Have you ever run across Royal Doulton figurines at an estate sale? If so, you know why they’ve remained such popular collectibles over the years. Their fame began in the early 1800s, when Henry Doulton and John Watts’ quirky Toby jugs and character jugs came onto the handcrafted pottery scene.
During the late 19th century, Doulton debuted a series of whimsical stoneware and terracotta figurines. The early 20th century brought the fine china figurines that continue to draw collectors’ interest today.
Maybe you’ve become smitten with finely crafted Royal Doulton figurines. If so, this blog post is for you. Get valuable tips on identifying these fine bone china collectibles, and learn how to spot fake Royal Doulton figures. Plus, find out how to determine Royal Doulton figurines’ values, and discover several sources for these highly collectible treasures.
Doulton Company and Product Evolution
The acclaimed Royal Doulton brand had humble beginnings. In 1815, Henry Doulton launched Doulton Pottery, an industrial stoneware business in Lambeth, England. With the addition of John Watts in 1820, Doulton & Watts branched out into functional housewares. The duo also added popular character busts and heads to their product line.
During the same period, Doulton & Watts introduced Toby jugs, a jug design that depicts a man clutching a pint of ale. The Large Character King Henry VIII Toby Jug was an especially striking design. Although Doulton & Watts didn’t realize it at the time, Toby jugs were setting the stage for the early 20th century Royal Doulton figurines.
In the 1880s, the Doulton Lambeth facility began producing stoneware and terracotta figurines. Subjects included portly children playing, boys with musical instruments (the Merry Musicians), and animals that displayed common human traits. Other figurines took the form of royalty, military men, and classically featured young ladies.
Doulton Receives Royal Recognition
The English royal family also appreciated the style and elegance of Doulton fine china. First, Queen Victoria knighted Henry Doulton in the late 1800s. King Edward VII followed with a Royal Warrant in 1901, allowing the company to be known as “Royal Doulton.”
At the start of the 20th century, a highly skilled Royal Doulton modeler and painter began developing new china-glazing methods. Modeler Charles Noke collaborated with Harry Nixon, a figure painting department manager, to produce the proprietary “Doulton Rouge Flambe” glaze. The striking red tone is frequently seen in the company’s animal figurines.
Royal Doulton Figurines Enter the Picture
The iconic Royal Doulton figurines have made quite an impact on the collectibles world. Over 4,000 distinctive models have tempted countless collectors since the first bone china pieces were introduced in 1913.
That same year, King George and Queen Mary sparked interest in the new figurines when they toured Royal Doulton’s Burslem, England studio. Viewing a figurine of a little boy wearing pajamas, the queen exclaimed “Isn’t he a darling!” This first Royal Doulton figurine received the name “Darling,” along with its royal recognition.
Quality Materials and Craftsmanship
Royal Doulton fine china figurines have always been made of first-quality bone china. This three-material blend includes china clay, Cornish stone, and calcined bone ash. The resulting material has both strength and translucence.
Young sculptor Leslie Harradine joined Royal Doulton in the early 20th century. Harradine was instrumental in designing many of Royal Doulton’s iconic figurines. In fact, Harradine and Noke helped to drive figurine production to new heights during the early- to mid-20th century.
Royal Connections and Ownership Changes
In another British royal connection, Royal Doulton created several elegant figurines of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Artists depicted the beloved Queen at several points in her enduring reign.
In 2015, Royal Doulton experienced a landmark ownership change. Fiskars Corporation, a global consumer goods leader, completed its acquisition of the Royal Doulton and Royal Albert brands. The upscale Wedgwood and Waterford brands were also part of Fiskars’ strategic market expansion.
What’s Behind the Figurines’ Longtime Popularity?
Royal Doulton figurines have enjoyed enduring appeal. The following four factors continue to make these classic figurines popular in the 21st century.
First, excited figurine buyers are still snapping up figurines that depict famous cultural and historic characters. Second, the figurines showcase contemporary styles and fashions. Third, well-known artists often design (and sign) these sought-after works.
Finally, the British royal family’s endorsement carries considerable weight with the buying public.
Popular Royal Doulton Figurine Series
In addition to creating over 4,000 individual figurine models, Royal Doulton issued several figurine series. Each themed collection showcases several fine bone china pieces that are well received by Royal Doulton collectors.
Brambly Hedge Series
Royal Doulton’s Brambly Hedge series is a licensed collection of child-themed plates, bowls, and mugs. Each Brambly Hedge piece features images from picture books written by Jill Barklem. The series made its debut in 1980, coinciding with the publication of four season-based stories.
Royal Doulton’s younger customers have long enjoyed its classic Bunnykins figurines. The Royal Doulton Bunnykins figurines arrived on the market in 1933, and the company produced more than 150 bunny-themed pieces. The most valuable Bunnykins pieces feature artist Barbara Vernon’s signature.
These quirky miniature figurines showcase characters from Charles Dickens’ literary works. Royal Doulton produced the figurines from 1922 to 1983. The original figurines were crafted from fine bone china, although later (and larger) versions were created with earthenware.
“Figures of Williamsburg” Series
During the 1960s, Royal Doulton launched the Williamsburg figurines series to coincide with Colonial Williamsburg’s restoration.
The series featured typical Williamsburg characters, such as town residents and craftsmen.
Nursery Rhymes Series
These delightful bone china figurines showcase characters from well-known nursery rhymes. Royal Doulton introduced this child-themed series in 1949.
Pretty Ladies Collection
These beautiful hand-decorated pieces are among Royal Doulton’s most popular collectibles. Introduced in 1913, each Pretty Lady features an elegant, swirling dress with rich-looking colors and precision brushstrokes.
Sampling of Royal Doulton Figurines
The following Royal Doulton figurines represent a sampling of the 4,000 charming figures that have been made in England since 1913. Every figurine is crafted of fine bone china, and exhibits high attention to detail.
|Biddy Penny Farthing
|Goody Two Shoes
|Old Balloon Seller
|The Balloon Man (Balloon Man)
|The Mask Seller
|Top o’ the Hill
How to Identify Royal Doulton Figurines
Identifying a Royal Doulton figurine is often a straightforward task. Ideally, each authentic piece’s underside features a Doulton mark (or backstamp) plus a name and identification number. Using the backstamp, name, and identification number is the easiest way to identify an authentic Royal Doulton Figurine. However, if those items are missing, it’s still possible that your figurine is real.
If your piece is missing the items listed above, you can still narrow down the piece’s production era by examining its specifics. Beginning in the mid-1930s, Royal Doulton figurines began to exhibit more intricate details. For example, the figure’s eyes began displaying pupils and irises instead of tiny black dots.
All authentic Royal Doulton figurines should include a Doulton backstamp. The figurine’s name should appear under that backstamp.
Since 1913, all figurines have included an HN identification number (named for prolific Royal Doulton artist Harry Nixon). Until 1940, the HN numbers followed a sequential scheme. After that, each figurine was assigned an HN number based on its modeler.
Identifying Royal Doulton “Seconds”
Finding a Royal Doulton “second” means you’ve encountered a figurine that doesn’t meet the company’s quality standards.
Although the piece may (or may not) have a glaring defect, you should be aware of two possible indicators of a second-tier product.
First, look at the figurine’s base. You’ll notice that the backstamp has been defaced by one of two methods. Most commonly, you’ll see a hole drilled through the backstamp’s center.
Another indicator of a “second” is if there is a scored line through the backstamp. Look for a horizontal line through “Royal Doulton” or a diagonal line across the whole backstamp.
Obtain Assistance From Experts
During the Royal Doulton figurine identification process, expert help may be available at no charge. The “Antiques Roadshow” series features antiques experts who provide free, informal appraisals. Local antiques appraisers may offer a similar service.
Well-known auction houses, including Bonhams and Christie’s, may be willing to review your figurine’s photographs and provide a free, unofficial opinion. However, keep in mind that this informal appraisal doesn’t replace an intensive in-person evaluation.
Beware of Fake Royal Doulton Figurines
As is the case with other popular collectibles, counterfeit Royal Doulton figurines continue to crop up. Scammers have also altered authentic figurines to make them appear more unique and therefore more valuable. Resourceful counterfeiters have developed several methods for producing fake Royal Doulton figurines.
Typically, counterfeits originate in Asia or Ireland. However, the fake figurines are sold across the globe and online. Be on the lookout for pieces that reflect one (or more) of the following tactics.
Let’s say a counterfeiter makes a mold from an authentic Royal Doulton figurine. Next, they use that mold to make a fake figurine. The fake figurine will be smaller than the authentic piece. Most Royal Doulton value guides include each listed piece’s measurements and photos, potentially alerting buyers to fakes.
Other fake figurines may have the correct measurements. This is because they are made from inferior plaster that doesn’t require a firing process and, therefore, won’t shrink. These somewhat-heavier figurines also have an unpainted base that doesn’t match an authentic Doulton piece.
Incorrect Color Schemes and Paint Applications
Counterfeit Royal Doulton figurines typically display a bright color scheme rather than the muted tones of an authentic figurine. Fake pieces also tend to have unevenly applied paint. Details, such as painted eyes or garment specifics, may be missing.
Inaccurate Bottom Marking Details
A fake “vintage Royal Doulton” figurine may display an immaculate, blemish-free bottom rather than the signs of wear that you would expect with an older piece. Rather than an incised number, the fake figurine’s bottom likely has a felt-tip marking.
Altered Royal Doulton Figurines
In an effort to create a highly desirable “unfinished” figurine, a counterfeiter may remove the color from an authentic finished piece. Or, the faker might revise the original’s features to make it seem unique.
Another scammer might dab paint over identifying marks on the piece’s base. Application of a second backstamp or a replacement HN number are also examples of counterfeit tactics.
Royal Doulton Porcelain Figurines Value and Price Guide
A well-coordinated Royal Doulton figurines price guide is an extremely valuable tool. It would come in handy to establish the value of your figurine collection for insurance purposes. Or, if you’re interested in selling a few figurines, a price guide would be useful. Either way, arriving at their value is key.
Ideal Royal Doulton Price Guide Qualities
Quality Royal Doulton price guides have three desirable qualities. First, they’ve been published within the last year. Recently published price guides mean the information is relatively current. Next, the price guide should have multiple contributors. Having more than one contributor provides different perspectives and opinions about the profiled collectibles. Finally, the price guide should include supporting details to each item’s value calculation. That way, you know the price wasn’t pulled out of thin air.
A comprehensive Royal Doulton Figurines Guide, plus online auction “Sold” listings, provide useful reference and valuation information. However, keep in mind that an expert in-person evaluation should always be your first choice.
Royal Doulton Figurines Guide
This online Royal Doulton (England) Figurines Guide provides descriptions, photographs, and values for over 3,000 Royal Doulton pieces. To use the database, search the item’s HN number or at least one word of the figurine’s title. Information is for reference only, as the figurines are not for sale.
Online Auction “Sold” Listings
Online auction companies typically provide real-world selling prices for Royal Doulton figurines on the site’s “Sold” listings. eBay and Live Auctioneers are two well-known online auction sites.
To obtain eBay “Sold” listing details, begin on the site’s home page. Click on the word “Advanced” just to the right of the blue search bar. On the destination page, type your search details, click “Sold Listings,” and tap that blue search bar. To view Live Auctioneers listings, sign up for a free member account, and you’ll be able to access all “Sold” listings information.
Factors That Influence Figurine Values
Every Royal Doulton figurines price guide should explain the variables that factor into each figurine’s assigned value. The piece’s age and rarity are key determinants. Using this logic, older pieces, limited-edition items, and figurines with small production runs often have higher values.
The piece’s condition is also a major factor. A figurine in excellent condition will naturally command a higher price than the same item with visible signs of wear. Additionally, if a popular Royal Doulton designer crafted a specific figurine, it may command a higher value than a lesser-known artisan’s piece. A figurine that displays the well-known artist’s validated signature is a sought-after commodity.
Each Royal Doulton figurine’s theme and color scheme also contribute to its value. For example, the Pretty Ladies Collection debuted in 1913. Each Royal Doulton lady’s rich gown colorations have contributed to the figurines’ customer appeal. Collectors love the Pretty Ladies’ swirling dresses that feature vibrant colors and polished brush strokes.
Finally, Royal Doulton figurines carrying a “potted” mark were made before 1939. These figures seem to command higher prices.
Where to Find Royal Doulton Figurines
With thousands of Royal Doulton porcelain figurines on the market, you’d think it would be easy to find one that strikes your fancy. However, older or limited-edition figurines may be difficult to locate. Realize that many serious collectors are combing stores and online marketplaces for specific Royal Doulton figures to complete their collections.
Current Royal Doulton Figurines
Take advantage of two sources for currently made figurines. The Royal Doulton USA online store features the annual Royal Doulton figurines along with several other appealing collections. The Royal Doulton online outlet venues target international buyers but may feature some of the same figurine groups.
Vintage and Antique Figurines
Browse through multiple venues during your search for vintage and antique Royal Doulton figurines. Your first stop should be a professionally managed estate sale. These multi-day events contain a treasure trove of coveted collectibles. You might even discover a complete Royal Doulton figurine series or an entire collection.
If you haven’t attended a neighborhood estate sale before, you’re in for a real treat. This weekend, find an estate sale near you, and embark on a treasure hunt for fine Royal Doulton figurines.
Specialty Retail and Auction Venues
Specialty retail stores may also yield some surprising finds. Begin with antique shops, which often contain dealers’ booths along with merchandise displayed by the shop owner. Next, visit higher-end thrift stores, as they often receive collectibles donations from homeowners or estate sale liquidators.
Local auctions provide great entertainment, and often include lots of desirable collectibles. If possible, learn about the auction items beforehand. To broaden your prospects, check out Royal Doulton figurines’ listings on the eBay and Live Auctioneers online venues.
Online vintage and antiques marketplaces showcase listings from sellers all over the world. Etsy and Ruby Lane are good starting points, although other sites also have figurines for sale.
Finally, check out online replacement retailers’ offerings. In addition to an extensive tableware replacement inventory, these online shops carry Royal Doulton figurines from popular collections.
Establishing Your Own Collection
When you discover a Royal Doulton figurine that piques your interest, it’s the perfect time to begin your collection. Enjoy browsing the estate sales and combing through antique shops and online marketplaces.
Maybe you’re searching for companion pieces for a series. Or, perhaps you’re simply adding more beautiful bone china pieces to your collection. Either way, you’ll enjoy interacting with these fine collectibles that have such a timeless appeal.