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Collecting Yellowware

Martha Stewart Living Television

Q: A while ago, you did a show on collecting yellowware pottery. It intrigued me, so I started looking for it myself. But I'm having trouble distinguishing yellowware from other pottery of the same period. Can you help me tell the difference?
-- Sherri Patten, St. Louis

Yellowware is difficult to identify because, unlike many other types of pottery, most yellowware doesn't have distinctive potter's markings. Only about 5 percent to 10 percent of it was ever marked. If you do find a piece with original markings, you'll end up paying about 30 percent more than you would for an unmarked piece. Sets are also valuable; collectors tend to try to assemble a set whenever they can. You'll find bowls in nested sets of six to eight pieces ranging from 3 to 17 inches in diameter.

Large volumes of yellowware bowls were produced in England, in Bennington, Vermont, and in Ohio, by Brush McCoy and Weller. They were either thrown, molded, or pressed, and feature every type of decoration. The early hand-turned bowls, however, tend to be plain. After 1860, many of the bowls were made with turned lips and bases. Here are some additional identifying characteristics to look for:

1. Colored bands, known as slip bands, of brown, blue, and green.

2. Colored mocha, a decorative technique with recurring patterns that resemble objects such as seaweed, earthworms, and cat's eyes.

3. Rockingham glaze, a purple-brown glaze made at the Rockingham pottery in Swinton, England, during the late 1700s.