A potted guide to collecting pot lids with examples of upcoming lots08 October 2020 The practice of collecting pot lids is a worthwhile if somewhat old-fashioned pursuit. If you’ve ever snapped a Polaroid or taken up knitting needles, this could be the collecting area for you.
Pot lids, which are mostly very colourful, are also rich in social history and very affordable at the lower end.
It was Felix Edward Pratt (1813-94) who spotted the commercial possibilities of using new printing technology to decorate the lids of containers for popular products such as bear's grease, gentleman's relish, potted shrimps and cosmetics, with sophisticated designs.
After 1840, F. & R. Pratt of Fenton in Staffordshire, became the leading (but not the only) manufacturer of multicoloured transfer printed pot lids and a huge range of related wares.
Two examples of Prattware lids are going under the hammer at Lawrence’s of Crewkerne on October 22. One shows the ‘new’ Houses of Parliament and the pair are available for £50-100.
The subjects printed on many lids gave a clue to their contents (Pegwell Bay for potted shrimps, floral subjects for ladies' cosmetics, bears for bear's grease etc).
A Prattware pot lid for ‘bears grease’ (a solution for male hair loss made with bear fat) is among the top estimated lots coming up in this field. It goes under the hammer at Kingham & Orme’s sale of October 9-10 with an estimate of £200-300.
A better way to break into the market, however, could be to go for a job lot of pot lids, such as this 19th century quartet going under the hammer at Keys Fine Art on October 17. Including one of Pegwell Bay (suggesting, as mentioned above, potted shrimp within), another with a sailing scene and another for anchovy paste, the lot has an estimate of £30-40.
Other lids depicted subjects as diverse as British and European landmarks, scenes from Shakespearean plays or the Crimean War.
Pot lids have a collecting history as old as their manufacture. Many were mounted in frames to hang on the wall. This lid, offered at The Cotswold Auction company with an estimate of £20-40 on October 20-21, is mounted in a round black frame. It is labelled 188 Strathfieldsaye to the reverse and has a scene of gentlemen on horseback.
As early as 1897, just three years after the death of Felix Edward Pratt, an exhibition of factory productions was held in Blackpool.
The market peaked in the 1960s and 70s with prices reaching four-figure sums. The rare lid known as The Spanish Lady sold in 2001 for £2700 as part of the Ken Smith collection.
Today you can pick up quite a few at a time for low estimates. For example, this group of 12 pot lids has an estimate of just £40-60 at Kinham & Orme’s sale of October 9-10, while the group from the same sale pictured at the top of the story comprises 10 lids with the same estimate.
Learn more about collecting pot lids on the Antiques Trade Gazette website.