Questions about pottery from around the world

By Terry Maurer, What It's Worth August 10, 2008 

Today's What's it Worth answers readers who have questions about pottery items that come from two different countries.

One firm was founded in 1815 and still is in business today.

The other was organized in about 1908 for very specific economic and social reasons and only lasted 34 years.

Q. We have this small plate, marked "S.E.G." on the bottom. It measures 7.5 inches in diameter and is yellow with a black circle. I know the S.E.G. mark stands for "Saturday Evening Girls" and have just found out the group was connected with the Paul Revere Pottery in Boston way back when. Can you tell me more?

-- Jim in Spokane.

A. The "Saturday Evening Girls Club" was one of many library reading groups founded by socially conscious, reformed-minded philanthropists in Boston's North End in the late 1800s. The idea was to provide educational opportunities and allow girls from immigrant families to assimilate into American culture. It also was a way to give them something to do, and "keep them off the streets."

The Paul Revere Pottery was set up by these civic leaders in 1908 to allow the older girls in the group to earn a wage in a safe environment. Many of these young ladies had dropped out of school to support their families.

The SEGs, that's what they called themselves, decorated the pottery's bowls, plates, vases and other forms. Their designs included stylized animals, flowers and landscapes -- mostly in earthy tones of blue, green, yellow and brown. Their work was a success and by 1911, 12 girls were employed as full-time decorators. Paul Revere Pottery closed in 1942.

We've included a photo of three such decorated works, courtesy of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which holds a wonderful collection of SEG pottery.

The museum recently presented a comprehensive exhibit of Saturday Evening Girls items in their collection. The catalog noted SEG works have "... become icons of the Arts & Crafts Movement of the early 20th century."

Decorated pieces are more esteemed by collectors than a plain plate such as this one. However, all Saturday Evening Girls production is sought after.

Many pieces of SEG are found with chips. This pottery was utilitarian, and it was used a lot. Such damage, if relatively minor, doesn't affect values nearly as much as with works from other firms. Collectors want Saturday Evening Girls and will overlook many flaws.

This undecorated plate could be priced as much as $350 in a top-level antique shop.

Q. This is one of several similar handled small pitchers and mugs I have from my family. The mark on the bottom reads "Royal Doulton" and there's a series of numbers. The character is Robin Hood. What can you tell me about it?

-- Mark in Richland.

A. The company known today as Royal Doulton got its start in the early part of the 19th century in London and eventually moved operations to the area of England called "The Potteries" in Staffordshire.

One of the most renown names in English porcelain, the company is owned today by the Wedgwood Waterford Group, which has acquired many historic British firms.

This is a version of a Toby Jug, a line of productions introduced by Royal Doulton in the late 1930s. The company had rolled out character "Toby Mugs" earlier in the decade. The difference is a mug depicts the entire body of the character, a jug just shows the head or head and shoulders. The two terms are used interchangeably today.

Doulton was a latecomer to the character drinking vessel scene. Versions had been produced by other firms as much as one hundred years earlier.

In the form of a creamer or small milk pitcher, this Toby is marked as having been copyrighted in 1946. Which means it has to have been produced either in that year or somewhat later.

All Toby character products from Royal Doulton have proved to be marketplace winners. As you'd expect, some are more valuable that others. The prices a tags depends on scarcity (many were "limited editions," a concept some collectors disparage), design and date.

Doulton Robin Hood comes in many forms. Often, the handle is designed in the shape of a bundle or quiver of arrows or a longbow.

The earliest character mugs and jugs were based on English history, songs and literature. The name "Toby" comes from the colorful fictional character Toby Philpot, who was legendarily known to "tip back a few" and usually was portrayed as being quite inebriated.

This Robin Hood pitcher/jug is one seen fairly often. The design, while appealing, is not overly complex. In excellent condition, we'd expect it to be priced in the $80 to $120 range.

* Terry Maurer, a personal property appraiser and antique dealer, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. Submit antiques and collectible questions to What's it Worth at whatsitworth@clearwire.net

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