Tuesday, February 22

Know Your Collectables- Barsony

***UPDATE***DECEMBER 2105***

 These Barsony lamps are available now on my new website, kittysvintagekitsch.com.au
Click here to view full details.

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Today I'm starting a new series of posts called 'Know Your Collectables'.

I'll be looking in depth at various brands/makers, materials and styles from different eras. For budding collectors (and non-Australian readers) this may provide much new information, and for current collectors, I hope to expand your reference base.

I've chosen to start with Barsony ceramics. This will be a 2-part post.

The first part will focus on the lamp styles, values and sourcing and the second part will focus on other Barsony ceramics and correct identification.

Barsony ceramics was an Australian company in existence from the early 50s until 2005. Their most popular works, however, were only produced from the early 50s to the mid-70s. The company was started by Hungarian immigrant George Barsony and his English-born wife Jean around 1950.

They produced a wide variety of household ceramic items (ashtrays, figurines, wall plaques and lamps) in satin black, lustre, pastel and white finishes, but are best known and loved for their 'black lady lamps'.

Barsony products were so popular in the 50s and 60s that the factory in Sydneys west was operational 24 hours a day to cope with the demand. As with so many things 50s, the lamps became unfashionable in the late 70s/early 80s, and many people thought of them as junk, throwing out to the garage or in a box to collect dust. With the renaissance of MCM and 50s style in the last 15 years or so, they have experienced a huge resurgence in popularity, and are currently among the most sought-after and highly prized homewares among MCM/50s collectors in Australia.

Now for some examples. I've taken these photos from ebay, from reference books, from Sue and from my own photo stash, so the picture quality varies accordingly.

So, what does a Barsony black lady lamp look like? Well, there's a lot of different styles.


Expect to pay $800-$1100 for a rare, mint example with a lot of hand painting on it, such as this one. As is the way with such things, finding a lamp with the original sticker is rare (less than 10% chance). The presence or absence of a sticker doesn't really affect the value, but it's a nice bonus.

Lamps that don't have a shade are often the most desirable, this one is also worth $800-$1000. The one below sold around $400.

The best place to find Barsony lamps is of course ebay! (Australian ebay). Some people find them at garage sales, but I've never had such luck. I've seen the odd few pieces at antique fairs, antique centres and antique shops too.

If you're a Barsony collector or general vintage enthusiast, I strongly recommend attending your local antique fairs, as you'll often find an unexpected bargain but also gain knowledge, meet people with similar interests and be exposed to wider variety of goods than you might otherwise see.


Many, but not all, Barsony lamps that have shades were produced with plastic ribbon shades, and these are still the most popular shades now. The seated ballerina lamp above is one of the more common styles, usually worth $350-$450, but this one went for nearly $1100 just recently, and I think it was because the shade is just so pretty and was in superb condition.The ballerina lamp was produced in white, pink, blue and red.


The shades often don't last as long as the bases, and are commonly replaced.



Here's the same lamp with a different shade, both are likely original. Value $600-700 with excellent, matching shades such as these.



And because the original plastic ribbon shades were varied both within and between bases, it can be really difficult to know whether one has been replaced with another style of plastic ribbon shade.


In addition, there is no definitive Barsony reference material/book available. The starburst beauty above sold for around $700.

Another ballerina lamp with a beautiful original shade.

Black lady lamp bases generally feature much hand-painted detail, and, as shown below, many of the ballerina lamps have diamantes along the edge of the skirt (also see the seated ballerina above).



Those with a larger amount of hand-painting such as this tend to be more valuable and sought-after by collectors.


Bases without shades, and even without wiring, such as this one, will still fetch a high price and are worth selling as is or keeping until a suitable shade is found.


At the time of writing the 'bikini lady' is at $400 with 2 days to go.



Exceptional plastic ribbon shades  in excellent condition also fetch high prices, whether they are original to Barsony lamps or not. The above shade sold for $80.



You may remember this starburst shade I showed you not long ago- it sold for $176.



Personally I prefer the more atomic-looking shades, but these plainer ones are are cheaper, usually around $50, and in fact suit a variety of vintage lamps, and there are always a few on Australian ebay at any given time.


This red and white one is spectacular and very rare, again I'm not sure if it was originally on a Barsony lamp, but it would certainly suit many black lady lamps.


It is not known how many different Barsony lamps were produced, but there are certainly numerous styles and colours to collect, and the variety of shades gives collectors another focus too.


I just love the stars. Apparently Jean Barsony used to sit at her kitchen table at night, surrounded by grandchilren, painting them on. Value for this one around $450-500.


Here's a pair of ballerina lamps with different plastic ribbon shades. They are being sold as a pair, and are at $350 with one day to go.


And a little boy with a starburst shade, worth around $750.


Better picture, below, the same base with a different shade.


A different style of Barsony, the 'banjo boy', Sue sold this one a while ago, I think she got around $550 for it.


I love this lady below, but the shade looks not to be original. What do you think?


The colours and condition look to be stunning on this one!


It's currently at $350 with over 3 days to go.


Still with original earrings and red fingernails too.

These lamps with 2 heads seem quite rare and popular. With a better shade, this would easily sell for over $800.


I love this lady! I really go for the yellow and black ones. I haven't seen this one on ebay, it's listed in a reference book at a value of $645.


And another example, this time with a rarely-seen fabric shade.


Again a simpler style, not frequently seen, and worth around $350-$400.
This is a very rare style, listed in one of my books at a value of around $900.


This is another style of Barsony black lady lamp which isn't often seen. Sue sold this one last year, and it took her weeks to confirm it was definitely a Barsony before she could sell it.

And here is another. I hesitate to put a value on this one, as they are so seldom seen.
The second part of this series will focus on other Barsony ceramics and the identification of genuine Barsony products.

16 comments:

Penny Dreadful said...

I hadn't heard of this brand at all, they are wonderful. I wonder if that blue and cream shade is original, but someone has added the trim later?

Mo said...

That is a fascinating post, they are stunning. I'm longing to hear more.

Kitty said...

Penny, I don't think so, as I've seen this exact shade a few times before.

Vintage Christine said...

Wow! You did a bunch of research on this post, and it's incredible!! If I ever see one of those lamps around these parts I'll snatch it up, but it looks so MCM that most people would mark it up even if they didn't know it's Barsony. I know you're so happy that your shop is open!!

Earl Diablo said...

Woweeeeeee! These lamps are the best of the best of the best!

1950's_atomic_ranch_house said...

Very cool! Similar to the Blackmoor lamps I see so often on eBay US. Love the one's with the painted starburst design.

I also don't recall ever hearing of ribbon lampshades before finding your blog. Must be an Aussie thing?

Funny, original lamp shades in most every other case, increases the value on lamps, wonder why it doesn't in this case?

Bravo, well, done, it couldn't have been easy posting all those wonderful photos!

Lady Cherry said...

Gorgeous lamps. There are zero for sale on UK e bay :(

DearHelenHartman said...

I Have never heard of/seen these and now I won't be able to sleep for thinking of them. Thanks a lot! :) Actually, am excited for future lessons.

SusieQT said...

Neat- I have never heard of them, but will definitely keep an eye out- any idea whether they were imported to the US?

Vintage Vixen said...

I'd definately buy one of those at a boot sale but is it wrong not to like the shade? xxx

khriste B said...

After lusting over Barsony Lamps in shop windows since the early 90's, I was fortunate to inherit one from my cousin in law's Ba Ba. Oh, the joy when they gave her to me and said something along the lines of "you are the only person we know who would like this." She is beautiful, Standing, leaning on a palm tree, dress in a red bikini. Unfortunately she has no original shade, but I am always on the look out.
Looking forward to visiting your shop next time I go down the coast.

Vintage Coconut said...

Those lamps are absolutely gorgeous! I need to find myself one!

Kitty said...

Ranchie, I agree it's an unusual thing that the value isn't affected by not having a shade. I think because the shades are all different and interchangeable and the lamps just so valuable. And yes, it took me half a day to do this post!

Lady Cherry- I doubt you'd find them them anywhere but Australia and occasionally New Zealand, you need to look on AUSTRALIAN ebay.

Susie- no, I'm not sure but I very much doubt it.

Vix- you are very naughty not to like the shades!!

Khristie- Great score! I'm in the shop Thursdays and Fridays, pop in and introduce yourself, I love to meet blogging pals.

theoldboathouse said...

I was having this conversation with a collector at the WAC only yesterday. They were saying how annoying it is that many people say something is Barsony when it is not. We were discussing the English brands etc that can be very similar. It is true we used to get them alot but now it is only occasionally. We did stumble on the estate of a collector once which was lots of fun. We didn't know till we got there. There were bases without fittings all stacked on top of one another. Hope you are having fun at the shop. Let me know if you are ever at the WAC and we can have a coffee, cheers Katherine

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear Kitty, what a brilliant post. I knew nothing about Barsony so that was really interesting, thank you xx

shitacre said...

Hi , terrific blog ,. I've got a few of these lamps - read somewhere the shades were made from shower curtain material. Steve