Flow Blue China: An Error that Paid Off
I had a special request to do a blog about Flow Blue from Joann Woodall of the Wagon Wheel Antiques Co. Joann is one of the people from whom I purchased the wonderful pottery at the Arlington Park Antique Show. I am always looking for items of interest to write about, so in the future, please email any requests you might have.
The porcelain that is known as Flow Blue was first produced about 1830. Those companies producing this porcelain were mainly located in England, however several others in France, Germany, Holland, and America also produced this fine porcelain. By 1940, Flow Blue was the rage in America because it was relatively inexpensive compared to fine china.
The creation of Flow Blue came about by accident. The story goes that a company was experimenting with a cheap form of dinnerware when some mixed chemicals were accidentally spilled on some of the wares that were waiting to be fired. This went unnoticed because the type of china awaiting firing was known as Transferware, and the pieces were covered with a blue pattern. After the firing, it became apparent that the transfer had bled onto the white porcelain. At first, the employees were horrified, however upon close examination, they noticed this mistake covered imperfections in the china. Isn’t it amazing how many worthwhile things come about by accident?
There are three periods in Flow Blue. About 1830, the Victorian period started, and patterns were used in Flow Blue from Chinese Imports. About 1860, the second Victorian period began, and these patterns consisted of mainly floral patterns. The late Victorian period started about 1880, and went back again to the oriental patterns.
Anything that could be produced from china was made in Flow Blue, like tureens, serving platters, dishes, chamber pots, vases, and even smoking accessories. Prices were reasonable, and that was the appeal.
There were so many companies producing Flow Blue China that I won’t try to list them all, but you can find most of them by going to eBay and doing a search for Flow Blue in the completed listings section. As much as I have written about how unfair I believe eBay has been to their customers, I do have to commend them for the research information they provide. You will also find price guides for Flow Blue, but be careful because the prices in some of these are outdated.
Currently, eBay is showing a German Flow Blue Vase sold for $4,826.76. Two Vases with Blue Babies brought $1,350, and believe it or not, a Flow Blue Toilet sold for $749. There are 1,874 completed items listed under “Flow Blue” with most items bringing over $100.
While attending an auction here in Chicago, a large Flow Blue Tray came up for bid. It had a pattern of a very large bull in a primitive decoration that showed there was some serious age. I was bidding against someone I knew quite well, but when it got to be over $500, I stopped bidding. So, my bidding opponent purchased it for around $600. I later found out that this tray’s value ran as high as $3,500. Over the years, I have purchased many pieces of Flow Blue, most of which have been large platters averaging about $500 when I sold them.
This is one collectible that always seems to hold the collectors’ attention and at most Antique Shows you will find at least one booth that features nothing but Flow Blue. Reasonable purchases of these items can bring money to your pocket, so keep your eye out for Flow Blue.
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