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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Maria Pottery, black-on-black, feather design pot, circa 1960, 6 inches by 7 inches. Sold for $6,325. Photo courtesy of Allard's Auctions
When Doug Allard decided to collect the pottery of Native American artist Maria Martinez years ago, he couldn’t afford it. So the auctioneer bartered with the artist instead. Allard traded beaded vests and moccasins from the Flathead Indian reservation near his home in Montana for the pots Maria created.

“Maria and her family loved the bead work of the Flatheads, and I could trade a $700 vest for a $2,000 pot,” he said.

Doug Allard started Allard Auctions 30-years ago in St. Ignatius, Mont., and has been auctioning Indian art ever since. He holds two auctions a year, one in Phoenix and the other in Santa Fe.

“It isn’t that Maria is a better potter than other pueblo craftsmen. She isn’t. But people know her name, and they want her work.”

Most Southwest art is nameless. Maria, more than any other artist, brought a signature to Native American art.

She was born around 1885 in the Indian village of San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico. Even as a young child Maria showed an interest in pottery. Together with husband Julian, she perfected her art form and brought worldwide recognition to the pueblo. Julian’s contribution was the firing technique for the famous blackware pottery.

San Ildefonso was home to Spanish families as well as the Indians. The Spanish were the descendants of the first Spanish invaders who came through the valley in the 16th century. As a result, Maria grew up speaking both Spanish and her native language, Tewa.

Maria and Julian achieved their first public recognition in 1904 when they demonstrated pottery-making at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Maria is best known for her black-on-blackware but she also made black-on-sienna, buff-on-red and polished ware.

On March 12-14, Allard’s Auctions held its American Indian Art sale in Phoenix. The sale grossed $629,200 and featured 1657 lots.

A 6-inch by 7-inch Maria black- on-black, feather design pot, circa 1960, in pristine condition, signed Maria Popovi, sold for $6,325.

A choice gunmetal plate, 6 1/4 inch diameter, circa 1960, signed Maria Poveka, brought $1,534.

A circa 1970 Maria bowl, with feather design, 6 ¾ inch by 7 inch, signed Maria and Santana (Maria’s daughter-in-law), realized $2,875.

A circa 1960 Maria gunmetal bowl, 3 ¾ inches by 4 1/2 inch, signed Maria Poveka $2,242.

“You can still buy a small, plain Maria bowl for $700-$800. But we sold a large plate for $25,000,” Allard said.

Condition is an important factor in value. The better the condition, the more the pot is worth. Other factors collectors focus on are the shine, and the clear and legible design in Maria’s work.

Allard knew Maria well. “This lady was not on any ego trip,” he said. “She held herself as a plain, pueblo Indian who happened to do well.” Maria Martinez died in 1980 at the age of 93.

Q. How about old comic books? I came across seven issues of Pizazz, a comic book from 1978. They published a few issues and then went out of business. Can you help? E.S. DeBlander, Cranberry, Pa.

A. Reading about superhuman heroes and nincompoops fits the world of kids ranging in age from 4 to 94. Comics allow us grin at our own imperfection.

Age is a big consideration with comics. The “Early” period starts with the invention of the newspaper comic strip in 1895. Hogan’s Alley featured the Yellow Kid--a motley tike in a nightshirt. Copies of yellowed newspapers featuring these strips are hard to come by now.

The modern paperbound comic book most of us are familiar with started as an advertising giveaway by Procter and Gamble in 1933. They were called Funnies on Parade. In 1934, newspaper racks started carrying comic books priced at a dime each. The Famous Funnies series featured strips like Joe Palooka. These comic books ran monthly for more than 20 years.

Many collectors prefer the comics dating from the Golden Age which began in 1938 with Action Comics No. 1.

Names like Superman and Captain Marvel top the list. The Silver age comes next featuring the ghouls and super heroes like Spider-Man.

In good condition your comic books are worth about $10-$15 a piece in good condition.

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