How to Research a Teacup Mark

What am I? How old?

What am I? How old?

Based on the number of emails I receive on this topic I think it might be a good idea to show you how I went about finding out some information on the teacup on the left. Now let me tell you what I did know about it when I bought it at an auction:

  • I knew it was completely hand painted. I looked closely at it and there wasn’t a stencil in sight. I looked at it with a small magnifying glass for telltale signs of dots. (If the image is made with dots up close that would have meant the design was printed on.) It wasn’t.
  • The painter who created this beautiful cup was a very skillful artist. The flowers and leaves are very realistic and the scroll work in gold was evenly painted and well balanced.
  • The lid did not match the cup because the lid is round and the cup has a subtle scalloped rim. It did however mean that this teacup and matching lid had been part of a larger set with additional pieces at one time.
  • The pieces were in good condition (except for a tiny little chip on the rim that was probably caused by this lid being put on it).
  • The colour of the material was a blue white indicating it was porcelain.
  • The seller was the family of an elderly lady who passed away. She had been a voracious collector of china and had many amazing pieces that I could not afford.
  • The mark was in blue – done by hand and with crossed swords. This is where it gets really interesting.
  • Finally, I knew I liked it so I bought it – for $175.00 (yes, call me nuts!)

I took my prize back to the store and began my research to try to find anything that looked like the shape of this teacup. Notice the smaller base and wider upper half of the cup. Look at the two – part handle. It’s very organic and it flows almost like it’s part of the leaves on the cup. Also note the handmade flower that doubles as a handle for the lid. These were all very different – I figured it would be easy to find something about this cup.

Kovel Marks

Crossed sword marks from Kovel’s Book of Marks

I was wrong.

So I started to look for marks that would match the lines I saw at the bottom of the teacup (see the image lower). They were crossed, and written by hand in blue under glaze.

There was a dot in the center and the initials B.W. which were hard to read.

Now, have a look at the pages on the left. This is only two pages of something like 6 pages of crossed sword marks in just this one book alone. In Godden’s Guide to European Porcelain there is an entire chapter devoted to the many companies that used variations of this mark. The reason they did so was because this mark was associated with very high quality Meissen china. And everyone wanted in.

Needless to say the copywright laws were not too stringent because companies continue to use this mark even today. It’s one of the most highly faked marks there is.

Crossed swords mark

Crossed swords mark is one the most highly faked china mark there is.

Sometimes the best way to figure out what it is, is to find out what it isn’t. If you Google “Fake Meissen Marks” you can get lots of information. You would be horrified to see how many companies even today fake all sorts of marks.

At this point I was feeling a bit frustrated but at the same time I did not want to give up. I felt like a bloodhound on the trail of…. china marks!I knew it was old – that much I did know so instead of checking out marks that appeared more contemporary I decided to check out the definitive guide to English pottery and porcelain. Of course this is Godden’s.So I checked out my favorite Godden books. And finally, in that chapter I told you about earlier in the article I found a picture of a set of dishes that had exactly the same shape of handle, and most important of all, the exact flower on the lid of a sugar bowl, tea pot and a small container that is shaped like a ginger jar. The shape of that jar is exactly the shape of the tea cup I have. The colour is different of course as is the design that has been handpainted but the original shape and style has finally been identified. YES!!!As it turned out my teacup and lid was probably part of a Marcolini period Meissen tea service. Apparently the forms (or shapes) are typical of this type of service. It did indeed have crossed swords in blue underglaze but the particular set they had showed a #4 below. I have done more research since but I think I would find out more ifI chose to spend even more time looking to see who BW was.Goddards

The service, including my teacup was made in the period C1774 – 1795. That made my cup approximately 230 years old! If only it could talk!Although it was English it would have been there at the time of the French Revolution! Maybe one of the aristocrats was smuggled out of France to England drank out of this teacup! OK – I’m getting carried away.In any case now you know how long it can take to find information on obscure pieces. I probably paid too much for it anyway but I have to say this cup is really one of my favourite things!

57 responses to “How to Research a Teacup Mark

  1. Hello Johanne

    I am hoping you can help me identify the pattern and make of a tea cup that has been left to my Granny by her Great Mother In Law.

    The only identifying make is the number “662”. The tea cup is royal blue, gold and cream in colour. I can email you a picture if that will help?

    Thank you and kind regards
    Jess

    • Yes, send me a photo although it will be difficult without any other marks. Try to take as clear a photo of the details, decorations and mark as you can. I’ll try to help you.

  2. Hi:
    I’m looking for a symbol on a porcelain teacup, looks like Kanji markings in blue but not sure. I have a picture.

  3. I have a white teapot with green leaf vine around the widest circumference and etched with gold around the rim and bottom stand. On the bottom is stamped an upside down triangle with a crown in the middle a P on the left and G on the right and under that in smaller letters are c c p with a smaller upside down triangle with the number 5 to the left and an 0 to the right. The handle and spout each have 3 yellow/green leaves on them.The lid also is etched in gold around the rim and has greenleaf vine around it with the tip has 3 yellow/green leaves also. Could you help me identify this teapot? Thank you!

  4. Perhaps a long shot – seen a tea set. The cups are fluted. Has “Victoria” on the bottom and the number 1109. Possibly Cartwright & Edwards – although we didn’t get a good look or a picture of the markings but C&E do have a Victoria collection and similar numbers “drawn” on the base (but to me, a lot of old cups and saucers look alike). It’s a white cup with alternating orange and green squares around the rim…and I can’t seem to find anything online that comes close.

  5. Hi Johanne
    I was hoping you could help me. I thought I had entered this a couple of days ago but I must be doing something wrong because I do not see it in the group of replies.
    I recently acquired a cup and saucer from my grandmother. It is a beautiful floral print china with gold trim. I am curious since it is different than the usual. It is smaller than the usual sets and there is a raised insert in the middle of the saucer that the tapered bottom of the cup fits into. I thought it might be some kind of a spot to put a small candle in to keep the cup warm, but the cup bottom goes all the way to the saucer. The only markings on the bottom of the cup and the saucer is a number, 3172. Hope youc an tell me what kind of set this is and why it is designed this way.
    Thank you,
    Lee

    • Lee: Your instincts are no doubt correct. The saucer is shaped like that to accommodate the cup. I have seen something similar on what is called a “tennis set”. Picture a saucer in the shape of a figure 8 with a half of the figure 8 used to hold the teacup and the other half to hold a sandwich. Because these ‘sets’ were meant to be used as people moved around (rather than sitting down at a table) the center, where the teacup sat, was often raised – perhaps not as much as you indicate with your set but it’s possible that the purpose was similar.

      The number, as I have mentioned in several of my previous blogs can mean many things – the colour-way (colour combinations or pattern) , the person who painted or decorated the cup and saucer, the style of the cup, or handle – only by knowing which company made the cup and saucer would you ever learn what the numbers meant.

  6. I have a beautiful floral cup and saucer set that was my grandmother’s. The cup is a bit smaller than the usual tea cup but the curious thing about the set is the saucer. Attached to the middle of the saucer is a cup inset that is about an inch or so high. The cup is shaped to fit in the insert also. Is this a special kind of set? The only marking on the set is the number 3172. I have never seen a set like this and was wondering if it had a special name or function. Thanks for any information you can give me.

  7. Hi johanne, I have a teacup and saucer,with a floral design ,gold rimmed and handle, it has what looks to be a gold crown with two gold branches beneath it stamped on the bottom,and the saucer also has 1109 as well. Could u possibly tell me how old it is?

    • Sue: It’s very difficult to tell any information based on this description because there are probably hundreds of marks that can be described the same way. Because there appears to be no words on the mark, the only thing you can do is to look through books such as “Kovels New Dictionary of Marks” and look in the chapter under “crown” to find the match to your cup and saucer. You could do the same thing on the internet. Good luck and happy hunting!

      • Thankyou johanne ,I will try thats šŸ˜Š ________________________________

  8. I found a teacup set at a goodwill recently and I know the what the set is (thankfully its well marked and not very old) so my question is, how much more valuable is it to resell 12 cups and 12 saucers than selling two cups and saucers? I can’t find much info on how much its worth except for one person who’s selling a set of two of each for $25 on ebay. If it helps, the set is Bone China Mikasa Narumi Japan White Silk A7050. I’m hoping that selling the full 24 set of 12 cups and saucers will fetch me a higher price but I also don’t want to price it too high. Please help!

    • Groupings of anything are usually worth more than singles or pairs. For example if you have two chairs, you might get $300 for the pair or $150 each. If however, you have a set of six they are worth more than 6 times $150. That is a general rule however when you are talking about teacups, you have to ask yourself – who needs 12 teacups and saucers that don’t belong to a set of dinner dishes? Perhaps a tea shop? In your case it may be better to break them down singly. You might ask $18 for one and $25 for two thereby giving the buyer a good deal yet getting money for each cup and saucer. Does that make sense?

      • Hi I have a bone china japanese hand painted sean tea set, the signature on the base looks like an e with a roof top flick on top in black, will send a pic if you need one, any help I would be very greatfull all the way from sunny wales in uk šŸ™‚

      • Hi Sarah – from sunny Canada (is that an oxymoron?) I wish I could help you with your question but the field of Orientalia (antiques from the Orient) is a specialized field that usually requires the ability to decipher the marks / language – neither of which I can do, I’m afraid! I would check your part of the world for someone who sells Orientalia and ask them. The fact that there isn’t “Made in China” or “Made in Japan” on the base of your set tells me it wasn’t an imported item – at least that’s the case for North America. The McKinley Tariff Act (C1919) required any wares coming in to the country to have not only the country of origin but the country of manufacture. There’s a good chance that the set you have was purchased in the Orient as a souvenir at some point. Hope this helps even a tiny bit.

  9. I have two tea cup marking questions.

    1. Markings W.J.S hand painted made in Denmark. Marking appears to be a pointe crown.

    2. Numbers on tea cup 9032.0 below those 920

    Any leads would be appreciated.

    Thanks

  10. I would like any information on a set of teacups simply marked 4076…beautiful floral with curved handle and floral on inside, too…looks Asian style…Can you help? I would appreciate any information.

  11. Hi My mum has a tea set that was her mother in laws, that is similar to a Gladstone art deco set i have seen on the internet and is in green with a metalic rim. It is in very good condition -would you have any idea how muc it is worth?
    She also has another set which was her mother in laws mothers’s (so a generation older) but it has no markings other than 3/66 on the saucers- it is very pretty but starting to yellow slightly due to its age, the large plate has some tiny hairlines but everything else is fine. Do you know what the markings could be and if so whether it is worth anything, or is it only items with manufacturers names that are worth anything?
    Thanks
    Jo

    • JO: If the era of the tea set is similar and the quality / styling is similar then you can assume that the value of your Mom’s tea set is also similar but check out 3 to 5 different places / prices to give you a better idea of its true value. As far as your other tea set, china does not yellow with age. If you see staining or discolouration on a piece of china it is usually because the glaze has been compromised – tiny cracks in the glaze let dirty water enter into the base clay and these stains are there forever. Some people use bleach (yikes) to get rid of them but if it works, it is usually short-lived. I don’t mean tea stains, those will come out but check for hairline cracks on the surface of a piece of china. Generally you see this on less expensive china but occasionally on good china – if the china has experienced extreme swings in temperature. The value of such pieces is adversely affected as you can imagine.

  12. I have a miniature tea set with these markings on the bottom. Stamped in gold GERMANY 1871. There’s a triangle above it also in gold with the letters J B at the top of the triangle and a W in the bottom point of the triangle spelling out JB & W. There’s an N Y outside the triangle in gold as well. There’s also numbers embedded in the China and a stamped 21 in gold. I have a teapot, sugar, creamer, cups and saucers all with similar markings. Numbers differ here and there. No idea how old it is or if it’s worth anything.

    • I did a quick search of the letters but was unable to find anything as you describe. As far as the word “Germany”, the McKinley Tariff Act of 1891 required that the name of the country where the ceramic (or china) was originally printed on each piece if it was to be imported. Sometimes the name of the country was used as part of a mark prior to that date. According to the experts at Kovel’s the name Germany was used only after 1885. The numbers 1871 could represent the shape of the item (they all had numerical references) or the colour combinations.

  13. Hi . I have a teacup from the 1700’s with what looks like a woman and man. It is marked as follow:

    Fine bone china BY PARAGON ENGLAND . Made for LAWLEYS. ESTE PHILLIP’S 1760. REGENT ST.

    Then it also has the the letter F. On it and the code F13021.

    Pls help . Thanks

    • Based on your information, your cup and saucer was made by Paragon between 1925 – 1940. Lawleys was the name of a group of retailers and they commissioned china companies to make china for them. In your case, Paragon made the china cup and saucer for Lawleys. After 1940 the “made for” part of the mark was dropped.The 1760 is not a year but an address “1760 Regent street). Paragon made good quality china.

      • Most Paragon teacups in my area go from $20 – $30. It really depends on the colours (collectors like the deep solid colours best)and the shape of the bowl, handle etc.

    • The only way to tell is to research the mark. Cups that don’t have marks have to have other redeeming qualities. The majority of teacups and saucers are valued between $10 – $25. Anything that is worth more needs to be special.

  14. I have a set of demitasse cups and saucers from my great aunt with the initials EVD. Any ideas as to what that means and where they were made? Thank you.

  15. I have quite a few antique tea cups of my great grandmother & grandmothers. Found two that are interesting. One says “made in occupied Japan” the other says made in China & has Chinese pictorial writing. Any idea what this can be?

    • Any china that has “Made in Occupied Japan” marked on its base was made between 1945 and 1952. Many products survive from this time period and the value of these items depends on their quality. You can get books on collectibles from this era. As far as the other cup you have, there isn’t enough information to make an assessment of what you have. The best thing is that you like them and as such, hopefully you will use them the way they were intended – or as your grandmother might have used them.

  16. I bought two tea cup sets from garage sell for 1.00 each. I have no idea how old they would be or what the value is. First set the saucer versailles with a mark with an x R on left side and C. On right side with a crown on top. The word Germany in gold. Numbered 2287/o64. The o has a little dot so I am not sure if that’s an a. The cup has the same markings but numbered 2287/058. Other set Shelly England numbered 13700/59.

    • I can’t tell from your description what you might have however see if you can get a copy of a book of marks by Kovels. They have pictures and marks based on crowns, circles, body parts (not kidding), animals, fish -etc. You would have to spend time looking for a mark that fits. As far as the numbers go it can refer to the colour scheme of the object, its shape, or its style. Only by having specific and in-depth information about the manufacturer would you know precisely what those numbers mean.

  17. I have this beautiful teacup and on the back it says “anynsley England bone china 2539″and underneath all of it it says 31.and I have no idea if it’s even worth anything.

    • Goddard’s Encyclopedia of Marks show two marks that say Aynsley as well as the words Bone china -they are fairly recent marks. Aynsley is a well known British company and their quality is good. Depending on the style, colour and rarity of your teacup, plus where you live (and would sell your item) an Aynsley cup and saucer can sell anywhere from $20 to $60. In our community, most of the Aynsley cups sell in the $35 – $40 range. Hope this helps.

  18. Hi, I have a tea cup stamped “JACKSON CHINA , STERN’S STAUP, REG. U.S. PAT. OFFICE, PAT. DES. 70.171, OTHER PAT. PENDING. It looks to be very old. Can someone tell me if I have a rare tea cup and how much it is worth? My # is 623-329-0739

    • I did some quick research and came across a company “Jackson China Inc.” in Falls Creek Pennsylvania. It appears that most of their wares were for commercial or industrial uses. I could not find any info for Stern’s Staup however. If you wish, send me a photo and I can have a quick look at it.

  19. I found this doing a Google search, looking for pictures of a cup that had belonged to my grandmother, the last tangible connection I had to her. A stinkin’ stray cat jumped in my brother’s window (I was staying with him at the time) and knocked it off the dresser and smashed it to smithereens (and we know how small smithereens can be). That was 40 years ago, and I still haven’t found one like it. What would you say was the best way to track it down? I don’t know the make of it, but I remember what it looked like.

    • I’m afraid that would be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack because there are thousands of patterns, colours and shapes of tea cups. Someday, when you least expect it, you will come across another one just like it, but until then, just keep looking! and good luck…:)(Try looking at sites like Replacements.com)

      • I went there this week. I described the cup and they said they couldn’t find it. Guess I’ll keep looking; Lord willing, I’ll find it someday.

  20. Well done Johanne!
    For anyone who wants to learn about marks or identify marks, you are right Goddens books are indispendsible. I only have his Ecyclopedia of British Pottery and Porcelain marks as I dont collect continental china- but I will say that your buy was exquisite! And if you are happy with it…whose to say that you paid too much or too little?
    Folks also need to know that Goddens are out of print. I bought mine through Amazon.com, used- and sometimes an out of print book will cost significantly more than when it was newly published, especially specialty books like these.
    My favorite teacup in my collection is a hand painted cup, that is square with the corners nicked off making it octagonal. It is handpainted as well, and very very delicately detailed. It was made by Sampson Bridgwood and Son in 1885, Anchor Pottery Longton Staffordshire est 1805. Not near as prestigious as your Marcoloini Meissen,

    • What can I say – I’m a sucker for the colour blue in dishes! I have a tea set from Royal Albert from around 1915 that is their version of a pattern made popular by Royal Crown Derby. It is an Imari pattern simply called “2451”. It has dark blue panels, lots of hand painted gold and orangey-rust flowers. It’s absolutely beautiful. Early Royal Albert is not like the Royal Albert we know today. I am always thrilled to find their old pieces.

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