We can’t talk about high-end decor and not mention Chinese Porcelain as one of the most desirable and sophisticated decorative items. The truth is that these antique and vintage art pieces were very admired evene before collecting them became a fashion.
We say and for good reason!
Take a good look at them and you’ll notice how much precision and skills they were manufactured. All those fine lines and details were mainly handcrafted and who can stay irrelevant on that?
The quality of material, manufacturing, and age contributed to their high value. Their prices are sky-high in most cases, this is the reason why it is absolutely necessary to take precautions before purchasing them. Luckily, they come with handy pottery marks that can help you distinguish an authentic item from a replica.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the evolution of Chinese Pottery and discover some of the most valuable pottery marks you should pay attention to. Continue reading if you are eager to expand your knowledge.
How Different Marks Determine The Value Of Old Pottery?
It is crucial that you know how certain potters, potteries, and patterns are highly valuable among collectors. The incised pottery mark can tell you whether or not your item is less or more valuable.
Moreover, pottery marks in some cases contain a date or a sequence of numbers that enables you to determine the age. A general rule is that the older your pottery is the more value it has compared to newer ones.
Types of pottery determined by materials used
Pottery in general is categorized by the type of material it was used for making, as well as geographical location – we have pottery that originates from the North and South.
The first lesson is – Chinese pottery marks are classified based on the materials used for crafting! Remember this! Here is the list of the most common materials used:
- Earthware – Before the Chinese discovered porcelain they used more common and available materials such as earth clay. To form earthware of the porous earth clay makers exposed their handcrafts to 1200 Celsius to make it keep the shape intact. This practice has existed since the Neolithic age.
- Stoneware – Since earth materials were too porous, artisans started looking for more durable materials. This is how the Neolithic Age evolved to the Stone Age. To form a shape from clay that was tighter than earth clay they fired their handcrafts on 1300 degrees Celsius.
- Bronzeware – Bronze is an alloy made of red copper and other elements like lead and tin. In ancient China, artisans called it “Jin” or “Ji Jin”. Keep in mind that bronzeware is golden when it is cast. The reason why it is called bronze is because it turns green when it is unearthed. This is due to the oxidation and rusting that occurs with time.
- Porcelain – 3,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered a combination of vitrified ceramics and fine clay that became porcelain after it was exposed to high heat. Since artisans were eager to mark their art with indications of production dates so they could keep track of history this material was perfect for it.
- Shang Dynasty Pottery – The first record of Chinese Pottery was the Shang Dynasty Pottery which was made sometime between 1600 to 1046 B.C. A thousand years after that, which is the period between 25-220 A.D. the Eastern Han Dynasty produced the first ever Porcelain.
- Tang Dynasty Pottery – Between 618 and 907 A.D. the Tang Dynasty promoted tea which led to the popularization of tea sets made from Porcelain and Ceramic. This was when a tricolor Sancai, five-color Wucai, and exotic Qingci from Hebei and Hunan were discovered.
- Jingdezhen Pottery – Soon after Jingdezhen became the Porcelain capital of the world. In this period the West and East were united through trade, thereby their different styles started combining. Emperor Zhenzong (997-1022) was very interested in Porcelain and popularized it amongst royals. The royal dynasties invested in the production of Porcelain, one of the famous were the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). They produced the highest quality Porcelain wares ever.
However, not only antique Chinese pottery and marks are valuable nowadays. There are plenty of new-age pottery masters and artists who manufactured pottery items worth a lot of money. We will mention a few of them in the following section.
Most Valuable Pottery Marks
If you turn an old piece of pottery, on the bottom, in most cases you’ll see a mark or series of a single mark. You should use them to identify the potter. Sure, this sounds easy, yet if you are a novice collector you can have a hard time making a difference between an authentic or fraudulent maker’s mark.
However, learning the unique signature of each manufacturer will certainly be of great help. It may take time but it is worth it. Also, don’t forget that many manufacturers change their marks often. In the following rows, we will try to help you learn as much as you can about the most valuable pottery marks.
Weller Pottery Marks
Weller Pottery started production in 1872 and continued until 1948. They created antique items that are nowadays considered timeless. All their products were inspired by the Art Noveau style. The first major and most noticeable artist at Weller Pottery was William A. Long. He was the one who created Weller Louwelsa in 1895.
Other recognized artists were Rudolph Lorber, Frank Ferrell, and Dorothy England Laughead. What is characteristic of this mark is that the name Weller is written using a typeface that has a lot of curves in it. Average Weller Pottery price ranges from as low as $50 up to $9,000.
Van Briggle Pottery Marks
Van Briggle Pottery is one of the oldest companies that is still producing American art pottery They were founded in 1899, therefore they are currently the oldest art pottery company in the United States. This company changed its marks throughout the years. However, the early Van Briggle Pottery items made between 1900 and 1907 are clearly dated and very valuable.
Characteristic of this type of pottery is a unique matte glaze. One of their most used and recognizable marks is the arch in a box, while the earliest pieces of Van Briggle have the AA logo. Keep in mind that pieces from 1921 are scarce.
Paul Revere Pottery Marks
Paul Revere’s pottery was made between 1906 and 1942 at several locations in and around Boston, Massachusetts. Founders organized this pottery company to provide training and employment for the girls of the club. Most of their pieces were signed with S.E.G. standing for Saturday Evening Girls. However, in 1925 they changed markings from S.E.G. to P.R.P. or the Paul Revere Seal.
They mainly made children’s dishes, cereal sets, and tiles. Decorations were animal-themed, mostly rabbits, ducks, flowers, chicks, and from time to time landmarks. All decorations were outlined in black and filled with color. Glazes were matte or glossy.
They even did special orders, when they incorporated names, initials, or mottos a customer requested. Also, besides the children’s sets, they produced plain and decorated vases. Unfortunately, this program was not as profitable since thousands of dollars were required to maintain it, and at that time their items weren’t very valuable. With the death of Edith Brown, the pottery was closed in 1942.
Roseville Pottery Mark
The Roseville Pottery Company operated in Zanesville, Ohio, between 1890 and 1954. In that period they produced a wide variety of pottery items, but mostly vases with patterns that were unusual in that time.
Over the course of the years, they evolved their manufacturing process to meet the market demand and customer preferences. Their most sought-after pottery was designed between 1920 and 1940.
If you are a passionate collector then you for sure know that their most used mark was the raised Roseville USA mark. Following was the RV ink stamp. Another common Roseville pottery mark was the impressed Roseville with the number and size. During the middle period of production, they only marked pieces with foil or paper labels so some of the most popular antique Roseville pottery patterns were left unmarked.
These remarkable collectibles are pretty affordable, compared to others on the list. Their price usually goes around a few hundred dollars and up to $2,000.
Rookwood Pottery Mark
Maria Longworth Nichols Storer was the founder of Rookwood Pottery. She established the company in Ohio in 1880. Rookwood Pottery is well-known for the stunning Arts and Crafts patterns that created until it was closed in 1982.
Luckily for you, Rookwood Pottery is one of the most thoroughly marked pottery companies in the United States. Their marks can be divided into several categories – factory marks, decorators’ marks, clay and shape marks, and unusual marks.
They had 136 official artists so each decorator applied their initials (or their cipher) to their items. However, we are interested in the essential factory marks. These went through an evolution before they transitioned to a fourteen-flamed “RP” mark.
Until 1882, artists mostly used different versions and impressions of “Rookwood Pottery,”, while in 1886 the “RP” monogram became the standard paired with a flame around the “RP” added for every year. In 1900 the flames formed a full circle of fourteen. In the 20th century, the Roman numerals were added below to indicate the exact year of manufacture.
Newcomb College Pottery Marks
Newcomb College Pottery was created in 1895 and it runs steadily until 1940. They were recognized by unique relief nature-inspired decorations like oak trees, flowers, and leaves. Their most interesting pattern was Spanish moss on a blue background.
Their main defining feature was the use of matte glazes, compared to traditional pottery, which used glossy, reflective surfaces. Their products have a soft, velvety texture created by the usage of materials like clay and minerals.
Throughout its 45-year existence, it produced various decorative vases, bowls, candlesticks, and even tiles. Their program was recognized as one of the leading pottery programs in the United States.
They are well-known for their variety of marks. Their predominant mark was “NC” with the letter “N” placed inside a larger “C”. All early Newcomb Pottery (1894-1897) items were painted with a “NEWCOMB COLLEGE” on the bottom.
If there is a wheel ground “X” on the bottom that means the product was not for sale, it was intended for a specific decorator or collector. Vases with an “M” on the bottom had the mold made just from that particular piece. Also, there were markings like “H B” – hand build.
They used several other letters to signify the clay and glaze body – “A,” “D,” “E,” “F,” “G,” “K” and “T” labeled white clay and gloss glazes. An average price for a Newcomb piece is around $1,000.
Pottery Made By Teco Marks
In 1881 Terra Cotta Tile Works in Terra Cotta was founded in Illinois. This company mainly made bricks, drain tiles, and from time to time pottery. In 1902, they finally experimented with art pottery and started the Teco line named “The Gates Pottery”.
What is characteristic of this pottery is that many different glaze colors were used, yet the most distinctive one was a green glaze. Teco has distinct pottery marks that will help you easily identify them. Teco’s mark consists of a huge letter T with the word “eco” printed along the side in a vertical line.
Many Teco vases were stamped multiple times with a Teco trademark. It is not unusual to find vases that are triple-stamped. Also, Teco items were marked with the shape number and the word “Teco” in a rectangle.
Teco pottery collectibles are very sought-after and expensive. Each piece costs around a few thousand dollars.
Grueby Pottery Marks
Grueby Pottery became one of the most recognized makers of American pottery that specialized in matte glaze. They are mostly recognized for their matte green glaze. The founder, William Henry Grueby started production in the year 1897, in Boston.
He soon started to collaborate with Stickley and Tiffany and succeeded in developing one-of-a-kind products, like a lamp that had a Grueby base paired with a Tiffany shade.
However, they mainly produced pots and vases. Some items featured flower motifs glazed in another color, while others had a blended monotone finish. Also, some of their products made for expositions stood almost three feet tall!
The most often seen mark is a round stamp in the shape of a lotus flower placed in the center. There are two variations of this logo. The first was created in 1898 and had the circular impression reading “Grueby Faience Co., Boston, U.S.A.”, while the second one was made after 1899, featuring the simple “Grueby Pottery, Boston, U.S.A.”.
Grueby pottery is a very valuable collectible item. The price range is on average a few thousand dollars!
George Ohr Pottery Marks
The most controversial pottery master was George Ohr. His work was easily recognized by thin walls, twisted oddly shaped forms, and strange metallic glazes. Those were his main trademarks. Also, Ohr used a native clay color that he personally excavated from the Tchoutacabouffa River.
George Ohr began producing art pottery in the early 1880s. He was working in many different companies before establishing his own trademark. It is believed that Ohr produced approximately 10,000 pieces per year! Unfortunately, in 1906, Ohr closed down his pottery workshop and stored more than 6,000 pieces! These were rediscovered in 1972.
Since his work came strictly from his imagination there were no two same articles. His first pieces were glazed, while his last were completely without glaze. Three are a few different marks that label his work.
Some are stamped with his name “G. E. OHR, BILOXI, MISS”. Another, that was produced with Joseph Mayer in the New Orleans Art Pottery is labeled with the mark “N.O. Art Pottery Co.” While pottery made in Biloxi had only a G.E. OHR mark.
No matter which type of marking you choose, his pieces are extremely valuable due to their rarity. They cost tens of thousands of dollars!
Fulper Pottery Marks
The Fulper Pottery Company was founded in New Jersey in 1909. Unfortunately, they did not have a long run, and their production ceased in 1934. However, in that period of time, they produced a diverse line of art pottery. These items were called Vasekraft.
The products included ceramic shade lamps with leaded glass insets. The glaze was the main decorative factor, which included matte, drip, crystalline, and flambe glazes. Their work also was focused on humidors, bookends, clock cases, desk sets, candleholders, lamps, coffee sets, cooking ware, mugs, decanters, pitchers, and tiles.
What poses a problem is that most of their items are not dated, however, the pottery almost always carries Fulper marks, ink stamps, in-mold and impressed logos, paper labels, or foil stickers.
These marks were used for specific time periods, so they can easily be identified by production dates for each piece. Fulper used a variety of marks, but the most common one was the horizontal imprinted mark.
Determining The Worth Of Your Pottery
Determining the value of an old pottery isn’t easy. But, there are a few factors you can take into consideration when trying to figure out how valuable your item is.
- Condition – The worth of a piece of pottery is directly linked to the condition. When something is in pristine condition also known as “mint” condition it will cost much more. There should be no cracks, chips, or breaks. The perfect means it stayed in the same condition as when it was first purchased. Damage, regardless of how minor it is will significantly lower the price.
- Rare style – Rare and uncommon items are the golden grail in the collector’s dictionary. This indicated that there are only a few examples like yours, or maybe even none. Such fine pottery is very expensive! We talk about hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars! Especially for pottery such as vases, plates made of porcelain, and stemware made of crystal. Also, by rare we also mean odd patterns, glaze, colors, sizes, and forms.
- Originality – Originality in terms is the complete idea and realization work of an artist or he was inspired by another’s work and reproduced some ideas. This might sound funny to you, but in the world of art being authentic and original is what counts and what sells!
- Aesthetic value – This is often subjective because what is pretty to me does not need to be pretty to you. However, pottery items often have universal aesthetic appeal, which will command a very high price. When something is attractive to most people it grows in value.
- Provenance – Provenance is a documented history of the item’s previous owners. If the particular pottery was owned by some famous people or historically important person the price will jump significantly. So knowing the brief history of a piece of pottery you are interested in will greatly help you.
Where Can You Trade Valuable Pottery?
Antique and vintage pottery is one of the most high-profile classic collectibles. Considering how old are they, their prices are insanely high, and where the high prices are, the forgers are as well. This is why it is crucial to know pottery marks for each manufacturer to avoid paying a fortune for fake items.
What we recommend is to find reliable auction houses and dealers to work with. In places like this, all items come with a COA document which is crucial when the collectible item is an exonsive investment.
Is Pottery Trending Again?
No matter if you have been an experienced or novice pottery collector the same rule goes for both groups – GOOD RESEARCH IS THE MOTHER OF ALL SUCSESSFUL AGREEMENTS. Excuse us for abusing the caps lock, but we like to be dramatic from time to time when something must be emphasized!
Old potteries have numerous identification marks, depending on the artist and geographical origin so make sure you get familiar with them. If that sounds like too much work for you then this isn’t a type of hobby for you. When collecting pottery all the fun part is in learning and discovering new and mysterious items.
We are hopeful that this article helped some of you to at least figure out how much work you need to put into this hobby before even starting to invest money. Also, we would like to thank all of you in advance, who will be kind enough to share your stories, experiences, and advice related to this topic. Happy collecting!