Transferware dishes enjoy huge popularity, especially among vintage-loving, farmhouse decorators. Whether covered with floral, Asian, or pastoral scenes, we love to set our tables with this romantic dishware. The process of transferring images from an etched copper plate to paper and then onto pottery was developed in Staffordshire, England about 1760. It allowed dishes to be mass produced thus making them more affordable than dishes produced up to that time, which required hand painting. Pottery artists based their earliest transferware designs on oriental patterns that Europeans highly prized. The ubiquitous Blue Willow pattern, for example, has captured the hearts of many for more than two centuries (see example below).
When looking for older, antique transferware, look for pieces whose bodies have a warm tone, rather than white (indicating a newer piece) and for those that feel light in your hand. Again, newer pieces tend to weigh more than older pieces. Well-made newer pieces may also be lighter but are usually marked properly, i.e., with a new looking mark reflecting a newer manufacturer.
Look for transferware in all sorts of colors blue, red (pink), green, brown, black, purple (mulberry), and multi-colored. Pieces with “limited” or LTD as part of their mark can be dated to after 1860. “Made in England” indicates the piece was made during the 20th century. Early on, as the technology was being learned, placement errors would be numerous, akin to mismatched wall paper. In other words, pieces of the artwork would not line up perfectly. See a good example below in the photo of the Dentelle red transferware bowl.
By around 1830, potters learned, via a mistake, that by adding lime or ammonia to the kiln during firing, the transferred pattern would begin to run or “flow,” creating an attractive look that Americans especially enjoyed, called Flow Blue (see below for examples).
About This Price Guide
Each of the items in the photos below I currently own or have owned in the past. Most are pieces are types that an “average” buyer or seller might come across, unlike many price guides that contain only higher end items.
Values are based on my personal experience being in the antique business for almost twenty years. Note that values vary from state to state, region to region, and country to country; for example, I live in Upstate New York, where pricing is very different from New York City. Other factors affecting value include condition and market (auction, store, eBay, etc.). My goal is to provide helpful information, so please accept this Guide in the spirit it was intended.
Blue Willow Platter
14″ wide, c.1950s (no mark)
$12-15.00 (SOLD 7.16 in shop for $10)
“Davenport Pastoral 1840” Purple Dinner Plate
Royal Staffordshire Pottery, Arthur J. Wilkinson, owner
10″ diameter, c. early 1900s
$30-40.00 (Available here)
“Dentelle” Red Transferware Bowl
6″ diameter, late 1800s
$30.00+ (Available here)
Wm Grindley Blue Transferware Bowl
5.5″ diameter “Jasper” pattern
Wm. Grindley, England mark
Wedgwood Blue Transferware Dinner Plate
Old Windmill, Nantucket
9 1/4″ diameter, c.1891-1908, condition issues
$15.00 (SOLD 5/16 in blog shop for $15)
Mason’s Red Transferware Cup & Saucer
5 7/8″ saucer c.1891-1923
W.M. Grindley Red Transferware Chop Plate
“Trellis” pattern, c.1940-50
14″ across, including handles
W.M. Grindley mark
Johnson Brother’s Bread Plate
“Rose Chintz” pattern, c.2000
Johnson Brother’s mark
Other sources of information on transferware:
Antique Transferware with Lidy from French Garden House