Restoration on Antique Staffordshire Pottery Toby Jugs.
Fakes and Restoration: A guide for the Staffordshire toby jug collector.
We've really enjoyed collecting and dealing over the years. However on a social
visit to a new collector who had hastily put together a large collection of Toby jugs we were dismayed to see
so much restoration that had not been declared. It is that collector's lack of experience in being able to
evaluate condition prior to purchase that has prompted us to write this article and really it's why we set up
the whole toby jug site to help future collectors.
Restoration is a difficult subject to write about as it will point out some of the pitfalls of buying antique ceramics. From an investment point of view we don't want to discourage you from buying a genuine antique pottery piece with a little damage. This is because with a little knowledge you can purchase with confidence knowing that the item if restored, has been done to the correct standard. As the antique trade has declined in these bleak economic times and skilled knowledgeable dealers are fading away we seem to have acquired some dealers that have little understanding or conscience when selling pottery. Therefore this article will focus on "spot the restoration" with the hope that we make you, the buyer more aware.
It is up to the individual to make experienced thoughtful judgements on every piece to be acquired in order to build a quality collection. You cannot understand ceramics just through photographs alone.
Below are some basic tips to help you avoid costly mistakes when trying to pay the right price for the item of choice whether it is contemporary, reproduction, period, or restored.
Fakes or Reproductions?
Toby jugs continue to be made today and have not been reproduced by the Chinese (to date) which worries
collectors in other fields. You can see the evolution of the toby quite easily with a little studying. The
only concern at this time for collectors are jugs that were deliberately made to deceive serious collectors.
This period would be around the beginning of the 20th century and we will begin to discus these models at a
After 1880 most pottery items were marked Made in England or Old Staffordshire Ware or Genuine Staffordshire, make sure no makers marks have been removed so the item can be dated to an earlier period.
What is restoration?
Restoration is a synthetic replacement for damaged areas/ or refurbishment of cracks and enamel flaking on ceramic items. Light doesn't reflect on a restored area the same as a glazed one so it can be detected when viewed in different types of light.
Figures that have been repaired can still be classed as restored. i.e: A handle on a toby jug that has been
broken off and restored "re-stuck" to it's original condition is classed as a repair but can still be grouped
under the generic title restored. A repair would be more acceptable "considered age related" than a replacement
Knowing your subject will immediately alert you to anything that is out of the ordinary. Build a reference work that can be carried with you on buying trips or take photographs of the intended purchase item which can be researched later if you are unsure.
Buy yourself a magnifying glass (loupe) or pair of very strong glasses, these enable you to see the body quality of a pottery piece and areas that could have restoration. If it were a household cup you would expect to find a chip on the rim or a crack on the handle so always look in the obvious places first that are more likely to have restoration.
Restoration is a controversial topic: Some dealers won't tell you an item has restoration, some will say "Everyone accepts restoration, it does not affect the value of a piece". Nothing could be further from the truth!!!
Most collectors strive for that perfect piece, but nearly all antique pottery pieces have some form of damage, from minor glaze chips to being broken. It is a personal choice whether to accept an honest not so perfect piece or to have it cosmetically restored. There are collectors that will not accept any restoration at all but some accept a little if done to the correct standard. Over time most pottery has had restoration so it is very important to understand the extent of the repair. Try and visualize any item without its restoration which will give you a true valuation of your intended purchase. Any restoration carried out must be 100% true to the original, this may involve taking a mould from an identical piece. It's difficult to give guidance because rarity, mould, quality of body and the depth of pocket all influence collectors in different ways.
A perfect piece with only age related wear will always command the highest price in it's category. However, remember any restoration will reduce potential value, the amount of restoration will have a greater price impact on more common items (jugs), later cheaper items could be rendered worthless. There are so many anomalies when taking account of the trade off between rarity and the need to restore, that every collector will have a different point of view. Try and live with a little wear, look at that chip and remember the journey it has taken to reach this point.
Check your insurance details.
We have helped build many good collections of toby jugs over the years, not all have survived the journey. If you damage part or all of your collection your insurer may only pay for restoration costs which will devalue your investment.
How would you value these two jugs?
LEFT is an example of a running glaze toby jug circa 1785 that has bad unacceptable restoration to the whole hat, it resembles nothing like the shape of the original which is shown on the RIGHT. If you are going to accept some restoration work on pottery please try and make sure it's done to the correct standard.
How would you value these two jugs?
A major headache before restoration? What shape hat will Toby now receive if the perfect model shown (left) is unavailable for comparison.
The photographs above show extreme major restoration and the importance of originality.