If You Find This Thrift Purchase, Buy It

by Mapping Returns

Ready to light up? Vintage lamps from this Indian company can sell for thousands of dollars.

Shopping thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales can be overwhelming. With an overwhelming amount of stuff, how do you know where to start? How do you find gems among all… well, junk?

As a professional reseller who has been scouring through thrift stores for the better part of 30 years, I can help. If you’re ready to halve your shopping time, score great deals or find bragging rights you can flip for cash, read on.

From hard-to-find household items to resale money-makers, everything featured in my “Thrift Shop Like a Pro” series qualifies as a Bolo (Be on the Look-Out) item. When you find it, buy it!

Featured find: Martz Lamp

A lamp is a lamp, isn’t it? not always. Some lamps are special. For the past 20 years, Martz table lamps have been on my bucket list of “dream finds.”

Recently, my hunt came to a pleasant — no, ecstatic — conclusion when I found an unlabeled Martz lamp in the wild for $20.

In 1949, Jane Marshall met Gordon Martz at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in Alfred, New York. Both were students in college, and both had a keen sense of design and creative exploration.

In 1950, the two married and decided to combine their creative talents by joining Jane’s family business in Veddersburg, Indiana. His grandmother, Jesse Talbot Marshall, founded Marshall Studios in 1922.

When Jane and Gordon came on board, the company was producing hand-made wooden lamp bases and hand-painted lampshades. The young couple expanded the product line to include stoneware lamp bases, dinnerware, sculptures, and small tables topped with inlaid tile.

In 1953, a Martz lamp was part of the Good Design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Jane and Gordon sold their interest in Marshall Studios in 1989 and retired. The company was bought by Genesis Wood and Stoneware, and its assets were liquidated in the mid-1990s.

Why buy it?

Many contemporary lamp designs we see today are based on the Martz aesthetic. The pair made modernism accessible to the masses and promoted a simplicity of form that transformed everyday objects into works of art.

If you’re lucky enough to find a Martz lamp, stick with it for a while. It can start a healthy obsession with finding your next Martz masterpiece (and the next…and the next).

If you’re interested in reselling Martz lamps for a profit but are unfamiliar with Marshall Studio or Martz, brush up and cash in. This pair of Martz lamps recently sold on eBay for $2,145, and this monumental table lamp is listed on Etsy for $3,500.

To top it off (pun intended), even the original Martz lamp finials excite collectors. (The finials are the often overlooked threaded piece that secures the lampshade to the lamp harp.) Recently, this teak finial sold for $41 on eBay.

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