Unmarked Collectible Figurines

by Marc Tielemans
(Swindon, England)

Unmarked Collectible Figurines

Unmarked Collectible Figurines

Unmarked Collectible Figurines:- Here are two pairs of antique / vintage ceramic figurines. No marks on the bottom. Does anybody have any idea who the maker might be? One pair looks like Staffordshire to me but I'm no expert ... can anyone shed any light on these ?


Reply by Peter (admin)
To Unmarked Collectible Figurines

Hi Marc

Thanks for bringing up another interesting topic which will be a useful talking point for many of our visitors – that of ‘Unmarked Collectible Figurines’.

Many thanks for your pictures of the two pairs of figurines shown above, both of which are unmarked, but both of which highlight some areas for discussion and evaluation.

In truth, this area of unmarked collectible figurines is one best reserved for the experts in the field, but that should not stop us trying to look at some pointers.

The first thing to say is there are many replicas of older figurines around. These figurines often enter the market as cheaper decorative alternatives to the real thing, and are not being ‘passed off’ by the makers, who are often highly skilled in their own right. The problem occurs when they hit the secondary market and are hard to tell from the original except by an expert.

One such expert is Nick Young of Graylings Antiques

On the website


he says, many reproductions of this type are made in the Far East. They are not badly made and often are not made with the intent of deceiving.

Rather, they are made for people who want the look but can’t afford the full prices. They are not sold as being the real thing, but good quality reproductions.

The problem begins when they get into the wrong hands and are passed off as being the real thing.

So what are some obvious clues?

It is a complex area and often needs specific expertise to come to grips with.

Here are just some things to look out for:-

Look at the base. The base of a figure says more about the figure than any other view. Steer clear of online auctions which do not show clear photos of the base.

What does the base of an unmarked figure or pair of figurines tell you?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘Yes’, then you may have an item produced in the Far East:-

Far East figures tend to be made of more ‘gritty’ porcelain. Does your figure have a ‘gritty’ look and feel on the base? Look for the colour of the body – is it a smokey grey? Is the ring a grey brown colour? Is the glaze thin to the feel? Are the holes in the base large and a very regular shape?

However, there are reproductions which are well made to match the originals and are hard to tell apart.

So let’s look further:-

Faces are often a clue. Sculptors sculpt faces of an era and locale. A 20th Century sculptor finds it almost impossible to recreate a Victorian face. An oriental sculptor, no matter how proficient can rarely produce a genuine looking European face.

Look at the face – does it appear right? Does it fit into the period and location?

In the case of naïve Staffordshire it is hard to tell, so consider the following:-

An expert would be looking at the type of gold on a figurine. Early wares had a high quality gold which is ‘soft’ not shiny in appearance (often 22 carat). After around 1865 a different type of gold was used called ‘mercuric gold’. This has a much brighter appearance than the ‘old gold’. It is hard to tell this from a photograph, but few pertinent questions to the seller would perhaps solve this question.

“Is the gold nice and shiny or is it a bit dull looking” for example, might do the trick and immediately identify a piece as being more likely 20th Century than 19th. Shiny mercurial gold means likely newer.

Unmarked figures are the hardest of all as it might be old or new. Look for the regularity and size of the hole – is it tiny or large and regular?

Remember any figure with 'England' underneath must have been manufactured after 1892 and the 'Made in England' mark was introduced, by Act of Parliament in 1912. No genuine Staffordshire figure would have such marking or have such marks as "Old Staffordshire Ware".

Looking at the pairs of figures above using the information above, it is clear to see the small holes in the Staffordshire looking pair and the large, even round holes of the pair of children. This would give an initial indication that the Staffordshire pair had an age to them, whilst the Child pair was newer, possibly Far East or Eastern Europe. The quality if the modeling and detail of the make on either is not great, bearing in mind old Staffordshire pieces were naïve cheaply made collectible figurines for the masses rather than the gentry. The child pair looks as of the makers were attempting a nicer quality make and model, but failed to achieve it quite.

As for the details of the grittiness of the clay body, you can’t tell from a photo, and neither can you tell what type of gold is apparent.

Hope this gives you some clues to be getting on with.

Peter (admin)

p.s. The following page is a 'must see' if you are researching fine china - for value and identification:-

Researching the identity and value of antique and vintage fine china.

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