What is it and What’s it Worth? Surely You Recognize this One!

Surely you recognize this holiday pattern! This set of 4 Spode Christmas Tree dinner plates sold for $44 in November 2018.

It’s December, so obviously we had to showcase this well known Christmas china pattern.  Many of you have it on your tables as we speak.  It’s the Spode Christmas Tree pattern, one of the world’s best known holiday patterns since it was introduced in 1938.  Apparently sales of this particular pattern literally saved the company more than once; but, Spode is known for more than just their Christmas china.  In fact, there are over 295,000 various Spode pieces listed in our Worthopedia!  Learn more about Spode and take your ceramics knowledge to the next level.


 In 1776, Josiah Spode established Spode in Shelton, Staffordshire.  Josiah Spode worked for Thomas Whieldon between the ages of 16 and 21.  After becoming a master potter, Spode trained at other Staffordshire potteries before establishing his own pottery in Stoke-on-Trent.

Josiah Spode is credited with the introduction and development of the underglaze transfer technique by which patterns are transfer printed onto an item, a transparent glaze applied, and fired.  This underglaze transfer printing was first used to produce the Willow pattern designs.  Spode employed talented engravers to produce patterns of a high quality for application to earthenware dinner services.

Spode also pioneered the development of a new porcelain formula which later became known as bone china because of its high ox-bone content.  His formula, which was kept secret for a time, eventually became the standard formula for English bone china.

Following his father’s sudden death in 1797, Josiah Spode II assumed control of the company.  He continued his father’s work on refining and improving the bone china body and the decorative techniques.  The improved clay body enabled larger items to be produced without warping.  Improved transfer printing technique meant items could be produced faster and offered at lower price than other manufactures.

In 1806, the company produced a banqueting service for the coronation of George IV, receiving a royal warrant for their efforts.  Spode also produced wares for illustrious clients such as the East India Company.

Development of new clay bodies continued.  In 1813, Joseph II introduced a fine, almost translucent stone ware which was named “Fine Stone China.”  In 1821, a new formula bone china known as “feldspar porcelain” was introduced.

When Joseph Spode II retired in 1812, William Copeland became the manager.  Copeland joined the company in 1784 and had been managing the London business since the death of Josiah Spode I.  The company became Spode and Copeland in 1822 and Spode, Copeland & Son in 1824.

In 1833, William Copeland’s son, William Taylor Copeland and his partner Garret took over the business.  The company name changed to Copeland & Garret.  The name Spode was retained as a brand name.  As a result of retaining the Spode brand name, the company is often referred to as Copeland-Spode.  Garret remained in the partnership until 1847.  For more information, see Copland Spode. 

 What to Look For

This early Spode creamware plated c1820 sold for $35.29 in 2012.

Early wares produced by Spode were made of a fine earthenware.  These were known as creamware and pearlware.  Jasperware and stoneware in various colors was produced.

During the 1780s, Spode employed top engravers such as Thomas Minton and Thomas Lucas to create fine designs for transfer-printing onto earthenware bodies.  This resulted in highly detailed, fine patterns in blue and white, sometimes with gilt edging.  Chief engraver, William Greatbach was responsible for many intricate designs.  These patterns often featured floral designs, landscapes, and sporting scenes.

These 2 square salad plates in Spode’s Tower Pink pattern sold for $105.88 in November 2018.

The employment of artist Henry Daniel resulted in some of the most commercially successful designs.  Around 1814, the Tower pattern was developed.  In 1816, the Italian line, a blue and white transfer-printed design featuring Italian views, was introduced.  The Italian line continues to be produced to this day.

While Spode was known for their development of the transfer-printing process, many elaborate items continued to be hand-painted and gilded.

This c1800 Spode Imari Tobacco Plant potpourri vase sold for $199 in 2012.

In the 1820s, inspired by the trend in Japanese pattern styles, Spode produced Imari patterns.  The Tobacco Leaf pattern was produced in large quantities and, like many of the Spode patterns, was produced by Copeland-Spode after 1833.


Items from the early period of Spode’s operation are not always marked.  Sometimes a pattern number is painted onto the base of the item without the Spode name, making it very difficult to identify a maker.

There are over 300 marks recorded for Spode pieces. This is just one of the many marks used.

There are over 300 marks recorded for Spode and the ensuing Copeland-Spode companies, so identifying and dating an item can be difficult.  A number of the more commonly found marks are:

Early backstamps from around 1780-1790 feature the word Spode either painted (usually in red) or impressed into the clay with no color applied.  Pattern numbers may or may not be marked alongside the Spode name.

Early backstamps were sometimes impressed in the pottery with no color added.

From 1800-1820 a mark consisting of an X within a circle was used, mostly on porcelain pieces and usually impressed into the base.

Different types of clay may have been marked with backstamps reflecting the clay body.  “Stone-China” was marked with the name SPODE inside a square with the words Stone China below.  This mark was used between 1905 and 1830.

“Felspar Porcelain” was marked with a circular printed mark with the name Spode at the top and Felspar porcelain inside with floral decoration.

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