manufacturer has been making McCoy reproductions since 1990, with a rather convincing imitation of the logo on the bottom -- so you must be particularly careful not to be fooled by one of these copies. Many McCoy pieces can still be bought for well under $100, though, as with any collectible, it definitely pays to do some research ahead of time so you'll know a good value when you see one.
Continuing to browse, Martha examines a set of cups from the store's collection of white ironstone china. The cups, priced at $10 apiece, have the aged, crackled look that Martha loves. White ironstone was first produced by English potters in the early 19th century, and the bulk of it was exported to North America, where it was tremendously popular because of its low price, simple style, and durability. Today, as with yellowware, the value of ironstone varies greatly. Factors such as manufacturer, condition, rarity, and location of purchase all play a role in determining the price of individual pieces.
The crackled appearance Martha mentions is referred to as "crazing" -- a crisscrossing of tiny cracks through the glaze. Technically a defect, crazing is now prized by many collectors for its visual appeal. Experts recommend that pieces showing signs of crazing be washed by hand, as the high heat of a dishwasher can aggravate the cracking and eventually damage the earthenware beneath the glaze.
Although ceramics caught Martha's eye on this particular visit, they are certainly not the only treasures to be found at Yard Sale. East Hampton locals are always looking for new items, from vases to furniture, to fill their houses. Vincent says rattan furniture, both painted and natural, is a highly sought-after item this year. Since the treasures found on the shelves at Yard Sale move very quickly, the stock is constantly changing. That's why devoted Yard Sale customers don't let too much time pass between visits.