Before technology developed and refrigerators appeared in our lives, stoneware crocks played an essential role in American kitchens. People used this airtight container to hold their heat-sensitive foodstuffs, like vegetables, salted meats, and butter.

Antique stoneware crocks were mainly used because of their affordable, practical, and durable nature. Their core was sturdy enough to hold significant amounts of food, and their primary material was ceramic.

Nowadays, antique stoneware crocks are more of a piece of American history. Therefore, collectors are excited to find high-quality, antique stoneware crocks.

If you are passionate about antique stoneware crocks but don’t know what features to look for, you are in the right place. I will provide you with tips and tricks and a complete guide for valuing and identifying unique markings. Let’s familiarize ourselves with this topic…

First Things First – What Is An Antique Stoneware Crock?

A crock is a type of pottery that is long-lasting and water-tight. People mainly used ceramic to make them. This way, they kept the food away from bacteria. Stoneware is primarily clay with a waterproof rating lower than 2 percent.

When it comes to material, making stoneware crocks is quite diverse, as they can be made from multiple types of clay. These food containers have different colors and textures, allowing users to choose that crock that fits their needs and preferences.

However, most antique stoneware crocks were relatively minimalist and straightforward, with a gray salt or brown glaze. Often, ceramic artists would add blue decorations.

A Brief History Of Stoneware Crocks

Stoneware crocks have been a vital food container in the kitchen ever since the 18th century. These items were initially made in France, but the leading importers back in those days were Germany and Britain. This lasted up until the end of the revolutionary war.

Due to the high market demand and price competition, Americans began to produce their own crocks starting in the early 1800s. The main areas where crocks were pioneered in America were New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. In the late 1800s, New England and Ohio started to make stoneware crocks.

These items continued to be popular throughout the decades and remained an essential utensil in American kitchens. As a matter of fact, people have been using them right into the 20th century and many still use them now. Here are some of the historical purposes of stoneware crocks:

  • Stoneware crocks were used to keep foodstuffs and beverages at the optimal temperature, considering refrigerators were not even a twinkle in an inventor’s eye. The main foods stored were salted meat, butter, jelly, grains, or pickled vegetables. People also kept beverages like soda and beer in vessels.
  • Antique stoneware crocks have water-tight and the best quality crocks had air-tight features. People were able to keep their food away from insects, rodents and bacteria. Nothing could touch or contaminate their contents.
  • Stoneware crocks were also useful for Lacto-fermenting foods, like cucumbers and cabbages.

Simple Tricks To Identify Antique Crocks

When identifying antique stoneware crocks, you need to keep in mind some essential factors:

Design

Antique crocks were usually handmade, so the design on the container was crude, practical and relatively simple.

  • The oldest designs were engraved into the stoneware, then coated with a glaze of a roughly cobalt blue shade.
  • Ceramic artists added flowers, trees, and birds as examples of some of the earliest designs covering antique crocks.
  • If you cannot distinguish all the decorative elements, take a close look in a different light, and you will be able to observe the details.

The Makers’ Marks

Most stoneware crocks were signed or stamped, especially by the most prominent pottery companies. You may easily find the maker’s mark almost on any antiques of this kind. The maker’s mark will help you identify the age and style more easily. This way, you can determine the value of your crock. Here are some tips and tricks regarding this topic:

  • Usually, the maker’s mark or stamp is easy to find on the bottom of the stoneware crock.
  • The maker’s mark can be letters, numbers, symbols, a logo, or the manufacturer’s name.
  • Master craftspeople often signed or initialled the bottom of the crock.
  • If you still cannot detect the mark, try rubbing the surface of the crock gently by placing a piece of paper over it and rubbing charcoal, a crayon, or chalk across the paper. This may help to reveal any worn patterns that are not easy to detect by eye.
  • An excellent resource for identifying a vintage maker’s mark is The Marks Project, an online dictionary of all American ceramic effects dating from 1946. This great online source may be truly helpful in determining a vintage piece’s age and origins.
  • Some people may misinterpret the mark, so keep in mind that a single number (whether it is stamped or painted) may indicate the size rather than any maker’s markartist’s signature. As such, a three may mean 3 quarts or 3 gallons.
  • Some manufacturers chose a sidewall stamp to put their signature on a specific stoneware crock rather than placing it on the bottom.
  • A great clue regarding the maker’s mark is the style, font, and placement.

Age

Identifying the age of a crock is quite challenging. Most important stoneware crock pieces were imported from Europe until the American Revolution ended (around 1783). Starting in the 1700s, American potters were making crocks and importing them from Germany or England. Here is are some tips on how you can identify the age of antique stoneware crocks.

  • Only after 1775 did American potters start applying salt glazes on their crocks.
  • The cylindrical shape of stoneware crocks was popular starting in 1860.
  • If you notice a mark or maker’s signature at the bottom of the crock, it was most probably made after 1810.
  • Makers from the 1900s used to mark their crocks with “limited” or “Ltd.”
  • If you notice a “made in” specification, you might be dealing with stoneware from the 1900s.
  • Marks that say “Nippon” are a reference to crocks made in Japan before 1921.
  • Is there a sticker? It means the crocks were probably made in the late 1800s or later.

More Age Tips and Tricks

If you notice foreign markings on the antique stoneware crocks, then it might be more difficult to trace their origins and age. However, some collectors are genuinely intrigued by the mysteries behind the containers and spend a lot of time solving them. Other collectors don’t have the time and energy to do this work. For sure, tracing such pieces is challenging and time-consuming because these stoneware crocks are rare.

Luckily, some antique crocks have stamps with their location and names. For instance, if you have a stoneware crock stamped with “Manhattan Wells,” it is clear it was made in New York.

Most Popular Antique Crock Makers

There are many antique crock makers on the market. However, there are some particular names that professional collectors are interested in. These are the most prominent names you should keep in mind, most of them from the U.S. (especially New York and New England). Check out the site Crocker Farm for current antique American stoneware auctions! This will also help you get a feel for the kind of prices to expect when buying or selling these antiques.

Red Wing Stoneware

Red Wing Stoneware has a long history behind it, as it started producing crock in the late 1870s. The earliest containers had sidewall stamps, and today they are some of the most valuable.

Before 1896, all the decorative patterns were hand-drawn. After this year, the artists simply started stamping their products.

One of the top auction records for a Red Wing Stoneware salt glaze crock was $12,750 in 2012!

Monmouth Pottery Company

Monmouth Pottery started its activity in 1894 and made stoneware crocks in Illinois. Their creative signature were the salt glazes, Bristol glazes and Albany slip glazes.

Their main representative design featured two men standing inside a huge crock. Starting from 1902, the company changed its logo and started to use a maple leaf.

Western Stoneware

In 1906, a critical name in the industry appeared: The Western Stoneware Company. Their primary logo was also a maple leaf displaying the name in the center. The logo might also include a number from 1 to 7, denoting the factory that created the specific piece of crock.

Robinson-Ransbottom

Since 1901, the Robinson Ransbottom Pottery company have been creating unique-looking stoneware crocks. They were famous for the blue-green crown mark. However, there have been multiple crown versions, so you might notice various in the numbers or words inside it these pots.

Valuing Stoneware Crocks By Yourself

While the previous factors represent specific ways to identify a stoneware crock’s value, you may call for other sources of information. This will help you to learn about how to evaluate these antique treasures which is essential when forming a collection.

The Internet

Do not hesitate to use the Internet, our digital and endless knowledge resource. You can upload a picture with your antique piece on Google Lens and wait for similar results to help you get an idea of what your item is and where it came from.

When it comes to makers, supposing you are not sure about the company that manufactured the antique crock, use the symbols you find as the primary reference. In this case, search on Youtube, Google, Pinterest, or eBay for similar logos.

Reference Books

There are different reference books offering details about antique stoneware crocks, with lots of detailed images.

The Blue and White Pottery Price Guide or Collector’s Encyclopedia of Salt Glaze Stoneware are helpful resources.

Ask Professional Collectors

It is never too late to ask the professional about the origins, value, and age. You can either attend antique fairs, go to your closest antique store, or find a reputable expert and send images and information to them online. You might have to pay for this expert advice.

Factors To Determine A Crock’s Value

Determining the worth of a stoneware crock is highly important. Several factors determine the value of an antique stoneware crock.

Clay Color

The clay color is essential in determining the value of an antique stoneware crock. The final shade is a vital factor for identifying the maker.

For instance, the Robinson Ransbottom Blue Crown company mainly manufactured their containers in yellow clay.

On the other hand, companies like Weller made their products using white clay. These representative colors are the best clue for identifying the value and origins of stoneware crocks.

Crock Design

The design of a stoneware crock is a crucial element in determining the vessel’s value. The more intricate the patterns, the higher the final price. Some of the most intricate traditional designs are cobalt blue.

If you are looking for a genuine investment, then look for stunning, delicate designs, as these pieces are genuinely worth having in your collection.

In contrast, stoneware crocks with basic decorations are cheaper. Their value will be potentially lower. But how do you know if the ornaments were added afterwards?

Well, there are simple signs: if you notice the blue decorations are enriched below the glaze, they were added before the vessel went through the firing process. On the other hand, if the decoration is added above the glaze, the value of the crock is lower.

Manufacturer

Like many other antique products, certain key manufacturers are more highly rated than others. The same principle applies to antique stoneware crocks, as some makers were more famous and iconic than others.

The easiest way to establish their value is by searching for them on the internet or in books and seeing whether they are valuable or not.

Crock Size

The size of an antique stoneware crock determines the price you will pay. Larger vessels are rare to find and cost more.

Condition

If the antique stoneware crock is in good shape, though it has been around for more than a century, then it is more likely to be valuable. Containers in poor condition or those which have been repaired are less valuable.

Suppose you notice hairline cracks or minor chips. This does not necessarily mean the value is reduced or the crock is in terrible condition. You might be dealing with an authentic antique vessel which is highly valuable even with some wear and tear.

Manufacturer’s Mark

Without any doubt, the maker’s mark is a big factor that influences the final value. Some signatures or logos are more popular and precious than others. If the maker is well-known in the stoneware world, then the vessel’s value increases greatly.

Where To Buy Antique Stoneware Crocks?

You can buy genuine antique vessels from both online and offline sources. Here you can find the best deals:

  • Etsy
  • eBay
  • Amazon (better for replicas than genuine antique stoneware crocks)
  • Online auction sites
  • Local thrift stores
  • Estate sales
  • Garage sales
  • Flea markets
  • Local antique stores

Read More:

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *