Remember when everyone was collecting porcelain figurines? If you're like us, your grandma's china cabinet was full of them. The thing is, not all of those beauties are worth money. Learning to identify valuable porcelain figurines is an important skill, whether you're browsing at the antique store or cleaning out your cabinets.
Predicting value in figurines can be a bit of a challenge, with some once-popular designs fetching far less than their original sales price at auction. However, certain lines and models are especially valuable and can be worth a shocking amount of money to the right collector. Keep an eye out for these beauties as you peruse the offerings at your local antique store or online.
Five Super Valuable Porcelain Figurines
Certain figurines can sell for a lot of money. We're talking thousands of dollars. Although you might not have one of these exact pieces in your collection, they can offer some helpful clues about what adds to the value of antique figurines. These are some of the highest prices seen at auction in recent years.
|Meissen Great Bustard model
|Lomonosov Porcelain Factory Middle Eastern woman
|French Ormolu and Samson
|Choson Period iron-decorated figurines
|Pair of Meissen leopard
Meissen Great Bustard Model Figurine
One of the most valuable porcelain figurines ever sold was the Great Bustard (no really, that's the name of a bird). This unique piece was made by Meissen and crafted by the finest designers in the line, Johann Jakob Kirchner. Along with fellow designer Johann Joachim Kändler, his pieces are the most valuable, as are many early pieces. A 1732 piece by Kirchner of a bird called a Great Bustard sold at a Christie's auction in 2015 for 842,500 British pounds ($1,071,209), despite signs of restoration and repair.
Exceptionally beautiful figurines with a sense of life and movement are worth a great deal, so look for figurines that seem almost alive. They can be worth a lot.
Lomonosov Porcelain Factory Middle Eastern Woman Figurine
This early 20th century Russian figurine shows a woman in traditional Middle Eastern dress. Standing just under nine inches high, it's a rare piece made with incredible detail. The workmanship is lovely, and that adds to the value, as does the clear factory mark. Lumonosov figurines often sell for thousands. This piece sold at auction for $26,290 in 2009.
French Ormolu and Samson Porcelain Figurine
Selling for about $5,850 in 2007, this exquisitely beautiful antique French figurine is clearly a work of art. A little girl stands surrounded by flowers and a gilt canopy, and the piece measures about eight inches high. A large part of its value is its incredible condition despite its age, as well as the clearly high-quality craftsmanship.
Choson Period Iron-Decorated Figurines
The Choson Period in Korea saw some amazing art and sculpture. This set of two figurines dates back to the 16th or 17th century. They are small, only about four inches high, and feature a person and a horse. They are decorated with an iron glaze and are clearly handmade. The unique nature of these, plus their age, adds to the value. They sold for about $4,750 in 2007.
Pair of Meissen Leopard Figurines
A set of two beautifully detailed leopard figurines by famed manufacturer Meissen sold for about $2,000 in 2020. They were made in the late 19th century and have lovely details on the faces. Meissen figurines tend to be some of the most valuable.
How to Spot a Valuable Figurine
As you can see, there's a lot that goes into value, and just looking at what a seller is asking for something doesn't give you much info on what it's actually worth. For example, I recently saw a dog figurine with a price tag of several hundred dollars at a local antique store. It was covered in dust and clearly hadn't received a lot of interest from buyers. Instead of looking at asking prices, look at what similar pieces actually sell for. You can also watch for figurines with these characteristics:
- Signed and numbered pieces
- Figurines by super collectible manufacturers (more on that in a sec)
- Pieces in excellent condition with no visible damage
- Antique figurines or vintage pieces that really show their place in history
- Larger pieces
- Figurines with exceptional beauty
Brands of Antique Porcelain Figurines Often Worth Money
Although there's no set rule about which figurines are the most valuable, certain brands stand out as being worth more. If you have a piece by one of these brands, consider looking into it in more detail.
Early Meissen Figurines
German figurines are well-represented when it comes to the lists of the most valuable pieces, and Meissen is tops. Established in Germany in 1710, Meissen has always had one of the best reputations for fine quality, lovely porcelain figurines, according to Christie's. The auction house reports several special examples have sold for $200,000 or more, and even more common pieces regularly fetch hundreds of dollars.
Large Capodimonte Pieces
Italian porcelain company Capodimonte is known for exquisitely crafted household items, chandeliers, and figurines. Collectors Weekly reports the company was founded in 1743 at the suggestion of Maria Amalia of Saxony, the granddaughter of the founder of Meissen and later, the Queen of Spain. Early figurines are white or ivory and have a shiny glaze, but later examples are fantastically colored and elaborate. Large pieces can be especially valuable, as can those depicting rare scenes. It's not uncommon for pieces to fetch several hundred dollars.
Dresden Lace Figurines
Among the most delicate figurines on the antique market, Dresden lace figures often feature porcelain lace and tulle that give these fragile pieces a sense of movement and realism. Artisans made these delicate lace portions by dipping real lace and tulle in slip, attaching it to the figurine, and then firing it. The heat would burn up the fabric but leave the porcelain portion of it behind. Because this porcelain lace was so delicate, it's difficult to find antique examples in pristine condition. Even small figures with a little damage are worth $100 or more. However, if you can find a figurine in excellent shape with multiple figures, it can be worth thousands of dollars.
Rare Sevres Figurines
Sevres porcelain is among the most unique and delicately decorated, according the Christie's. Although much of this factory's work was devoted to dinnerware, tea sets, vases, and other similar items, there are also some figurines. These are often figural representations of people with exquisite detail and a clear glaze. Depending on condition, these figurines can be worth hundreds of dollars. Those in large sizes and with gilt details can fetch top dollar at auction.
Figurines by Royal Nymphenburg
Creating porcelain dishes and figurines since the 1700s, Royal Nymphenburg is noted for its stunning detail and themes inspired by nature and mythology. You'll find everything from stags to Greek gods and goddesses. There are reproductions of the earliest porcelain designs, but if you find a genuine piece, it could be worth a lot. The finest Nymphenburg figurines regularly sell on 1st Dibs for $10,000 or more, and you can find more common pieces for hundreds of dollars. Sotheby's estimated the value of a mid-18th century Nymphenburg lady figurine at between 80,000 and 120,000 British pounds (about $122,800 and $184,200).
What about that Hummel figurine your grandma had? Many aren't super valuable these days, but there are a few Hummels worth a lot of money.
Know What Makes It Special
The key to finding valuable figurines is to know what you're looking for. Study china marks and learn about what makes a figurine great. Generally, the manufacturer is important, but the detail and beauty of the work are also a large part of what makes it special. If you see something gorgeous that strikes your fancy, it may mean the piece holds value for other people as well.