June 27, 2022

Antiques & Collecting: Canton China

Canton china with its blue and white decoration has been a popular collectible for many years, but few can distinguish it from the other early or modern Chinese blue and white china.

It has been popular for centuries partly because cobalt blue coloring was safe to use when decorating dishes. Red ware and pewter contained dangerous lead.

By 1710, the Chinese made at least four patterns of Chinese export porcelain that included landscape designs.

Two of the most popular were Nanking (1770-1820) and Canton (1785- 1853). Nanking was decorated with a willow tree, boat, teahouse, birds and a fence.

Canton had symbolic decorations including a border band of blue and white scallops representing rain and clouds, a bridge, water, rocks, a pagoda, scholar, waterwheel, riverboats or sampans, two kinds of orchid leaves, and a willow tree.

Each symbol had a meaning reflecting endurance, harmony in nature, movement, the old leading the young, or life.

There are other unnamed blue and white patterns from the same period and even a similar English willow pattern. Later Canton pieces are thicker, heavier and have less detailed decorations.

There are 92 known shapes of Canton including chamber pots, slop pots, plain pitchers, cider jugs, oyster bowls, patty pan bowls used to bake crust, helmet pitchers, butter dishes, butter pats in five shapes and hot water plates.

Sometimes a color is added over the blue designs. This adds color to the piece but often covers the original blue decorations.

Q: My mother gave a little dish to my father as a hint to stop smoking. When and why was it made, and is it valuable?

Your dish is probably part of a set of small ashtrays used at elegant tablecloth dinner parties in the 1900s.

Since almost everyone over 18 smoked cigarettes, it was customary to put a small dish or urn at each table that held a few cigarettes and, of course, an ashtray. Between courses and after dinner, it was OK to light a cigarette or even a cigar.

The dish was made by Copelan Spode, perhaps as early as 1900 but very popular after 1915. It is in the Italian pattern that is still made by Spode, an English company.

The 6-by-9-inch dish was listed recently at $70 to $90 online, and one sold at a show for $58.

Current Prices

Kitchen, egg sizing scale, “Jiffy Way/Automatic/Speedy/Dependable,” indicators for small, medium, large and extra-large, curved platform for egg, metal, 9 inches, $50.

Fan, Old Havana by Fanimation, floor model, cast metal, round scrolled frame, hinged, cylindrical stem, round paneled base, 49 inches, $275.

Game, gaming wheel, wood, numbers 1 through 30, randomly placed, turned wood stand with flapper pointer, 1800s, 20 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches, $490.

Tip: Discovered some old silver in the attic? Wash it with a brush in warm, soapy water before you polish it. Dirt can scratch the silver.

Terry and Kim Kovel

For more collecting news, tips and resources, visit www.Kovels.com. © 2022 King Features Synd., Inc.