Bavarian china has been a fine-quality export to the United States for more than a century. Identifying marks on Bavarian china has been a challenge for most of those years. Part of the challenge arises from the history of the country. It has been involved in war numerous times, including the 1866 Prusso-Austrian War, which resulted in it becoming a part of the German Reich in 1871. Bavaria became a free state in 1918 after World War I, and then was an administrative unit of the National Socialists. After World War II, Bavaria became a part of the Federal Republic of Germany. This history is important to understanding the marks on Bavarian porcelain and china, as some of the Germany backstamps are also Bavarian china.
Check the mark on the bottom of the china. Porcelain and china from Bavaria made for the export trade to the United States will be marked in English. Those not made for export or those made for export to German-speaking countries will be marked in German. Many of the backstamps reflect the city of origin. Arzberg, Bayreuth, Schwarzenbach, Selb and Tettau are Bavarian porcelain-producing cities. Read whatever part of the mark you can and draw it on a piece of paper or copy it with a copy machine. Do not be concerned with the handwritten numbers as they are not associated with the mark. They are decorator identification only.
See if the Bavarian porcelain manufacturing company maintains a website. There is a list of manufacturer’s links on Porcelain Marks & More that may help shorten the search. Some of these websites have German spellings and the site name ends in .de as they are German websites, but once you get to the homepage, you can click on the English version. Most of these websites have a company history, giving production dates and other information to help identify the marks.
Identify the marks with the written information provided in the design of the logo or shape of the backstamp. Attempt to locate information online at a website like Porcelain Marks & More that identifies Bavarian china by city of origin.
Use books to identify Bavarian china and porcelain backstamps. The Library of Congress gives a list of books, including “Kovels’ Dictionary of Marks” and “Kovels’ New Dictionary of Marks.” Miller’s has a pottery and porcelain marks book, too. The specialized source for German, Bohemian and Austrian porcelain marks is by Rontgen. This comprehensive book has pictures of the marks from 1710 to 1981 and gives the dates of use.
Take a copy of the mark or a piece of the porcelain or china to a collectibles show or a mall specializing in collectibles and antiques. Ask for help in identifying the mark from the shop owner or a dealer who has similar wares. Be persistent, and learn what you can from each source.
Linda Richard has been a legal writer and antiques appraiser for more than 25 years, and has been writing online for more than 12 years. Richard holds a bachelor's degree in English and business administration. She has operated a small business for more than 20 years. She and her husband enjoy remodeling old houses and are currently working on a 1970s home.