Antique Pottery Identification Guide
The good news and the bad news is that 99% of good art pottery is marked. From a collectors standpoint that is great news. Most pieces can easily be identified and collected. However, it is bad news for the pickers, flippers, and weekend warriors who are trying to use their knowledge to buy hidden gems. Obviously if a pot is marked as “FULPER” in huge letters, then it is pretty easy even for the unacquainted to identify, research, and value their pottery. This first thing you might consider doing is checking out our antique pottery mark guide, or look at the maker specific pages in the left hand side navigation. That will help you down the path to identifying and pricing art pottery.
Virtually all American art pottery made between 1900 and 1930, the golden era of arts and crafts pottery, was produced to be sold at a profit. It was a competitive environment and potteries wanted to brand themselves. That meant that if you were making a line of pottery, you wanted to mark it so the general public could buy it from a store with confidence that they were buying an authentic piece of pottery. There are really four different tiers of identification:
Easy To Identify – Spelled Out
Most marks were just the name of the company incised or stamped into the bottom of the pottery like Pewabic, Redlands, Roblin, Hampshire, Brouwer, Teco, etc. Some potters take it a step further, like Dedham. They wrote their name on each vase they produced and then they complicated it by including initials and dates. However, any time a name is spelled out it makes it pretty easy to identify the maker.
Still Pretty Easy to Identify – Initials
Some are a little bit trickier and you have to be at least moderately familiar with art pottery to know that NC means Newcomb College, SEG is Saturday Evening Girls, PRP is Paul Revere Pottery, AR is Adelaide Robineau, SF is Susan Frackelton, or WJW is Walley. There are also the confusing initials on art pottery that can be difficult to decipher. Most people have a difficult time recognizing the UC on some pots as University City. Other people try to add letters, like to Valentien pottery to make it VIP instead of just VP.
Getting Harder To Identify – Symbols
This is where an in-depth knowledge of art pottery is going to start paying off. There are many potters who just used a symbol to identify their wares. We know that Rookwood used a sunburst on some pieces. Marblehead used a sailing ship as their mark. Anyone who puts a moderate amount of time into identifying their pottery will easily be able to interpret the mark. However, there is still room to use your knowledge to find the occasional unrecognized important piece.
Hardest To Identify – Unmarked
There are some collectors and pickers who have memorized dozens of different pottery makers who didn’t mark their wares. These people exploit their knowledge and occasionally make great discoveries, but it is tough. You have to really know your pottery. Many modern pieces are made in a classic style to look like something they are not. If you saw a vase with a blue glaze and Spanish moss you would fully expect it to be Newcomb College. However, if that same vase isn’t marked then that would be a big red flag.
If you need help identifying the maker of your art pottery then we would encourage you to reach out to us. We would be happy to help and our information is always free. As time goes on we are going to update this page with lots of pictures and marks. Info@ArtPottery.com