Friday 6th October 2023 - Cara Bentham
Staffordshire pottery has captivated collectors for centuries.
It’s charm and historical significance have made it a sought-after treasure. From the English county of Staffordshire, this pottery has a rich history dating back to the 17th century. In this article, we'll explore the fascinating world of Staffordshire pottery, delving into its history, rarity, and offering valuable tips for those looking to start their own collection.
The origins of Staffordshire pottery can be traced back to the late 1600’s when potters in this region began producing utilitarian wares such as plates, bowls, and jars. However, it wasn't long before Staffordshire potters turned their attention to the production of decorative and ornamental ceramics. One of the most iconic Staffordshire creations is the Staffordshire figurine, also known as Staffordshire flatbacks. These charming figurines depicted various subjects, including animals, famous personalities, and pastoral scenes.
Staffordshire pottery gained international acclaim during the 18th and 19th centuries when it became a leading producer of ceramics for export. Many Staffordshire pieces were shipped to America, Europe, and other parts of the world. The charming and affordable nature of these ceramics made them accessible to a wide range of collectors.
While Staffordshire pottery can be less expensive than some other collectibles, certain pieces can be quite rare and valuable. Rarity is a key factor in determining the worth of Staffordshire ceramics. For example, figurines depicting specific historical events or rare animals are highly sought after. Pieces in excellent condition with minimal damage or restoration also command higher prices. Highly sought after pieces can sell for thousands, or even tens of thousands, of pounds.
Another factor influencing rarity is the maker or potter. Staffordshire was home to numerous potteries, each with its distinctive style and quality. Pieces from well-known Staffordshire pottery makers like Josiah Wedgwood, Ralph Wood, or Thomas Whieldon can be particularly valuable. It's essential for collectors to familiarise themselves with the marks and characteristics of renowned makers to identify authentic pieces.
Staffordshire pottery boasts an array of collectible pieces, each with its unique charm and appeal. It is useful for collectors to know which types of Staffordshire pottery are the most sought after. Here are some of the most collectible categories:
Staffordshire figurines, also known as Staffordshire flatbacks, are among the most iconic and beloved collectibles. These ceramic figurines depict a wide range of subjects, including animals, historical figures, and everyday scenes. Rare and intricately detailed figurines, such as those featuring famous personalities like Queen Victoria or unusual subjects like Staffordshire dogs, can command considerable value.
Creamware and Pearlware
Creamware and pearlware are two distinct types of Staffordshire pottery known for their creamy or bluish glazes, respectively. Pieces from renowned potters like Josiah Wedgwood are highly collectible. Creamware and pearlware often feature elegant forms, intricate decoration, and historical motifs.
Blue and White Transferware
Staffordshire is renowned for its blue and white transferware pottery. These ceramics, adorned with intricate blue patterns and scenes, are highly collectible. Popular motifs include pastoral landscapes, historical events, and exotic scenes. Collectors appreciate the craftsmanship and storytelling behind each piece.
Staffordshire Child's and Doll's Dishes
Miniature Staffordshire child's and doll's dishes are cherished collectibles. These small ceramic sets, including teapots, cups, saucers, and plates, were produced for children's play or as decorative items. Their miniature size and charming designs make them sought after by collectors of all ages.
Staffordshire Toby Jugs
Toby jugs, also known as character jugs, are a favourite among collectors. These jugs take the form of jovial and whimsical characters, often inspired by real historical figures or fictional personalities. Toby jugs exhibit a delightful blend of artistry and humour.
Staffordshire lustreware pottery features a metallic glaze that creates a stunning iridescent effect. These pieces often boast intricate designs and vibrant colours. Lustreware pieces, whether in the form of vases, plates, or jugs, are prized for their visual appeal.
Staffordshire Pottery Animals
Staffordshire pottery animals, especially Staffordshire dogs, are highly collectible. These ceramic representations of animals, including spaniels, lions, and horses, come in various sizes and styles, with many showcasing exquisite hand-painted details.
If you're considering starting a Staffordshire pottery collection, here are some valuable tips to get you on the right track:
Begin by researching and learning about Staffordshire pottery's history, makers, and styles. Books, online resources, museums, auction houses or antique fairs can provide valuable insights.
Collecting Staffordshire pottery can be addictive, but it's wise to start slowly. Begin with a specific category or type of Staffordshire piece that interests you the most, whether it's figurines, plates, or jugs.
When purchasing Staffordshire pieces, carefully examine their condition. Look for cracks, chips, or restoration, as these factors can significantly affect the value. Pieces in excellent condition tend to appreciate more over time.
Buy from Reputable Sources
Acquire Staffordshire pottery from reputable dealers, antique shops, or established online marketplaces and auctions. Experienced sellers can provide valuable information and authentication.
Join Collector Communities
Consider joining Staffordshire pottery collector forums or societies. These communities are excellent resources for networking, learning, and sharing your passion with fellow enthusiasts. You can find these groups easily on social networks like Facebook.
Attend Antique Fairs
Attend antique fairs, auctions, car boot sales, and estate sales where Staffordshire pieces may be available. These events offer the chance to see a wide variety of pieces and interact with other collectors.
Invest in Reference Books
Invest in reference books specific to Staffordshire pottery. These books can help you identify maker's marks, dating, and other valuable information. Studying these in your spare time can help you identify rare and valuable pieces when you see them.
Look for Makers Marks
To find the maker's marks on Staffordshire pottery, examine the base or underside of the piece. Look for impressed, incised, or painted marks that may include the potter's initials, the pottery's name, or a symbol. If you're having trouble identifying the mark, consult reference books or online resources.
Collecting Staffordshire pottery is a journey, not a race. It may take time to find the pieces you desire, especially rare or highly sought after items. Be patient and enjoy the process. Rather than buying every piece you find, be selective and choose pieces you really like.
The charm of Staffordshire pottery lies in its diverse range of decorative ceramics which allows it to appeal to a wide range of collectors. While some pieces can be quite valuable, collecting Staffordshire pottery is also accessible to collectors with lower budgets.
If you’re looking to start a Staffordshire pottery collection, there are many great items for sale at auction. You can search our auctions or set auction alerts here. Buying from auction gives you peace of mind that the pieces you are buying have been authenticated and come from a reputable source. With Easy Live Auction, you can bid online from the comfort of your own home. Check out these items from some upcoming auction for inspiration:
This charming collection also includes a pair of 20th Century Staffordshire fireside dogs - estimated at £15 - £30 and due for sale with Leighton Hall Auctions on 21st October.
This pair of Royal Staffordshire pottery dishes and egg cup go up for sale on October 13th at Stamford Auction Rooms. With an estimate of £30 - £40, this is a great budget option for beginners.