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by Ellen Hill
We have been concerned for quite some time about the proliferation of so-called New Flow Blue. There is nothing wrong in buying a piece of china that was
manufactured recently - it is wrong to represent these pieces as being "old" or
"antique" and charging accordingly. The extreme popularity of buying china
on-line through eBay or other auctions has been causing problems. I have had
several telephone calls from former FBICC members and current members who
have been "burned" -- buying china they thought was old, which in some cases
was proven otherwise. The Flow Blue International Collectors Club nor its
Education Committee can police the Internet or eBay all we can do is try to
educate our members so they can do intelligent buying, both at conventions and
on the net. "New" Flow Blue comes in several flavors:
1) Pieces made by the Blakney Pottery Ltd in England -- these are usually marked "VICTORIA" or "ROMANTIC" or "Flo Blue" or M.J.B. (Michael J. Bailey). Many
pieces are marked IRONSTONE/STAFFORDSHIRE/ENGLAND. Marks may include Royal Coat
of Arms in various styles. There are pictures of many of these pieces in Flow
Blue China by Norma Jean Hoener and pictures of the marks in the Encyclopedia
of Marks by A & D Kowalsky. These pieces date from the 1970’s onward.
2) So-called "Green Flow Blue" these pieces are made in the Orient and are characterized by the greenish cast of the background. Many of these pieces
have no mark or backstamp and sometimes have a tiny, easily removed oval
sticker that reads Made/in/China.
3) Pieces which are marked to resemble T. Rathbone & Co. (TR&Co) wares. Many of these pieces look quite like late Victorian Flow Blue, they have fooled
several collectors. The English advertising calls these: "THE FIRST PIECES
FROM A COMPLETELY NEW COLLECTORS RANGE OF FLOW BLUE ORIGINAL ANTIQUE
RECREATIONS"!! They feature various jardinières, vases, jugs, chamber pots, a
teapot, two plates, a cheese dish, a leaf dish, and a set of graduated jugs.
The marks are similar to that used by Rathbone.
4) A set of graduated jugs or a single jug having marks very similar to Doulton marks used 1891 - 1902 were recently sold on eBay and the buyer(s) questioned
the age of the pieces after purchase. The pitchers were variously described as
being marked "Victoriaware/Ironstone" or "Norbury" pattern by Doulton. The
pictures above show one of the "new Norbury jugs", on the left, the "new mark"
and an "old Norbury ewer" (rounded form on the right). The two patterns are
definitely not the same. The Norbury pattern is shown in Petra Williams Flow
Blue China II, page 177.
When you buy pieces sight unseen you are taking a risk -- the quality of the pictures may not be the best and you can’t touch or feel the piece. Before you buy an expensive piece of Flow Blue:
1) Make sure the seller will fully refund your money if you are not satisfied for any reason. You do not want to get into a slanging match trying to prove that the piece is "new".
2) Inquire about an online auction escrow service -- a third party holds the money (for a fee) until the buyer inspects the item.
3) When inspecting items before purchase, in a shop, a "live" auction, or on-line check:
a) If a piece looks "too good to be true" - it probably is - get an expert opinion. On many of the "new" pieces the blue seems to be blurred rather than flown.
b) Check the bottom of a jug or pitcher for wear, stains, etc. A very white, clean bottom often implies new.
c) If the piece is listed as perfect or has only a flaw "in the making" it may be an indication of a new piece - it is highly unlikely that a set of 1900’s jugs wouldn’t have any tiny chips, lines, etc. Gilding often looks too good
with no wear.
d) If a piece is marked, check an appropriate mark book. (It may just be a coincidence. but the mark on "new" pieces is often badly blurred.)
e) If the piece is unmarked, check to see if a mark has been removed or painted over.
f) If a piece has metal work, such as a biscuit barrel, check it carefully -- 1900’s metal trim was usually silver plate over brass or a pewter-like metal. If silver plated, the genuine old piece most often has either worn until some
of the brass shows through or has been replated. The "new" silver has a grayish
cast, is not as "silvery" looking and seems to be thickly applied. There seems
to be only one style of finial on new "silver" tops.
g) If a piece has a wicker/bamboo handle, such as a biscuit barrel, check the handle -- it is highly unlikely that a 1900’s jar would have a clean, perfect handle or that the handle would have been replaced.
Some of the above items may be hard to check online -- at least it gives you some idea of the questions to ask. Remember, at a live auction (including the
FBICC auction at the convention) pieces are sold "AS IS" and it is up to the
buyer to inspect for authenticity.