Identifying Antique Pottery Marks
When you turn a piece of pottery over, you'll often see a mark or series of marks. You can usually find antique pottery marks on the bottom of a piece of pottery and use them to identify the potter. It can be difficult for a novice collector to be sure whether they are looking at an authentic or fraudulent maker's mark.
Learning the unique signature of each manufacturer takes time, but is certainly worth the effort. Keep in mind that manufacturers changed their marks quite often. While a guide would be helpful, there are few authors that have had the energy to create a complete listing of pottery marks. It is best to examine the pottery that you are most interested in and learn from it.
How Marks Affect Antique Pottery Values
Being able to identify antique pottery marks is important for establishing the value of your pottery. Collectors prize certain potters, potteries, and designs, and the marks can tell you whether you have something of special value. Additionally, pottery marks sometimes include a date or number in a series, which can tell you how old your antique pottery is. As a general rule, older pieces are worth more than newer examples, as long as all the other factors are the same.
Weller Pottery Mark
Weller Pottery was in production from 1872 through 1948. They are known for their classic Arts and Crafts designs, as well as beautiful Art Noveau pieces. You can expect to pay around $150 for a simple vase. The mark shown is a very loopy font that spells out the Weller name. This mark was used in the 1930s-1940s.
Van Briggle Pottery Mark
Van Briggle Pottery has been in production since 1899. It is presently the oldest art potter in the United States still producing collectible pottery. It is well loved for the judicious use of specialized matte glazes, which give the pottery a classic look. Van Briggle Pottery has used the Van Briggle name, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the arch in a box for decades.
Paul Revere Pottery
Paul Revere Pottery was in production from 1908 to 1943, and it has a special story. In the early 1900s, there were many poor immigrant families in Boston whose children were on their own while the parents worked. A librarian by the name of Edith Guerrier established the Saturday Evening Girls Club to give girls a place to go and something to do and a place to learn values, work ethic, and business sense so their lives could be improved. At the club, the girls hand painted the pottery as they listened to music or heard a reading.
The club received attention from the Boston socialites, and soon there was money enough to provide the Saturday Evening Girls with the equivalent of today's Fair Trade employment. It was an excellent alternative to the sweatshops that were so prevalent in that time period. This pottery is easy to identify: it features an image of Paul Revere on his horse and the words "Boston" and "Paul Revere Pottery" are easily found on the bottom of the pieces.
Roseville Pottery created unique, beautiful pottery designs in Zanesville, Ohio from 1890 to 1954. The company produced different types of pottery over the years, keeping up with the needs of consumers and adjusting to them. The most sought after pottery is generally the designs from 1920 to 1940.
The raised script shown here was used by the pottery beginning in 1940. This is the most commonly found marking.
Rookwood Pottery was founded in 1880 and did very well until the Depression. It is known for its beautiful Arts and Crafts designs. The company almost did survive the Great Depression but limped a long until 1967 when production ceased. Since then, the company has changed hands and has been in very limited production since 1982.
The company marked its pottery with a back-to-back R and P surrounded by flames. A flame was added every year from 1886 to 1900 and then Roman numerals were added underneath the mark to indicate the year it was made.
Newcomb Pottery was in production from 1895 to 1940. Also called Newcomb College Pottery, the company was operated on behalf of the advanced art students at Newcomb College. The company was known for relief decorations of florals, oak trees, and Spanish moss, often on a blue ground.
The pieces were marked with a simple N in a C. Other markings were the initials of the potter and a particular system of letters that identified the year that the piece was made.
Teco was a small pottery that specialized in terra cotta from 1899 to 1929. The artisans favored the simple, flowing styles of Frank Lloyd Wright, and their work soon became heavily associated with that style. The Teco mark is a large T with "eco" written vertically down the side.
Grueby Pottery was founded in Boston in 1897. The pottery worked with both Stickley and Tiffany to produce unique items like a Grueby base with a Tiffany shade. The company could not compete with mass marketed copies and fell to bankruptcy in 1909. A limited amount of pottery was produced until 1920 when the pottery closed for good.
The most commonly seen mark is the round stamp with a flower in the middle. This piece also has the original paper stamp, which is very uncommon.
George Ohr Pottery
George Ohr was a unique artisan who fought against the current of simplicity, control, and perfection demanded by the Arts and Crafts movement. His work was known for thin walls, unusual metallic glazes, and twisted, pinched shapes. To this day, no one has been able to replicate it. Ohr used a local clay that he dug himself from the Tchoutacabouffa River in southern Mississippi.
The pottery was stamped simply with G.E. OHR, Biloxi, Miss.
Fulper Pottery had several name changes in its long history. The company that would become Fulper, Hill Pottery, began in 1814. It changed hands, as well as names, three more times before it was incorporated in 1889. In 1909, it introduced its first art pottery, which is well loved for its beautiful glazes.
Fulper used what is called the "oval racetrack" stamp from 1922 to 1928. It is found on the bottom of the piece, off to the side and has Fulper written vertically inside a long oval.
Identifying Pottery Takes Time
Whether you have collected pottery for years or have just started recently, it is important to research and be able to identify the pottery marks of your favorite brand. Roseville, McCoy, Rookwood, and other potteries have numerous identification marks, depending on when they were made. Spend time looking at different types of pottery and get to know what the real thing looks like. This is the best way to learn to spot fakes.
LoveToKnow would like to thank Tyler Gillette of Old and Antique Pottery for providing the images used in this slideshow.