For many of today’s collectors, the prices of true historic blue Staffordshire has gone out of reach. Many who appreciate the deep blue colors, beautiful boundaries and fine transfer-printed American themes have begun to look to the later wares produced by many potters in England.
True historic Staffordshire is generally considered to be the blue transfer decorated ware which was produced by many potters in the Staffordshire district during the 1820s through the 1850s. These wares depicted important people as well as places in England, Scotland and America. Obviously the pieces which depict American figures and landscape are highly prized and quite expensive.
Fortunately for the less well-heeled collector, there are numerous examples of blue transfer Staffordshire-type wares which were produced for the American market after 1875. One of the most prolific producers of these latter-day historic wares was the Wedgewood firm.
Starting in the late 19th century, plates, platters and other table wares were produced for the American market bearing the likenesses of politicians, statesmen, authors and religious figures. Also depicted were buildings, historic scenes, crests of universities, well-known landmarks and buildings.
Because these later examples of historic wares were produced in large numbers, the relative value tends to be quite a bit lower than the earlier pieces. The most common and plentiful object for this trade was the plate, so the unusual forms tend to be sought after more. Some of the plates or sets of plates were issued in limited numbers for a particular event or institution and for this reason, some of these can be scarce.
As is the case with most collected items, it is the conditon and subject matter which really dictate value. Some of the beautiful blue transfer plates created for University of Maine alumnae are hard to find but of little interest except to those who graduated from the university.
There also is strong regional interest, since many of the plates are specific to certain cities or states. Among the most popular series created were those depicting the various state houses. It is not unusual to get a state house plate from a state other than Maine for a bargain price here. On the other hand, there are those collectors who specialize in series such as the state houses and will go to any expense to complete a set.
Other popular series are those depicting historic events such as the opening of the Panama Canal, the launching of a famous steamship or plane, inaugurations and the laying of the corner stones of important buildings. One of the most plentiful series is that which depicts the famous landmarks of Washington, D.C.
Any plate which bears the picture of a locomotive, trolley car, dirigible, steamship or other form of transportaiton is considered to be highly collectible, as are those that bear portraits of American Indians or some of the presidents. Actors and actresses also are featured on these plates and there are those who specialize in collecting their portraits.
Most of the better quality late historic plates put out by the better potters such as Wedgewood bear strong resemblance to the earlier pieces. The colors are deep blue and the borders are similar with garlands of flowers or shells. Pieces that have a lighter blue color or have imperfections in the transfer decoration or lack a traditional border are not generally considered to be very desirable.
Most of the plates of this period will bear a quotation or inscription on the back which details the subject depicted. Luckily these plates turn up fairly frequently as sales and prices range from as low as $10 to upward of $75 for unusual examples.
Robert Croul, the NEWS antiques columnist, is from Newburgh.