Fake & Reproduction Staffordshire figures
One of the most frequently asked questions from my customers is ”how can you tell a copy of a Staffordshire pottery figure from the real thing?”. This is a very relevant question when buying Staffordshire animals and figures because many copies and fakes have been made. Many reproductions figure and groups are still being made today and although they are not sold by the manufacturers as the “real thing” they can,when in the hands of the unscrupulous or the ignorant dealer be passed off to the unwary, sometimes for a large amount of money! So, apart from the usual advice of buying from a reputable dealer who will guarantee their stock and give you an authentic receipt as your proof of purchase, remember the golden rule “let the buyer beware”. Quite often when we come across a “find” and we think it is undervalued we stay with the hope without considering the full facts! The Staffordshire figure reproductions cover items made in the 1820 to 1880 period.
So,what are the other things you can look out for? I have summarized below some tips which I think will be of value, but please remember, there are exceptions to all the rules. The key is to take a balanced view of the purchase situation and the figure involved.
WHAT TO LOOK for in copies of Staffordshire figures and associated pieces.
- Colours used. Staffordshire pottery has a fairly standard range of colours, compare colours from authentic pieces Staffordshire figures and beware of “wishy washy”colours and, paradoxically, beware of very bright colours also.
- Look at the material the figure is made from, numerous figures are reproduced in a porcelain body when in fact the original was made in pottery. The modern pieces made in China use a very crude form of porcelain which is easy to detect.
- If there is extensive crazing and staining to the figure it often denotes a fake piece.
- Some blue blotches (cobalt) in a thick lustrous glaze (lead) is usually a good sign usually on the back of the figure .
- A chalky feel to the base of the figure, particularly to the rim is a bad sign.
- If the figure is exceptionally heavy or light in weight this is not a good sign. Handling authentic Staffordshire figures will help you guage.
- Size - it is worth noting that reproductions figures made from a mould from an original piece will be about 10% smaller than the original.(this is due to shrinkage in the firing process).
- Most figures dating from 1840 to 1880 are made by pressing two moulds together, and this can be confirmed by the presence of a seam down the side. Later figures were made from a slip cast (which is made in one piece) and there will be no seam. Also the features such as the nose will not be well defined.
- If you see ”Made in England” , ”Genuine Staffordshire”, ”Ye Olde Staffordshire” they will be 20thc manufacture figures.
- A lot of reproductions Staffordshire figures are made in China, when looking at the item think “is there an oriental influence particularly in the faces?” Some of the Spaniels I have seen with Chinese faces are quite beautiful, but are, sad to say copies of the original.
- It is not true that a hole in the back of the figure denotes authenticity.
- If there is scratching in the glaze under the base of the figure this can indicate that a makers mark has been removed which would imply that the item is modern.
Please remember that these “tips”are given as a guide, there is no hard and fast rule.
Handle and look at as much authentic antique Staffordshire figures and then you will be in with a better chance of avoiding the reproduction and fakes minefield. If you are unsure ask the dealer “is this a genuine Staffordshire figure”. If you have any doubts ask for an invoice stating the date of manufacture of the figure.
There is a very useful website which illustrates many of the reproduction Staffordshire figures copying the earlier examples from the 1810-35 period.
See also our page on the Best of British Antique Pottery Manufacturers and recommended Reference Books.