Collecting Brown Transferware

This blog post shares information about collecting brown transferware including its history, makers, and how to determine its age.

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Brown transferware is one of my favorite items to collect.  As an antiques dealer, I am always keeping an eye out for unique pieces or for complete sets.  This collectible is always fun to use during the fall and particularly as part of your Thanksgiving dining room table.

Of course, transferware comes in a variety of colors and patterns.  Flow blue transferware, a dark royal blue, was extremely popular for a long time. Other popular examples include:

  • red transferware,
  • white transferware,
  • black transferware,and
  • blue transferware.

There have even been recent productions of old, well known, transferware patterns. Not surprisingly, some of the transferware produced in the 1960s and 1970s, which are considered vintage items, are making a come back.

In this post I will share with you what I have learned over the years about collecting brown transferware. So let’s jump in.

Collecting Brown Transferware

Collecting Brown Transferware

According to Randolph Street Market, transferware is a style of ceramics, including pottery, that uses transfer printing.  This is a decorative technique which was developed in England, in the mid-18th century, particularly around Staffordshire England.

The process starts with an engraved copper plate similar to those used for making paper engravings. The plate is used to print the pattern on tissue paper, then the tissue paper transfers the wet ink to the ceramic surface. The ceramic is then fired in a low-temperature kiln to fix the pattern. 

Where was it made?

One of the first things to determine when you are looking at a piece of transferware is where it was made.  As noted above, early pieces of transferware made in the late 1800s were typically produced in England.  While there are some manufacturers of transferware in the USA, the majority are still from the United Kingdom. It has been estimated that 90% of transferware is made in England and hence these pieces are often referred to as English transferware.

The production of transferware started in as part of the industrial revolution and this china was initially purchased by the middle class.

What is the pattern?

The pattern used in producing transferware can also be a key to identifying its origins and age.  There is a previous blog post I wrote about Aesthetic Movement Transferware.  This style of transferware was popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  It typically includes a combination of nature themed images such as birds, leaves and flowers with some form of oriental design. When you see aesthetic movement transferware, there is a good bet it is antique and was made in England. 

Brown Transferware Platters
A variety of new and old patterns

As a point of comparison, later patterns of transferware tended to focus on historical events, man made buildings or ships.  The pattern Fair Winds depicts ships and was a popular pattern in the 1970s. This pattern was produced by Alfred Meakin and can still be easily found. 

Spode produced and still produces a very popular brown transferware pattern known as Woodland.  These are beautiful dishes to use for holiday events. Delamere is another well known pattern produced by Spode.

Blue Willow Pitcher
Blue Willow Pattern

Blue Willow , although not brown transferware, was another popular pattern collected in the 1960s-1970s. My grandmother collected Blue Willow china and it was on her wedding registry.

Patterns are applied to a variety of pieces including dinner plates, sugar bowls, platters, serving bowls and tea cups. People can spend many years establishing a transferware collection of a particular pattern name.

When was it made?

Most of the transferware was made in the 19th century and you can usually date pieces by knowing a few key facts.  The site Antique Marks, has a very comprehensive write up on how to identify the date of a piece of pottery or ceramic.

In general, any piece that has a stamped or impressed diamond shape on the bottom is definitely an antique. 

In 1891 the Mckinley Tariff Act of America required all imports to America to bear the name of the country of origin. So, transferware stamped or printed with the word – England – would have been produced on or after 1891.

Back stamp on platter

If a piece is stamped “Made in England” is was produced after 1921.  By way of example, this Furnivals Quail platter was produced after 1921, although the pattern started being made in 1913.

Well known producers of antique transferware include:

  • Alfred Meakin
  • Burleigh
  • Johnson Brothers
  • Masons; and
  • Wedgewood

If the finish is too shiny or glossy, you may be looking at new pieces of transferware.  There are many stores where you can buy newly produced transferware patterns including some discount stores like Home Goods, TJ Maxx or Marshalls. 

A good example of a new brown transferware is Martha Stewart’s Danish Fern.  Although this pattern has been discontinued, it was produced in 2002.

Another good example of recently produced brown transferware includes pieces by Two’s Company which produced transferware in the early 2000s.

How I Use Transferware

You won’t be surprised to learn that I use a variety of transferware patterns.  I often mix and match my own collection of brown transferware with simple white china.  Also, I like to mix and match the patterns, so long as they are all the same color. My only “rule” is that all the dinner plates must have the same pattern and be the same size.  However, I will mix and match patterns for platters, pitchers, and bowls.

Furnivals Quail Brown
Furnival’s Quail

Some of my favorite patterns include Furnival’s Quail, Asiatic Pheasants, Woodland Animals and anything from the Aesthetic Movement.

I love any piece that incorporates pastoral scenes and natural elements.

Transferware platters are my favorite item to collect and I am always keeping an eye out for them when I am hunting for antique and vintage items. I use these platters during the holiday season to serve food, and to hold decorations, or a vase of flowers, or even some small items in the bathroom. Of course, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to use this china, you can incorporate it into every use.

Brown Transferware Pitcher
Brown Transferware Pitcher

My second favorite item to collect is antique pitchers. Nothing looks better than a group of pitchers on a shelf or in a cupboard.

Where I Find Transferware

As a dealer, admittedly I have access to sources that some of you do not. Sometimes private individuals reach out to me to ask if I am interested in buying a few pieces or a set. However, I also have acquired some great pieces from flea markets, antique shops, thrift stores, and yard sales. My advice is to always keep your eyes open. Please keep in mind to look carefully at any transferware pieces you find since it may have fine lines, chips, cracks or discoloration. Another good source for finding these pieces is at various antique markets or vintage markets.

The price range for transferware can vary depending upon age, condition and rarity of the piece. A small tea cup can be as little as $5 while large platters or tureens can cost upward of $1,000. Most pieces can be purchased for less than $100. My advice is to buy what you love and what you can afford.

Summary

Thank you for stopping by the blog today.

English Advertising Pots

If you liked this post, you may also like this post on English Advertising Pots.

Below are some brown transferware pieces that I found on Etsy. Wishing you happy brown transferware shopping!

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23 Comments

  1. There aren’t enough heart emojis for how much I LOVE this. I wish I had your sources…I spend alot of time browsing thrift shops, Mercari, and marketplace for these pieces to add to my collection. It’s my latest favorite decor to use…it’s just beautiful. This post made me SO HAPPY!!!!

    1. Mercari! Oh, that is one source I will have to check out. Thank you for the kind words Rachel. You always have great tips and ideas.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I don’t have any brown transferware, but I want to start collecting it! This is very helpful! I’m pinning it so I can read it again right before I go to Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza in November! Wish me luck!!

  3. What a fabulous post. I have red and blue transferware and have been wanting to start a brown and white collection. Thank you for all of the great information.
    I am going to save this one.

  4. Brown and white transferware is totally my jam so I am all kinds of excited about this post, Anna! It’s getting really hard to find in my part of Florida now but it’s also what keeps me on the hunt. Two things that have helped me are going out often and letting antique stores know what you’re looking for – that way dealers can keep an eye for you. It’s really helped bring some beautiful pieces into our home and the dealer gets a sale so it feels like a win-win. I’m always so thankful for the hard work and dedication you guys put into your booths. They’re such a fun source of inspiration! Hugs, CoCo

    1. Hi CoCo – You know, I think brown transferware is increasing in popularity. It’s just a trend I have seen in the past 4 years or so. That is so kind of you to support dealers. I know they love having you as a customer.

  5. great post, Anna. I adore brown transferware and use it throughout the year, but it’s perfect for fall. I think transferware is really popular across many collectors and styles, so yes, it’s getting harder to find and more expensive. Love your advertising pots, too!

    1. Thanks Debra. Yes, I have seen some lovely piece of transferware in your posts! Thank you for the kind words.

  6. Thanks for this information, Anna! I love transferware but I don’t have any yet! I’m sharing this post in my round-up tomorrow! Have a great weekend!

    1. Hi MaryJo! Thank you for stopping by and for taking the time to comment. I am also drawn to transferware – old and new! I bet your collection is beautiful. I will hop over and read your post.

    1. Hi Margaret. Thanks for the questions. I would recommend that you reach out to a local antique shop. The value of transferware depends on a number of items including the current market demand. You can research prices online at site like Ebay or Etsy. However, I have found talking to local antiques dealers yields the most useful information. Hope this helps.

  7. Thank you. I have 2, brown, floral, bread & butter size pieces I want to sell. As a history buff, & Anglophile with experience printing with copper plates, (intaglio), I found this both informative & exciting. I had no idea any of this, let alone they are so desirable.

  8. We are planning to downsize. We have a collection of around 200 pieces of brown & white transfer ware most from 1880 or earlier. We would like to sell the entire collection rather than piecemeal. Do you have suggestions?

    1. Hi Steve – I would recommend talking to a reputable antiques dealer or looking online (ebay or etsy) to see what similar sets have sold for. I hope this helps.

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