Crocks have been used for hundreds of years to hold, store and carry items, food and liquid. Crocks were made by artisans in the United States starting in the 1770s and in Europe, Japan and other countries well before then. Antique crocks can be found in stoneware, ceramic, porcelain and pottery and are of interest to collectors because of their history, unique styles and distinctive patterns and colors. They can be found at antiques stores, collectors shows, online stores, auctions, or for sale by owner. As with other antiques of value, reproductions abound. Here are ways to identify authentic antique crocks.
Turn the crock over and look for a maker’s mark or stamp. The mark may be a symbol, logo, letter or the name of the manufacturer. If the crock was made by a master artist, the piece may bear a signature. One example of a notable master artist is Thomas Commeraw, a free African-American who worked for various stoneware merchants and sold his own stoneware. Commeraw stoneware can sell for between $3,000 and $27,000. Replicas of old crocks will not have distinguishing marks or signatures.
The mark on an antique item can help to establish the date and authenticity of the piece. For instance, if a patterned crock has the name of the pattern and a mark on the bottom, the item was made after 1810. If the mark includes the word “Limited” or an abbreviation (ex: “Ltd”), the crock was made after 1861. If the mark states “Made in England” or another country, the piece is likely a 20th Century piece. Note that most replicas will not have identifying characteristics, so the presence of such marks likely indicates the crock is authentic.
Look for the country of origin mark, which has been a federal requirement since 1891. If there is no country of origin mark or the country of origin is European, the crock is likely an authentic antique. If the mark is “Nippon,” the crock was made in Japan prior to 1921 and is an excellent way to identify an authentic antique from Japan, as replicas will be marked “Japan” instead of Nippon.
Look at the design of the crock. Early designs were simple and included etchings that were filled, often in a cobalt blue color. (View an example of an early stoneware crock at websites such as GoAntiques.com. See Resources.) Early antique crocks often featured images of birds, trees and flowers. The images should appear slightly crude or simple. If the decoration on the crock seems to be too elaborate for work done by hand, it probably is, and the piece is likely a fake.
View images of authentic antique crocks and examples of decorations and etchings on websites such as Z and K Antiques.com and My Granny’s Attic Antiques.com. (See Resources.)
Look at reference books that include detailed information and images of antique crocks. Examples of reference books include “Antique Trader Stoneware and Blue & White Pottery Price Guide” by Kyle Husfloen, and "Collector's Encyclopedia of Salt Glaze Stoneware: Identification & Value Guide" by Terry Taylor, Terry Lowrance, and Kay Lowrance.