Amongst the gnomes to look out for when trawling the car boot sales are any by Johann Maresch (which will probably have a ‘JM’ and a number marked on them somewhere. An early 20th century Maresch gnome holding two bottles of champagne fetched £1,375 at Christie’s in 2015 and according to Mark Allum in his book ‘the collector’s cabinet’ rare Maresch examples can make in excess of £2000. Doulton made several gnomes (as well as plates and things with gnome designs on) and a small (4.5 inch 1920s example fetched £2875 at Bonhams in 2016. Some of the rarer Bergman gnomes (which will likely have a ‘B’ marked on them) can fetch a few quid and Griebel (one of, if not the, first gnome manufacturers in the world and maker of the famous Lampy) are always sought after. New Griebel gnomes, and they are still making them, should have a certificate of authenticity. You can apparently pick them up on eBay for much less than they cost from the factory. Quite how genuine these cheap Griebel gnomes are I can not say for sure, but I have my doubts. Bernhard Block (‘BB’ and a model number on base) are probably worth a punt. Antique Heissner gnomes can fetch a few hundred quid but the newer ones are not worth much
It should be obvious that not every gnome is worth the two million pounds that Lampy the gnome is allegedly worth. Most of the gnomes in our collection cost one or two quid. That said there are gnomes that we would not put in the front garden. The good news is that as often as not it is obvious when a gnome is worth something because the quality is so good. For top quality stuff it is probably best to forget eBay, you will always get some chancer asking for a hundred quid for a gnome that is barely worth a tenner. When retired window cleaner Ron ‘The Gnome’ Broomfield died (and was cremated in the gnome costume that he frequently wore) his collection of 1800 gnomes only raised £1600 (for the NSPCC). Granted the family probably (and understandably) kept the cream of the collection but even so at less than a quid a gnome for the remainder it seems that gnome collecting is not a particularly good investment.
I suppose if you are collecting gnomes, or thinking of collecting them, you need to ask yourself why. If, like us, it is simply because you enjoy looking at them and they cheer you (and others) up then you will get far more value from a dozen plastic Artine gnomes than you would a single new Griebel (which would cost about the same), not least because if you have a very expensive gnome on display you would be forever worrying that it might not still be there when you get home. Like stamp collecting, you are never going to be able to collect every type of gnome in the world. It is nice maybe to have an example of the various types of gnomes in existence. I think I wrote in the section called gnomery that we have stone, plastic, resin and wood gnomes. I would very much like a cast iron one in the collection because I think that then we would have a gnome made of most of the common materials. I suspect that there are close to fifty types of zombie gnome and we have one but rather than chasing after (and probably having to pay over the odds for) the others I would rather have a ninja gnome and a flashing gnome (neither of which we have yet).