A Rare Toby made by Sampson Smith
I recall walking into the Grand Sale at my first IWC convention in Richmond Virginia. I was in awe. Back then, we didn’t have cell phones to take pictures so I looked like a tourist standing back with my good old 35mm cheap camera taking pictures. The conference room the sellers were set up in was huge and while there were less expensive pieces (we couldn’t afford anything) I saw one of these sitting on a table. I am fairly certain Rita had it at her table and my mouth simply watered. Would I ever find one.
I don’t recall what she had on the price tag at the time, maybe $1,200 because they were so rare and it was the late 90’s so the internet hadn’t opened up the doors to finding these beauties. Nonetheless, had I had that in my wallet, it would have been mine. I would have rocked it all the way home on our 8 hour trip!
As a young collector at the time, you wonder where people find items of this caliber. Were they visiting the markets I picture in my head in London, or quaint little antique shops somewhere outside of London? I just had no idea. Did they have people who bought for them and resold to them? All I knew was, I wanted what they had! I wanted the rare pieces, and my collection wasn’t a collection without them.
After high school I had the opportunity to travel to Spain and Paris. Now, I wish I had paid closer attention to those little shops. At the time, being I was a teenager, I had no appreciation for the finer things. I am hopeful, some time as an adult, I can take a trip to England to simply see what it has to offer. And to buy willow, lots of willow.
Anyhow, back to these toby jugs. As you can see they were made in various sizes. My largest is just over 10 inches tall. Each one would have had a hat, however I only have two with their original hat, these are fairly hard to find in tact, let alone with the hat.
The front page of the IWC news in 2002 showcased a Sampson Smith Toby C 1860. This is my reference to my willow toby bible written by Loren Zeller! If you aren’t a member of the IWC and you like blue willow, you are missing out. The fee is worth it just to get the newsletters!
This my friends is where my love of these guys began! Receiving this newsletter was like getting a toby jug in the mail. But I have to say, all it did was make me want more!
The article references a mark on the pieces that date to the 1851-1890 date range. None of mine are marked, so I have to draw a conclusion that mine were a reissue, probably from the early 1900’s. I love them anyhow.
You can see each one has a variation in the britches, neck scarf or how the jug in the had may be painted. They also have a true character of their own when you look a the painting on their faces! Hey, I have to say, they all have brushed their teeth with those pearly whites showing!
Some of mine have restorations and repairs. The second one in from the left has had a restoration to the hat. I want to show you how the restoration to the handles were often made.
Do you see the metal strapping in the handle on this repaired toby jug? I always fall in love with the pieces that show stapling or repair work and how amazing those repairs were. This handle was replaced in three different areas, top, middle and bottom. Someone cherished this item enough to have it repaired versus just throwing it out with the trash and I am thankful they did. My question is how on earth did they use a metal staple without breaking it more?
You can see from the various pictures, these range in size from 8-11 inches tall. I have mine displayed in the bottom of a china cupboard arranged from smallest to largest. They are on the bottom shelf because they are some of the heaviest toby jugs I have and if for some reason, they got damaged…I might have a heart attack.
I still will buy everyone of these that I see because I know each one is a little different than the next. In my most recent price guide (2004) these guys are referenced in “Collecting Blue Willow by MA Harmon” (pages 182-183). Prices range from $1,250-$1,800 for the marked toby jugs and of course prices rise and fall with internet and the markets availability of items. I will tell you, if my hubby asks, I always send him to the book to show the value of these items!!!! I have to always substantiate my purchase!
To me, it doesn’t matter the value if you truly enjoy your collection and in some crazy way it relieves stress. Showcasing my collection to you all has brought me some stress relief in a very trying time in my life. I hope you continue to enjoy and read. Please follow the page!
Until next willow toby post, have a good day. Christine