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Frequently Asked Questions

When was my transferware manufactured?

(a brief discussion)


The approximate or a more specific date of manufacture of many 19th century British pottery patterns is known based on the general appearance of the pottery and pattern; manufacturers’ pattern books; correspondence; registry marks; invoices; and other sources.This information is contained in many reference books.However, the only definitive way to date a particular piece is to identify a pottery impress-date on the 'white ware' (the bisque-fired pottery item prior to decorating).These dates or date ciphers were added before firing as a potting date record.This was by no means a universal practice, but where it does exist it provides at least the year date the ceramic was actually produced.

The practical purpose of dating white ware was to distinguish older stock for earlier decoration. This allowed filling sales orders in rough potting date sequence.Unlike pharmaceutical ‘EXP.’ dates, there is no assurance regarding an impressed potting date and when an item was actually decorated with its date-attributable design.

Some Examples

Various potteries used an impressed 1 to 12 for the month combined with the year designation, e g. 5=82 for May 1882 (the = sign served as a dash).Another date form used the first letter of the month, e.g., June 1886 would be J=86; ‘Y’ was often used for July. In vertical month-year placement an alternate for the = dash was an underlined month numeral. Horizontal month-year placement may show a / between month & year digits, i.e., 10/88 for October 1888.

Copeland (Spode)

W.T. Copeland & Sons, from about 1867 into the early 1900s, used an impressed vertical 3-digit date mark with the month letter over the last two digits of the year. October 1890, for example, would be impressed as O [for Oct.] above 90.

Additional Examples

Many reference works include dating keys. Among the keys in Geoffrey Godden’s Encyclopedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks are those for Minton and Wedgwood.


Minton cipher-marked the year of production from 1842 to 1942; the key to these marks may be found in many reference works.


The Wedgwood firm each year used an impressed three letter group. The most reliable of the three is the last one, indicating the year.


A 3-power magnifier with an 8-power inset, not a loupe, is recommended for viewing both the printed mark and impressed marks, particularly to orient and identify the harder-to-read impressed mark.A stronger-power loupe tends to distort an impressed mark beyond recognition. This is an instance of greater detail being less instructive.

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