Noname Antiques » 21 Most Valuable Tom Clark Gnomes Worth Money

21 Most Valuable Tom Clark Gnomes Worth Money

There are two reasons why Tom Clark gnomes are doing well right now. One, he had exceptional skills, especially at capturing facial features and vivid expressions in miniature. Two, he recently passed away – on January 14th, 2022. He was 93, lived a full, rich life, and now his art is worth even more! So let’s look at some of the most valuable Tom Clark gnomes.

Most Valuable Tom Clark Gnomes Worth Money

1. Den Mother/Retired Tom Clark/Cub Scouts

Den MotherRetired Tom ClarkCub Scouts

A quick Google search will tell you Tom Clark is a fairly common name. These (in)famous Toms include a stand-up comic, a Canadian TV anchor, an American Attorney General, a British sports journalist, and the Commissioner of a Professional Bowlers Association.

  • Name: Den Mother
  • Year: 1994
  • Value: $127.94

But to truly appreciate these sculptures, you need to learn a little more about our Tom Clark, a seminary professor with magical hands. In his own words, it takes him one week and thirty years to finish a piece. Given the care, detail, and quirky stories he invents, they’re worth it!

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2. Complete Set Of Tom Clark Alphabet & Numeral Gnomes Some Signed

Complete Set Of Tom Clark Alphabet & Numeral Gnomes Some Signed

Antique figurines are typically made of porcelain. Cheaper ones might be crafted from faience or something similar. Their beauty lay in their fragility and the careful paintwork, which was often done by hand. But Tom’s little statues are special. Their faces seem alive!

  • Name: Alphabet & Numbers
  • Year: Mixed
  • Value: $599.99

This authenticity and realism came from Tom’s partner and former student, Joe Poteat. He walked into his former professor’s studio and saw those exquisite creatures that we call gnomes, but that Tom calls Wood Spirits. And boy, did Good Old Joe start seeing $$$!!

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3. VTG Signed Cairn Gnome Balthazar Balthasar Three 3 Kings Nativity

VTG Signed Cairn Gnome Balthazar Balthasar Three 3 Kings Nativity

Joe was an expert marketer and he saw the value in those little statues. He suggested that Tom ditch clay and use a composite of polyester resin and flour made from crushed pecan nut shells. This material held its shape better than porcelain, so it could carve finer details.

  • Name: Balthazar
  • Year: 1987/1988
  • Value: $135

Together, Tom and Joe formed Cairn Studios. A cairn is a Scottish memorial made from a pile of stones that people rolled up the hill and left there. Tom loved the concept so much that he named his 5-acre home The Cairn. He says it’s because his house is built of stone.

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4. Tom Clark Gnome WIZARD #110 Hand-Signed Only 823 Made w/ COA

Tom Clark Gnome WIZARD #110 Hand-Signed Only 823 Made w COA

Part of Tom Clark’s charm was his way with people. He loved talking to buyers and telling them cute little stories about his Wood Spirits. He would also autograph pieces for buyers, and those signed figurines are among the most valuable Tom Clark gnomes you’ll find today.

  • Name: The Wizard
  • Year: 1978
  • Value: $499

Tom loved golf, and he also had a cheeky sense of humor. One of his funniest pieces is an American eagle nicknamed Par, with one gnome on his head and two under his feet. As Tom explains, that’s one over par and two under par … which makes an eagle. It’s the perfect pun!

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5. Shen, Tom Clark Creations, Gnome, Collectible, Figurine, Pecan Resin

Shen, Tom Clark Creations, Gnome, Collectible, Figurine, Pecan Resin

You may think Tom’s exceptional skills come from years at art school. After all, he was a college professor with a Ph.D.! Most of his studies – and his classes – were of the religious variety, but he also studied sculpture and English. His love of art and nature was intrinsic.

  • Name: Shen
  • Year: 1989
  • Value: $165.99

At first, Tom tried his hands at painting, but his true niche was modeling ethereally realistic faces on tiny bodies. His human statues were based on people he knew and had met, often wearing clothes he had seen them in. But his gnomes were drawn from his rich imagination.

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6. Tom Clark Forest Gnome #41 1983 10 1/2 inches Tall Signed

Tom Clark Forest Gnome #41 1983 10 12 inches Tall Signed

Tom is the ultimate multi-tasker. Or maybe it’s just the scattered concentration of genius. Either way, he would work on multiple statues at a time. So his studio was always full of figurines in various states of completion. And he played with surprisingly simple techniques.

  • Name: Forest Gnome
  • Year: 1983
  • Value: $125.99

He liked to include natural elements in his work, so he would make clay casts out of leaves he collected, rolling mud over them to imprint them. He jokingly says it’s a skill he picked up in kindergarten, and it served him throughout his artistic life, earning him thousands of dollars.

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7. Retired Gnome Mrs. Claus “Belle Krinkle” 1982 Number 26 Certificate

Retired Gnome Mrs. Claus Belle Krinkle 1982 Number 26 Certificate

Another technique Tom perfected was to build his statues from bottom to top. He would start with the feet and shoes, using toothpicks to hold up these works-in-progress. Joe took care of sales and marketing, allowing Tom to focus on his art. It was the perfect pairing.

  • Name: Mrs. Klaus
  • Year: 1982
  • Value: $85

But just like modern-day artists, he did have to play the part. They say today’s writers need more than talent – they have to be willing to work the room during TV interviews and book signings. Tom was good at this and spent most weekends promoting his work through tours.

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8. Tom Clark Gnomes Scout – No Box 7835975

Tom Clark Gnomes Scout - No Box 7835975

In many ways, Tom Clark was a marketer’s dream. He was a teacher, so he knew how to talk to people and communicate concepts. His soothing voice and a ready smile endeared him to buyers. He had the character, patience, and consistency to work alone in the studio for hours.

  • Name: Scout
  • Year: 1989
  • Value: $94.95

But unlike other solitary artists, he was warm and friendly enough to happily interact with customers and answer their seemingly trite questions. His personality, combined with his talent and Joe Poteat’s marketing genius, meant Tom’s gnomes are still worth a ton of cash!

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9. 7-Up Tom Clark #49, Signed, Cairn Studio, Certificate, Night Train Turtle

7-Up Tom Clark #49, Signed, Cairn Studio, Certificate, Night Train Turtle

Another curious thing about the most valuable Tom Clark gnomes is their ‘stuff’. Tom liked his wood spirits to interact with whatever they found around them. So he might have one using a pencil as a log. Or rolling around a golf ball as a boulder. Or riding eagles and turtles.

  • Name: The 7Up
  • Year: 1984
  • Value: $425

Every Tom Clark gnome had a coin on them, and Tom placed carved coins on each statue. He explains that his wood spirits needed to get around, so they always carried coins to pay for the bus or the train. Since they’re collectible coin designs, they help authenticate the piece.

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10. Tom Clark Gnome Large Abraham Lincoln Statue 1989 Vintage 60/6000

Tom Clark Gnome Large Abraham Lincoln Statue 1989 Vintage 606000

Think of the most famous artists, painters, or sculptors you know. Geniuses like Shakespeare and Van Gogh. A lot of these guys died poor, only for us to sell their art for billions. Tom doesn’t fall in this category. His art was valued in his lifetime, so he got to enjoy the spoils.

  • Name: Abraham Lincoln
  • Year: 1989
  • Value: $499

And he passed this pleasure to his customers. He described his wood spirits as playful, living in the moment, having a self-deprecating sense of humor, and possessing ‘all of our virtues and none of our vices.” He threaded bits of his own life story into each character’s biography.

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11. Vintage Retired Gnome ” The N.O. Evels ” 1984 Number 45 Certificate

Vintage Retired Gnome The N.O. Evels 1984 Number 45 Certificate

If you’ve seen any footage of him, you’ll notice Tom Clark was warm and friendly, but also quiet and laid back. He was an observer, a people-watcher. This might be why he could catch facial expressions so effectively. Even the garments his models wore belonged to real people.

  • Name: No Evels
  • Year: 1984
  • Value: $95

And he didn’t just carve the character. He included little elements to add detail to their stories. His statues might have a book, a bag of apples, sand under their feet, and carefully crafted strands of hair. Each figurine was a tableau, and that builds an emotional response.

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12. Signed Tom Clark Fireman Elmo #5022 St Elmo’s Fire Engine

Signed Tom Clark Fireman Elmo #5022 St Elmo's Fire Engine

Joe and Tom always intended their figurines as collectibles. It’s why he sometimes made several statues of the same persona, but in various poses and with altered expressions. They’re all one-of-a-kind, though some characters are more sought after than others.

  • Name: Fireman Elmo
  • Year: 1987
  • Value: $100

You may have caught his accent if you’ve watched clips of him – he’s from North Carolina. And what’s with his obsession with the Scots? Well, he first studied at Davidson College, then a seminary in Richmond Virginia, and finally Aberdeen, Scotland for his Ph.D. Hence the cairns.

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13. Vintage Retired Gnome ” Noel ” 1984 Number 57 Certificate

Vintage Retired Gnome Noel 1984 Number 57 Certificate

Have you heard the theory about visual versus aural readers? Apparently, when some people peruse a book or article, they hear (their) voice reading aloud in their head. But other people don’t hear a voice at all – they just see mental images that represent what they’re reading.

  • Name: Noel
  • Year: 1984
  • Value: $72

This might be about visual processing versus textual processing. And maybe Tom was more attuned to pictorial cues since he admits he was bad at spelling at school. But he was certainly a people person, maybe as a result of growing up in the small town of Bladen, NC.

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14. Tom Clark Lutheran Lenoir -Rhyne College Alumni 8″ Gnome Resin

Tom Clark Lutheran Lenoir -Rhyne College Alumni 8 Gnome Resin

You become a different person if you’re raised in a small town. You’re closer to nature. And it gives you a sense of community and a certain social outlook. It can also make you quite observant of people’s moods, words, and sentiments, which he often transcribed into his art.

  • Name: The Lutheran
  • Year: 1990
  • Value: $99.99

As he readily admits, Tom loves to walk around his cairn, with its cool grass, tall trees, and bubbling stream. He places gnomes all over his land, mostly at the places that inspired him to create them. The shoemaking leprechaun hides among the brush as others hunt golf balls.

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15. Tom Clark Signed Maggie Pie Maker Retired Ed #62 Cairn Studio + COA

Tom Clark Signed Maggie Pie Maker Retired Ed #62 Cairn Studio + COA

When Tom came back to his alma mater to teach, he opened an art studio. At first, he worked with paint on canvas before discovering his calling in modeling clay. Joe helped him with the business side of things, and the rest is history. His final studio was bigger than his house!

  • Name: Maggie Pie Maker
  • Year: 1990
  • Value: $69.96

As it turns out, Tom was quite attached to his little wood spirits. It’s why he built such a large studio – so he could keep samples of every statue! Even after doing it for nearly 50 years, it still gave him immense satisfaction. He was at his most relaxed when he was busy sculpting.

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16. Tom Clark Miss Mary the Teacher COA #39, Cairn Studio 1983, Signed

Tom Clark Miss Mary the Teacher COA #39, Cairn Studio 1983, Signed

You can probably tell by his statues that a playful little boy lives inside this mild-mannered professor. He famously tells the story of his Teacher Mary figurine, based on his second-grade teacher, bearing his cousin’s name, and wearing his aunt’s dress. She also taught 2nd Grade.

  • Name: Miss Mary the Teacher
  • Year: 1983
  • Value: $150

He explains why he added all those little elements, from the apples to the slingshot to ‘the little frog that once jumped out of my desk.’ So this religious teacher was once a tiny prankster, and the art world is richer for it because it comes out in all his woodsy gnomes.

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17. Vintage Signed Tom Clark ‘Stormy’ Sculpture Art Nautical Sea Gnome

Vintage Signed Tom Clark 'Stormy' Sculpture Art Nautical Sea Gnome

Do the people in Bladen County and other rural towns have more expressive faces than the rest of us? Maybe. Modern city dwellers have evolved a bland, stoic look that gets us by. We bump into thousands of people every day, and we can’t meaningfully smile and chat with them all.

  • Name: Stormy
  • Year: 1993
  • Value: $59

Besides, if you went around saying hi to everyone in a city you may get arrested! So we learn to walk around unseeing, barely notice the people around us, and avoid any eye contact. The residents of Bladen are probably still unguarded and inviting. You see it in the statues’ faces.

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18. Cairn Studios Tom Clark Wizard “Halley” 1988 #5050 ~ 9” Tall

Cairn Studios Tom Clark Wizard Halley 1988 #5050 ~ 9” Tall

Apart from their impressive texture, the most valuable Tom Clark gnomes also have a rich palette. He achieves this by making his original statues in colored clay so they already have that finished appearance. These prototypes are then used to form a mold for reproduction.

  • Name: Halley the Wizard
  • Year: 1988
  • Value: $379.86

New statues are poured into the mold before a test painter creates a model for Tom’s approval. They work together to agree on the right colors. Sometimes, each leaf has a slightly different tone. Once he gives the go-ahead, the rest are poured and painted by hand.

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19. Tom Clark “Ben” Gnome 1984

Tom Clark “Ben” Gnome 1984

Lots of people wonder where Tom Clark got his ideas. His first degree at Davidson was a BA in English. And he did study art, specializing in sculpture while he was studying in Aberdeen. He went to Roberts School of Art in Scotland, and later the Museum School of Art in Boston.

  • Name: Ben
  • Year: 1984
  • Value: $55

He furthered his skills at the London City & Guilds School of Art. As for his wood spirits, he may have gotten the idea from a book he read in 1978. It was by Wil Huygen with pictures by Rien Poortvliet. He read it while serving as a camp counselor and storyteller one summer.

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20. Tom Clark Uncle Herschel Signed Cracker Barrel Resin Statue Figure

Tom Clark Uncle Herschel Signed Cracker Barrel Resin Statue Figure

Watching Tom at work is a bit like watching The Cake Boss or any contemporary cake decorator. Just like fondant, Tom crafts his statues from little strips of colored clay, shaping their faces with a toothpick. He includes natural elements like a block of wood or tiny stones.

  • Name: Uncle Herschel
  • Year: 1990
  • Value: $149.99

But because the original statue will be molded into figurines for sale, you don’t have to worry about the leaves rotting or termites getting into the timber. The final product is largely plastic (plus nut flour). And its glazed to make it last even longer. So enjoy your collectible!

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21. Tom Clark Gnome Figurine “Griff” 1985 Cairn Studio Vintage Collectible

Tom Clark Gnome Figurine “Griff” 1985 Cairn Studio Vintage Collectible

While many of Tom’s sculptures were imaginary wood sprites and fairy folk, he did some work based on living humans. We already mentioned Teacher Mary. Tom was particularly proud of a sculpture he did of his first boss, a church minister from a little country chapel.

  • Name: Griff
  • Year: 1985
  • Value: $69.99

Tom only worked there a short time before he switched over to teaching. The pastor made a memorable farewell sermon for him, warning him of the pressures of academia. Tom was too much of a creative for the college structure. He was relieved that his art was so profitable.

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