Understanding Pottery Marks
Pottery marks are a rich and often-ignored source of information on a piece, providing savvy buyers and collectors with a surprising amount of information about the identity, age and manufacturer of a piece.
Of course, we've all had a quick glance at the bottom of a vase or pot, seen a pottery name and recognised it - but in many cases there is a lot more information available if you know how to recognise it.
Types of Mark
Some of the types of pottery mark that you will come across most often are:
Examples of printed, incised and handpainted pottery marks.
- Printed - ink-stamped onto the base, on top of any coloured glaze
- Impressed - stamped into the base and then glazed over. Sometimes hard to read.
- Handpainted - this technique is most common with pattern numbers and artists' markings - less commonly used for manufacturers' markings
- Incised - cut into the base by hand with a stylus or other sharp-pointed tool
- Moulded - for pieces made in a mould the marking is sometimes included in the mould, creating a mark similar in appearance to an impressed mark
What Do They Tell Me?
Here's how you should 'read' the base of a piece of pottery.
Example of incised shape number (203), stamped pottery mark (Poole England) and handpainted pattern code (CO) and artist mark.
- Look for the manufacturer's pottery mark. This will tell you who made the piece and provide an approximate date range to work with - marks were often changed over the years. Remember, while pottery marks are usually on the base, with studio pottery they can often be at the bottom edge of one side, instead.
- Consider any painted markings - these are most commonly pattern numbers or artists' markings.
- Look for impressed or incised numbers - these might well be shape numbers.
How Do I Find Out What It All Means?
Of course, no one goes around with a database of all of this information in their heads - there's no shame in looking things up occasionally. To get started, have a look in our online Pottery Marks Guide - genuine close-up photos of the pottery marks on hundreds of pieces we've sold over the years.
The definitive book on the subject is the Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks by Geoffrey A. Godden - but it's a weighty tome and you may be better off with one of the pocket-sized guides that are available from Millar's and the like.
Trying to identify pattern and shape numbers and artists' marks is harder - quite often, the only source of information will be a specialist book on the pottery concerned.
A thorough Google search can sometimes also turn up something useful, as can a search of completed results on eBay
Pottery marks are a complex subject but they can become your friend and ally once you learn to understand them. A little patient research often goes a long way, and you will soon become familiar with the ins and outs of the potteries you are interested in.
We hope this article has provided some useful pointers - as always don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions or comments you'd like to share with us.
P.S. You may also be interested in two of the 'How-To' guides we've recently published on our website:
- Spring Antique Fairs & Rabbits Galore!
- Happy New Year!
- Merry Christmas From Perfect Pieces!
- Unique & Collectable Christmas Gift Ideas!
- Will The Sunshine Hold For September?! Antique Fairs & PenDelfin Rabbits
- Summer Continues...Retired PenDelfin & Troika Pottery Galore
- Summer Sunshine At A Norfolk Antique Fair
- Summer Sunshine & Cornish Treats!
- PenDelfin Rabbits Galore!
- Troika Pottery, PenDelfin Rabbits & Puzzling Pottery Marks!
- Are We Going To Have Snow This Easter?!
- Happy Valentine's Day!
- Welcome To 2013!
- Happy Christmas From Perfect Pieces!
- Countdown To Christmas!
- Troika Pottery - A Popular Cornish Collectable!
- Denby Pottery
- Antique Fairs, New Stock & More Rain!
- Antique Fairs, Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, New Stock & Lots Of Rain!
- Summertime News & More Pottery Marks!
- Happy Easter from Perfect Pieces!
- Spring Fairs & Mothering Sunday - It's March!
- February News - Antique Fairs, New Stock & PenDelfin Rabbits!
- Happy New Year - Welcome To 2012!
- Merry Christmas From Perfect Pieces!
- Make This Year A Collectable Christmas With Perfect Pieces!
- Happy Halloween - Halloween Treats From Perfect Pieces!
- Perfect Pieces On The TV!
- Summer Holiday Reads - Antique & Collectable Book Reviews!
- Antiques Worldwide This Summer!
- Sunshine & Gales Calls For Blustery Antique Fairs!
- Royal Weddings & Easter Eggs!
- Steaming Around York
- Bruges: Chocolates & Curiosities
- Welcome to 2011. Doesn’t time seem to fly?!
- Merry Christmas From Perfect Pieces
- Burra Bears - A Unique Piece Of Shetland
- Lord Nelson Memorabilia And Collectables
- Steaming Into Autumn
- Antiques In The Summertime
- Pottering Around Antique Centres
- Father's Day Gift Ideas 2010
- A Flying Visit To Limoges
- Spring Is Here - Time To Get Out More!
- West Country Potteries
- February, Fairs & Valentine's Day
- Only Two Weeks Until Christmas...
- Collectables Don’t Have To Be Clutter
- Seeing Double? Not Necessarily...
- Errington Reay: A Real, Live, British Pottery
- Books, Books & More Books...
- Identifying Pottery Marks - Where to Start?
- Learning About Antiques & Collectables
- Happy New Year and welcome to 2009!
- Perfect Pieces Christmas Sale & Shipping Dates
- Thanks, Jean: A Look Back At 51 Years of PenDelfin
- A Visit to Newark International Antiques Fair
- Antique & Collectors Fairs: Are They Worth Visiting?
- Carlton Ware at the NEC
- A Potted History: Charlotte Rhead
- Troika Pottery: Stronger Today than 25 Years Ago?
- Springtime from a Tyneside pottery
- Poole Pottery: Phoenix from the Ashes?
- Daytime TV, Retro Glass & Bamboo...
- Merry Christmas from Perfect Pieces!
- The Enduring Appeal of the Supernatural - Still Popular Today?
- Understanding Pottery Marks
- Three Techniques: Many Styles - A look at three important decorating techniques
- Children's Wares For Grown-Up Collectors
- A Tale From The Lakes
- The Cornish Effect
- From Buyouts To Bunnies...
- From Switzerland to Stoke: Crown Devon's European Import
- Pottery Marks Guide and Pottery Valuation & Appraisal Service
- A Lustre Alternative - Matt Glazed Wares, Art Deco Style
- Truda Carter - Poole Pottery's Greatest Art Deco Designer?
- Odd Ones Out - Three unusual pieces from Wedgwood, Pendelfin and Troika
- Antique Pottery Price Guide Goes Live, and a look at three contrasting 1930s pieces.
- Focus on Carlton Ware - One Shape, Many Patterns…
- Wedgwood: The legacy of Keith Murray
- Wonderful Wedgwood Lustre, and a couple of true British Collectables
- A rare Crown Devon Musical, some 1930s Maling lustre, and an early Poole Jug
- A look at the enduring appeal of Poole Pottery's 1950s Freeform Range