Of course, most of us plan on being dead when our figures go back on the market, so what does it really matter? For me, its not about the money. Rather, I want my figures to be treated respectfully. I hate the way auction houses lump fine figures in with some junk--or several fine figures together--to help move things along. And I have noted that condition reports at auction can either be off-puttingly thorough (noting irrelevant details) or off-puttingly scant.
Case in point is the 14" pearlware vase with shepherds (below) that came up at auction late last year. I must admit that I gasped when I saw this group. I have never seen another like it.
The auction vase-with-shepherds is enameled in a palette that is typical of the late eighteenth century. I think it was made by Ralph Wood--the enameling and modeling fit the bill, and the figure molds are derived from those used for the Ralph Wood group alongside.
To cut a long story short, I bought this group for $300 on the hammer and I am over the moon with it. Yes, the handles have been restored (this I could see before I bid), but the group is structurally intact. There have been no major breaks through the body or base. The shepherdess has a new outer hand and staff, the animals have the odd replacement ear or two, and the shepherd's hand has been reattached. Restoration of this sort can be expected on a group like this, and I should think that any dealer would be honored to have this fine, early example of the potter's skill in stock.
So what's to be learned from this? Make sure that whoever handles your affairs at the end of your days knows which auction house to approach--or, better yet, which dealer. None of us lives forever, but, with care, our figures do. Let's make sure they are passed on with the respect they deserve.
PS: If you are wanting to sell a figure now....
advertise it on the Staffordshire Figure Association's FOR SALE page. This new service is in its infancy, but the SFA hopes it will grow. For your annual membership fee, you can list three figures at a time. I listed a book last week...and it sold.