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How to Date a Royal Doulton Toby Jug From the RN Number

Toby jugs -- porcelain mugs in the shape of a seated man in a tricornered hat holding a mug of his own -- were first made in the 18th century, and have continued to be popular ever since. The Royal Doulton factory had been manufacturing rather plain Toby jugs since 1815. In 1926, designer Charles Noke created a series of Toby jugs depicting the head and shoulders of fictional, and later also some real male characters. They also created a few jugs modelled on women, such as Charles Dickens' character Sairey Gamp. These 20th century Toby jugs became very popular, and were made from 1926 to the present. They continue to be collectable today. One way of dating the Toby jugs made between the 1920s and 1960s is by examining the RN (Registration Number).

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Look for the Registration Number on the jug. Under a strong light, turn the jug over carefully and look at the underside of the base. You may need to use a magnifying glass. Consult a guide to Royal Doulton marks and numbers; these can be found in books on Royal Doulton, or on antique porcelain websites.

Learn about what the Registration Number means. It will not give you the actual date that the jug was manufactured; it indicates the date that the design of the jug was registered. Some Toby jugs were made prior to the design's registration. These jugs will have the phrase "Registration Applied For" in lieu of the RN.

Estimate the date that the Toby jug was made. Registration Numbers were used by Royal Doulton starting in the 1930s. In the 1940s and 1950s, the company began to register its designs in a greater number of export regions. After 1947, the jugs were marked with a copyright date. In the same year, four special regional RNs were created for Great Britain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The Registration Number was no longer used on Toby jugs by the 1960s.

Look for a number in the upper right hand corner of the underside of the jug. Royal Doulton stamped a number there which, when added to the number 1927, will give you the date the piece was made. This number was stamped on the Toby jugs from the year 1927 on.

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Look for special handles referring to the character of the jug. From the 1950s on, these became increasingly significant. Colour variations on the jugs can also indicate what date they were made. For example, clown jugs had red hair in the 1930s and brown hair during the World War II period, since the red dye became hard to find.

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Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass
  • List of Royal Doulton RNs and marks

About the Author

Laura Crawley has been writing professionally since 1991. She has written about urban history for "The Hillhurst-Sunnyside Voice." She has also written about New York City history at the Virtual Dime Museum website and about popular culture at Kitchen Retro. Crawley holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Swarthmore College and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Toronto.

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