How to Identify Old Antique Yellow Ware

By Sharon Perkins
Yellow ware bowls come in different sizes.

Yellow ware, a type of pottery most often seen in bowls and molds, gets its color from the clay manufacturers used to make the pieces. Yellow ware has been produced since in the 1800s, but even pieces from the 1950s are often classified as antiques today. Since yellow ware, like many antiques, has been widely reproduced, recognizing a piece that could have come from great-grandma's kitchen takes a little detective work. Examining the piece thoroughly will usually give you the clues you need to assess its age.

Markings

Markings, if present, represent the best way to determine the maker of the piece. Markings also give clues to the age of yellow ware. Common producers of yellow ware include Hull, Brush-McCoy, Weller and Bennington, but not all pieces were marked by the manufacturers. Around the time of World War I, manufacturers began to make their pieces with "USA"; some stopped marking their pieces in this way around the time of World War II, when goods manufactured outside the United States needed to be marked with their country of origin.

Types

Yellow ware gets its color from the clay used to produce it. Potteries in the Northeastern United States and the Ohio Valley used local yellow clay. Yellow ware is thick. Bowls were made in graduated sizes and were often sold in sets; in addition to the manufacturer's mark, the bottom of the bowl may contain numbers that indicate the size of the bowl. Yellow ware may vary from light yellow to a rare pumpkin color. Older yellow ware is not only thicker but also heavier than reproduced yellow ware or yellow pottery produced in Japan.

Decorations

Many yellow ware pieces have bands of white, blue or dark brown around the bowl; this type of pottery is called annular ware. Annular ware was produced between 1840 and 1900, according to Lenville Stelle of Parkland College. Some have splatters of dark brown in a spongeware pattern. Older bowls might have several bands in the same color. Some have embossed designs around the rim, including vine-like patterns.

Shapes

Some older yellow ware bowls have embossed patterns, such as a lattice pattern. The top part of the bowl may have a raised lip. Some have a squared bottom. While bowls are the most common yellow ware, molds, often of vegetables or fruits such as pineapples, corns or asparagus, are also common. Molds of animals such as rabbits are less common and more expensive. Look for other commonly produced pieces such as rolling pins, crocks or pie plates.

Condition

Antique yellow ware often has very small cracks. Check for chipping on the bottom or around the rim. An antique piece should show signs of wear on the bottom. Hairline cracks can decrease the value of the piece, but some crazing will not hurt the value.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.