A Guide to Antique Yellowware Bowls & More

[Updated: April 2022]
An antique yellowware bowl–one of my prized possessions–sits on my kitchen counter as a regular reminder of my sweet grandmother.

An avid baker, Grandma made snicker doodles, banana bread, and so many other treats in that old farmhouse bowl. It’s a prized possession.

I know I’m not alone in my love for this classic, homey antique. In today’s article, we’ll focus their history, some interesting examples, and ways to date them.

Related posts: Collecting Flower Frogs, Collecting Enamelware, and Collecting Vanity Jars

Large Yellowware Bowl with text: A Guide to Antique Yellowware Bowls and More

Yellowware 101 Video

A History of Yellowware Pottery

It’s fairly clear to see that the term “yellowware” derives from the yellow-hued clay used to create this type of kitchenware that includes mixing bowls, butter crocks, and pudding molds. 

First produced in Scotland in the late 1700’s, and later in both Yorkshire and Staffordshire England, yellowware functioned as a workhorse in the kitchen due to its utilitarian shapes and sturdy construction.

Up until the mid-1800’s, America imported all of its yellowware from England. But after this point potteries in Ohio, New Jersey, and Maryland began producing the popular wares after discovering ready supplies of yellow clay.

Initially bowls would have been thrown on a potter’s wheel, but most of the bowls and other pieces of yellowware found today were made in molds. You can find coloration from buff to mustard yellow, depending upon where the clay was dug.

Potteries typically sold bowls in sets of graduated sizes, from as large as 18″ down to 4″ in diameter. You could find sets with up to twelve bowls(!). The largest and smallest sizes of any given set tend to be the most difficult to come by.

The earliest piece of yellowware were hand thrown, unmarked, undecorated, rimless, and footless, while newer pieces reveal the opposite: molded, marked, decorated, rimmed, and footed.

Dating Yellowware Bowls & Other Pieces

Yellowware was produced in America for about 100 years, from 1830 to 1930. Because manufacturers in both England and the States failed to mark most early yellowware, it can be very difficult to ascertain either a country of origin or date of manufacture.

But the occasional marks, decoration, and shapes/style give us some clues, particularly for newer pieces.

Marks

Bottoms of three yellowware bowls showing their marksPieces with marks make the evaluation process of evaluation so much easier!

  1. Impressed crown mark: Robinson Ransbottom Pottery Co., 1920’s
  2. “Oven Ware, Made in U.S.A, 5”: Watt Pottery, 1930’s, 5″ diameter
  3. “USA”: Made in the U.S.

Color

colors of yellowware: yellow, rockingham, apple green, white

  • Yellow: Yellowware was produced in the yellow color throughout the manufacturing period so it doesn’t necessarily help with evaluation
  • Rockingham:
  • Apple Green: Apple green glaze was applied beginning at the turn of the century through 1940 (Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland).
  • White:
  • White interior (not shown): The English produced most of the yellowware with white interiors (ibid).

Banding

Various colors of banding on yellowwareColored bands are one of the most common types of decoration one finds on yellowware. Potters add bands by pouring dyed slip (watery clay) on pieces as they turn on a wheel.

The color provides a clue that can help determine the age of a piece. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Brown: Mid-1800’s-1900
  • Blue: Mid-1800’s – 1900
  • White: Mid 1800’s-1900
  • Blue & Brown: Late-1800’s-1920’s
  • Pink/Mauve: 20th century

Mocha Decoration

White band with Mocha or seaweed decoration on antique yellow ware bowl

Yellowware decorated with distinctive seaweed-like decoration known as “Mocha,” dates no earlier than 1860 (US), 1840 (UK).

Before the potter fired a piece, s/he would apply a white band, and then decorate it with a mysterious “tea” by either dribbling or sponging it within the band. It could be in one specific area or around the entire piece.

The tea would spread like tributaries to create a distinctly seaweed-looking decoration that came to be known as “Mocha.” (Note: This is distinct from “Mocha Ware.)

The Mocha or seaweed decoration dates to 1860 or later, so we can safely say this 11.5” unmarked, white and brown banded bowl with the rolled rim was made between 1860 and 1900.

Molded Decoration

Various molded decoration on yellowware

Certain companies were known for certain types of molded decoration, while rare types of molding like in the first photo above, often indicate early creation.

  1. Rare molded decoration on an unmarked piece without additional decoration dates it possibly to the late 1800’s.
  2. McCoy “Sunburst” pattern.
  3. Molded, heavily embossed, collared decoration points to Robinson Ransbottom.
  4. McCoy “Morning Glory” and basket weave pattern.

Rims

images showing two different type rims on antique yellow ware bowls

The shape of a bowl’s rim or lip can also help determine its general age. A smooth rolled rim curved slightly outward signifies an earlier lip, while a collared rim or “shoulder” dates to 1900-1940, (lovetoknow).

Bases

The earliest yellowware bowl, primarily hand thrown tend not to have a base, while later examples do.

Square base on McCoy yellowware bowl (in green)

Bowls with a square base are unique to McCoy. See a photo of this bowl in full below.

Antique Yellowware Bowls

Large yellow ware bowl with Mocha (or seaweed) decorationThis is the family heirloom I mentioned in the introduction. It has a place of honor on my counter and is always visible, reminding me of my grandmother.Robinson Ransbottom vintage blue and brown banded yellowware mixing bowlHere we have a small 6″ brown and blue banded mixing bowl by Robinson Ransbottom of Roseville, Ohio (1920-2005). It has an impressed crown mark on the bottom that dates it to the 1920’s.

The collared rim and is decorated with attractive embossing that make it popular with collectors. It sold for $25.

Robinson Ransbottom later marked their pottery “R.R.P. Co. Roseville, OH” on the base–not to be confused with Roseville Pottery, which produced beautiful art pottery.

antique blue and white banded yellow ware bowl

Watt Pottery Company of Crooksville, Ohio (1921-65) produced this small, “Oven Ware” bowl in about the 1930’s.

The number “5” on the bottom refers to the size of the bowl: 5″ in diameter. It sold recently for $24.

Yellowware Bowls in Other Colors

How can a yellowware bowls come in any color other than yellow?? Keep in mind that the yellow in yellowware refers to the color of the clay.

In most cases, especially with earlier pieces, manufacturers applied a clear glaze, allowing the clay’s yellow color to shine.

However, if you apply a colored glaze to the clay, it results in yellowware in a variety of colors, including apple green, Rockingham (brown), and even white.

Antique Blue Banded Yellowware bowlHere we have a large, blue banded, hand thrown beauty that sold recently for $25 (due to extreme wear and chipping).

With its rolled rim, white glaze, and blue banding, I would date this early unmarked bowl to the 1850’s.

Small yellowware bowl with brown sponged decorationRockingham glazed pieces have a brown, mottled or sponged surface, like this small 5″ bowl dating to the late 1800’s. We know from the U.S.A. mark where it was made but not by whom.

Large green mcCoy sunburst yellowware mixing bowlThis 12 inch McCoy “Sunburst” mixing bowl wears my favorite glaze color: apple green. Given its green glaze, the collared rim, and its decorative style, I would date it to about the 1920’s. It sold for $75.

Other Yellow Ware Forms

While bowls constitute one of the most plentiful and desirable shapes, yellowware can be found in many other forms.

Antique yellowware pudding or jelly moldPudding molds, like this one with a corn cob design (mid to late 1800’s) have dropped in value markedly over the past two decades. They simply aren’t popular with collectors anymore.

One reason may be due to the fact that the most decorative part is located on the inside, making them somewhat difficult to display.

yellow ware brown banded pitcherThis antique batter pitcher with brown bands remains collectible, despite the crack and chips. It dates to 1890-1910 and sold easily for $15.

Antique yellowware rolling pinRolling pins in fine condition like this one are a rarity; it likely dates to the mid to late 1800’s. Values range from $100-200.

Antique yellowware Toby JugMy feeling is that this spectacular Toby jug originates from England and dates to the early 1800’s. I would value it at $100-125 (if perfect).

Is Antique Yellowware Safe to Use With Food?

The glaze used on many pieces of yellowware pottery contains lead, so no, you should not use your yellowware to serve or store food, especially if it’s cracked, chipped, or crazed. Its modern value lies in its decorative nature. Use it to beautify your home, not to eat out of.

Vintage & Antique Yellowware Values

Condition

Yellowware is a type of  earthenware and is therefore not quite as durable as stoneware or ironstone  (considered to be somewhat of a hybrid). Therefore, buyers expect some wear, including crazing and small chips, like those you see around the edge of this pudding mold above.

Yellowware is one of the few vintage and antiques that I buy even it if it has significant damage, if priced appropriately low.

Many collectors are decorating with yellowware, so as long as a piece has one “good side” for display, it will sell. And even serious collectors buy imperfect pieces as “place holders” while they wait to find a piece in better condition.

Prices

That said, pieces in very good to excellent condition, will garner higher prices than pieces with chips or cracks. Expect to pay $75-125 for a very good condition yellowware bowl and $100-200 for unusual pieces.

Get access to my Yellowware Price Guide immediately when you subscribe to my newsletter. You’ll find the price guide–filled with examples of all kinds of yellowware and their values–in my Member Library. When you subscribe, you’ll get the password.

I hope you enjoyed reading about antique yellowware–the perfect accent for farmhouse decorating, or any kind of decorating if you ask me!

Other posts you might enjoy:

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40 Comments

  1. Is there any way to KNOW you are looking at ‘yellow ware’ in other colors?(ie;, the greens/whites, etc)…Are there any markings?…What market do these sell best?…Ebay? booth at the antique store? etsy? etc…I own several dark brown McCoy items that I hold on to bc I’m not sure the best market?. Is McCoy considered yellow ware?…
    My website is http://www.yourvintageattic.com (the line below won’t accept that address?

    1. The way to tell if other colors fall into the yellowware category is to look for the yellow color on the unglazed rim or ring on the bottom (see the photo above of the apple green bowl rim and the apple green pitcher bottom). The yellow will also be evident wherever the piece is chipped.

      Yellowware sells well from my antique booth, so I’ve never tried selling it from any other venue. However, I’ve noticed a lot of yellowware selling on Ebay for decent prices.

      Yes, there are pieces of McCoy that are considered McCoy (see the two apple green pieces above).

      So sorry you couldn’t put your blog URL into the comment form. I’ll see if I can find out what the trouble was. You may want to consider joining my Facebook group–Your Vintage Treasures. You can post photos there of items you have questions about and members will jump in and help out πŸ™‚

      1. I recently bought a green yellow ware pitcher for my daughter, Then I read that the yellow ware products had lead, The yellow ware pitcher is short and stubby with a handle at the top and a spot. There are two circles around each side, At the bottom of this green pitcher is a circle with a sailboat and around the sailboat are these words… Over and Back yellow ware. Does this pitcher have lead?
        Susan Adler

  2. Such a beautiful display! It inspires me to display the few pieces I have all together!

  3. Wow, I lealrned a lot again today! I don’t own a piece–oh, well, I sure have a lot of other collections! If I had a Hoosier cabinet, I would HAVE to collect it. Love your green pitcher; perfect for wild flowers (with a glass inside)! or silks. Thank your neighbor for sharing her booth with us. Your own bowls look like they should have bread rising in them (or a batch of choc chip cookies!).

    1. You do have a lot of other collections, Kathy! I agree, the green pitcher is another great candidate for wildflowers. If it doesn’t sell at the shop, then I’ll bring it home for just that purpose πŸ™‚

  4. I love yelloware. My favorites are the true yellow, green and blue. We even have a couple pumpkin pieces, which are different. My sister from Cincy is the queen of out yelloware collecting among us Panoply chicks. Your pieces are nice! Another good, informative article Diana.

    1. Thanks Rita! I’d love to see pics of the pumpkin colored pieces if you have any or ever take any. I’ve not come across that color. Glad you liked the post πŸ™‚

  5. Did you make changes to your blog settings? I can’t see any pictures on this post but used to be able to see the pictures.

    Just wondered if anyone else is experiencing this.

    1. Hi Vicky! I just started with an ad company, so you will likely see several ads running throughout my posts; however, none of them cover photos. All the photos are visible. Are you using Chrome as your browser? Do you know how to clear your browsing history? When weird things happen to me, that’s the first thing I go and do. Often that clears up the problem. Please let me know if this problem continues, Vicky! I want to get to the bottom of it. So far, you are the only one who has mentioned it.

  6. I have had so many projects in storage (because of a hubby who has been sick on and off for ten years but is now greatly improved) and decided to sell everything and sell the commercial building I own. You probably would have loved my sale because I had so many things. I am also going to downsize my booth (I am addicted so I don’t want to give it up even though I turn 77 tomorrow). I believe I will make smarter choices on what to buy. So I will be cleaning out my booth. I have some yellow ware and it generally sells pretty good. I have several pieces myself and I use them. They are so pretty. Your site is one I really like because you provide such good information. Thank you!

    1. It is an amazing business, isn’t it Sharon–it gets in your blood! I hope all your downsizing goes well and that you’re able to manage your business the way you want to. I’ve been making some adjustments myself, trying to avoid some of the things I like personally, but which don’t sell! I’m so glad you enjoy my blog and thank you so much for taking the time to chat and let me know–

  7. I do love the look of yellowware and own several pieces. vintage yellowware does have lead, and people need to be careful not to use it for any “hot” dishes. Do not microwave either. Any with crazing or cracks need to be for display only. Thanks for the beautiful eye candy.

  8. Interesting post, Diana. I was totally unfamiliar with yellow ware. I’m sure I’ve seen it but didn’t know what it actually was. it’s a soft, rather muted yellow color which I like. Normally yellow is not my color. Except in my favorite daffodil flowers. And that green bowl is gorgeous! I’d snap that up in a minute. Just love that color.

    Thanks for the info. Now when I see yellow ware I’ll know what I”m seeing.

    1. You’re so welcome, Naomi–glad I could introduce you to something new πŸ™‚ I’m a big fan of the apple green, too!

  9. Thanks Diane for the education on Yelloware! I love Yelloware! Now I will be keeping an educated eye out as I go “junkin” !

  10. You answered my question with one of your pictures. I have the pudding mold with the corn motif. I have always wondered what it was worth, especially since I’d like to sell it. So glad you showed the price here. But I do understand that you feel her prices are high. And as always, something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

    1. So glad I could help out, Patty. I agree with your last statement 100%. I’d be interested to know what your piece sells for if that’s what you end up doing–

  11. Diana,
    Loved this post!! I enjoyed learning about yellow ware. I am familiar with the apple green pieces. I have a bowl that is valued at $225 in my Kitchen!! It is high up on a shelf!!
    Thanks so much for sharing!!
    Hugs,
    Deb

  12. I have a large batter bowl with a pour spout. It holds 128 ounces. No markings. Very heavy. Any idea of value?

  13. Hi there! I have an antiques question- I own some antique yellow ware nesting mixing bowls that look identical to these (lavender yellowware): (https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vtg-5-Piece-Yellow-Ware-Stoneware-Pottery-Nesting-Mixing-Bowls-Set-Lavender-RARE-/202782580705?_trksid=p2385738.m4383.l4275.c10 ) I have been storing eggs in my fridge in them, and also mixing batter and serving salads. I just found out about potential lead leaching.

    Are the eggs still safe to use if I transfer them to a more modern bowl?

    1. Hi Mara, sounds like you own a lovely set of yellowware bowls πŸ™‚ My guess is that whatever lead is in the glaze on your bowls would have difficulty migrating through an egg shell, but I really have no scientific basis for that (I’m not a scientist). You should probably consult a specialist of some sort.

    1. I’m sorry Laura, I’m not sure what that is. The photo is not of my space but another dealer in my shop (who has since left).

      1. I was curious because I have something that looks like that and don’t even know what it is. Thanks for the response.

  14. I have a 12″ diameter yellow ware bowl with two blue bands and smaller white bands above/below the blue larger bands. It has a marking on bottom that looks like two vertical lines and another horizontal line over the top of the two vertical lines. Any idea of the company who made it with that stamp/marking?

    1. Hi I’d have to see the bowl and the mark. Feel free to join my private FB group (Your Vintage Headquarters) and post some photos. The group is filled with 100’s of vintage lovers who will help you out if they can πŸ™‚

  15. Hi,I have a 6 piece set of brown banded,rolled lip and no base Yellow Ware set in very good condition. I am looking to see what they are worth,I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Rosa! As I mentioned in the article, I have a yellowware price guide available to newsletter subscribers in my Member Library. That info should help you. In addition, I have an article that should help: 9 Free Ways to Price Your Antiques.

  16. I have a yellow ware bowl that I bought years ago for a couple of bucks. It has a smooth, rolled rim and three thin white bands. But what makes me think it’s old is the bottom: no marks of any kind but you can see the ‘rolls’ of clay which makes me think it was hand thrown pottery. It’s my favorite of all my kitchen things.

    1. It sounds lovely Michelle–there’s nothing that says “home” quite like great pieces of antique yellowware πŸ™‚

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