Farmer fawns over cache of fine china
The table looks set for royalty, but no meals have ever been served on Bruce Wright's china and probably never will.
Wright's collection of blue and white china is so valuable, he said, he didn't want his rural Rock County address published.
He leaves a table set with Ridgway and La Belle Flow Blue china and Fostoria glass. Dozens more pieces of the intricate blue and white patterned china are displayed on side tables, china hutches and other dining room cabinetry.
The 80-year-old farmer said he began collecting china 25 years ago and only buys pieces in mint condition.
He has about 400 pieces of highly collectible La Belle Flow Blue. The appeal, he said, is that it was made in America.
"I'm in love with them all," he said.
His favorite La Belle Flow Blue piece is the Admiral Dewey, a handled jardinière that sits on a pedestal. He found it in Michigan and paid $16,000.
A La Belle pottery manager in Wheeling, W. Va., designed the jardinière in 1899 as a Christmas gift for his wife. Instead, it was given to U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey as a wedding gift.
The original is on display at the Naval Museum at Annapolis, Md., but it became part of the company's general production line and was available in a variety of decorations. The wholesale price in 1907 was $75, Wright said.
Wright found most of the china in his collection at antique shows in Indianapolis, Chicago and Minneapolis.
"You get to know dealers all over the United States who contact me. But the shows today are nowhere like they were 25 years ago. EBay has taken that way," he said.
Several pieces of his La Belle Flow Blue china—a dinner set, deep dishes and serving bowls—were shown during a Rock County Historical Society presentation, but the rest of Wright's collection has been shown to only a handful of people.
It's never been used for meals.
"Some people like race horses and cars, and some people like china," Wright said.
He enjoys the hunt for rare, valuable china and has accumulated extensive collections of Ridgway and Pickard china plus Fostoria glass.
"It's a thrill," he said.
"If it's a beautiful piece and you've never seen it before, if you don't buy it, you probably will never see it again," Wright said.
Pieces in his La Belle Flow Blue china collection include ice pitchers, vegetable dishes, hotel ware, cream and sugar sets, demitasse cups, serving trays, jardinières and garden seats.
The collection fills more than one room inside his
"It's just eye-catching," he said.