Humans have always been proud of their dogs, and while modern pet parents might get custom portraits of their dogs in military uniforms, our great-great-great grandparents had to settle for cute ceramic statues. Often sold in pairs, antique Staffordshire dog figurines are some of the most valuable non-dinnerware ceramics to come out of Britain. If you're feeling lucky, check your grandparents' mantle to see if they've got one of these good boys just hanging out.
What Are Staffordshire Dog Figurines?
Staffordshire is a region in Britain where the highest-quality ceramics are made. Among these 19th century ceramics were quaint dog figurines that sold like wildfire. The earliest date back to the 18th century, though they were incredibly commonplace by the mid to late-1800s.
What Do Antique Staffordshire Dog Figurines Look Like?
These antique ceramic figurines are generally molded accurately to each of the breeds they represent. Typically, they were white ceramic and painted with breed-specific details such as colored ears or spots. Despite being molded after real animals, these figurines aren't hyper realistic. They've got a rather uncanny valley appearance to their wide, white-filled (sometimes glass) eyes.
Most commonly, these figurines were made in identical pairs. And since they were designed to be mantle pieces, these dogs are molded into fixed positions. Think sitting up or standing rather than leaping for a ball.
A few of the breeds you might find include:
- Cavalier King Spaniel
Quick Tips for Determining if a Staffordshire Dog Is an Antique
Once you know the general profile for what these dogs look like, you've got a good chance of picking them out in the wild. However, that doesn't help you see how old the figurine is. And with Staffordshire dog figurines, the older they are, the more they're worth.
Unfortunately, Staffordshire dogs weren't manufactured by a specific maker and thus don't have any identifiable maker's marks or signatures. This can make it really hard for a layperson to assess one of these ceramics. Yet, if you flip one upside down and find a small hole there, then you know they were press molded, and that's a good sign (as Staffordshire dogs were made using press molds).
The earliest models have sharply defined bodies, are rather light in the hand, and are never marked. Similarly, they should have some aging on their paint and gilding. Newer models don't have the same crispness to their molds and paint, and look overall more unkempt.
How Much Are Antique Staffordshire Dog Figurines Worth?
Here's where everything gets really juicy; despite being mass-produced and beloved by the Victorians, antique Staffordshire dog figurines are worth a lot of money. On average, a 19th century pair will sell for anywhere between $350-$800, and 18th century examples for even more than that. In terms of mass-produced ceramics, there aren't many contemporary pieces that compare to it.
The King Charles Spaniel is the most common mold on the auction circuit, and it's worth about $300, on average. In comparison, less common molds are worth a few hundred dollars more in the same condition. This is because they're just harder to find. Additionally, the larger molds (10"-30") are worth more than the smaller molds because they don't come up for sale as often.
For example, this large 19th century King Charles Spaniel figurine pair sold for $325. Meanwhile, this pair of St. Bernard figurines sold for $796. Why'd they sell for more than the larger figurine? Because they're rarer.
Antique Staffordshire Dog Figurines Still Pull at the Heart Strings
People love a dog-related collectible; after all, they're our best friends. Although antique Staffordshire dog figurines aren't as culturally relevant as they once were, they'll still draw a few oohs and ahhhs from anyone who lays their eyes on them. Impress your guests with these valuable ceramic cuties as they stand guard over your living room for years to come.