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Fakes (and Authorised Reproductions)

All of us dream about finding a piece of Shelley that no one else has found. In some cases we do make those discoveries and that is a rare treat. However in this search for the 'Holy Grail' many collectors buy, unawares, an item that they later find is not quite what they thought it was. They have bought a 'fake' and they exist in many areas of daily life. More experienced collectors can walk through a fair or cluttered antique shop and literally smell out a genuine piece of Shelley. The style, fine nature and decorations are all clear clues to the genuine article. Nonetheless it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that because it has a Shelley backstamp, then it must be Shelley regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

We categorise these in several ways and in this section of our site we explain the different types so that potential buyers may be better informed and possibly avoid the pitfalls and disappointment of such a purchase. The four main types are:-

Non-Authorised Pieces Manufactured by Others and which Purport to be Shelley.
These can be further divided as follows:-

- Pieces which purport to be Shelley by the use of a version of the Shelley backstamp and/or use of unrelated litho/decals and where the piece is not a known Shelley shape.
This group is a troubling development in this field. This area is highlighted by the use of litho/decals attributed to Mabel Lucie Attwell but in a very 'loud' and 'un-Shelley' manner. The china pieces are clearly not Shelley shapes and the quality is not of a high standard. The backstamps whilst purporting to be Shelley, are often larger than normal and/or include some discrepancies. As children's ware they usually command higher prices on the internet and often have a 'Buy it Now' option on auction sites in an attempt to get a quick sale. These items are now appearing in antique centres throughout the UK, USA, and Australia.

Fakes -MLA- montage

MLAS fake montagefake mabel lucie attwell vase

- Pieces produced by other factories which have had a Shelley backstamp applied so as to purport to be Shelley.
This group is usually detectable from it's backstamp which is often applied over-glaze and often faulty. See our Fake Backstamp Identifier. Again the items are usually related to a Shelley product such as a figurine but just don't look correct. This area shows the difficult balance between finding something rare and finding a fake.


fake Shelley beach girlfake Shelley floral vasefake Shelley figurine fake Shelley horn fake Shelley pieced floral plate

Fake Hilda Cowham Tea Set
- Pieces which purport to be the genuine article i.e. replicas
This poor fake tea set consisting of a teapot, milk jug and covered sugar box in the form of "crooked" thatched cottages was offered for sale by a UK auction house but withdrawn before sale day . The body colour is cream with blue window frames, brown doors and red doorsteps. The removable lids are orange with black chimneys for handles. They appeared to be completely hand painted with no transfers/lithos/prints used.

backstamp of fake hilda cowham teapotfake hilda cowham signature
The green backstamp shows SHELLEY. inside the shield with CHINA above and ENGLAND below. (This combination is not listed as a genuine Shelley mark.)

Signatures on the pieces show HILDA COWHAM in full in capital letters.
The genuine Shelley pieces and all the known postcards and prints are signed

H. COWHAM in capital letters.


MLA figurines LA12 montage

Two Mabel Lucie Attwell LA12 figurines. The one on the left is a replica or 'fake'. The two bases are shown - the replica on the left and the genuine on the right. The latter has the Mabel Lucie Attwell signature on the top of the base, the copy does not - BUT this is not always the case

Original Shelley Pieces which have had Decoration Applied 'Out of Factory' to Enhance their Value
These generally involves the application of a non-Shelley related litho/decal (most often by Mabel Lucie Attwell) or a hand painted design to a semi decorated Shelley piece.  The most common found here are on the 'Bands and Swirls' series often used on the Regent shape. In these cases unrelated Mabel Lucie Attwell litho/decals are applied or hand painted to a genuine Shelley piece. 

Fake Plates   Fake Plate Blue Fake Plate Fake Plate MLA Backstamp 11959

The issue here is that these litho/decals or hand painted scenes were never applied to these items in genuine Shelley production.  They have only been applied to enhance the value of what would otherwise have been a relatively plain piece of Shelley.  As the original piece had an original back-stamp the only way that these items can be distinguished is by the feel of the later applied decal/hand painting, and for those with more detailed experience, the knowledge that the item ‘doesn't look right’.  Commonly these children's ware litho/decals or hand painting have been applied to ‘grown ups’ items, such as a dinner plate or a tureen showing an incongruity between the item and its intended use.  A good test here is that if it doesn't look right it probably isn't.

Original Shelley Pieces which have been Decorated by China Painters to Demonstrate their Artistic Skills backstamp of fake dishdecorative fake dish
It is well known that over the years budding artists practiced their art on fine china with varying degrees of skill.  This of itself is not a problem.  The items have their place and many people are happy to have them in their collections.
However, a problem does arise if it is not clear when buying such an item that the decoration has been applied 'out of factory'. Commonly these will either have no handwritten pattern number or will have the handwritten initials of the artist on the base.  Whilst mostly white ware was used, in many cases the item will have been given an all over wash on the outside surfaces prior to applying the main decoration.  These items are generally easy to pick when you have them to hand as the high gloss that Shelley achieved on its final products is rarely evident and most have a duller finish. The artist's quality controls were not always up to the high Shelley standard and extra paint will appear in the wrong places particularly on the underside of the item.
In addition the photographic skills of many sellers make these items difficult to distinguish when bidding on the internet.  .

burgundy fake urnbackstamp of burgundy urnburgundy and gold fake dishbase of burgundy and gold dish

Authorised/Acknowledged Reproductions

Many people will have seen a variety of items in this category over the years and items are generally clearly marked to evidence one of the following:

- that they have been produced by one of the clubs to commemorate a particular event such as a club anniversary or convention.
- that they have been produced under another brand name but with approval for the use of any Shelley related aspects e.g. decals
- that they have been produced by someone else but with a clear acknowledgement that the item is not an original Shelley item.

- Pieces produced by one of the clubs to commemorate a particular event
Each of the Shelley Collectors clubs has arranged at various times for items to be produced to commemorate an event. Generally the items are in the Shelley style but have differences in size or design together with clear markings to show the reason for their production. Plaques were produced by all three to commemorate their 10th anniversaries and the UK club also produced a plaque to commemorate their 21st anniversary. Examples of these are shown below.

Shelley US Plaque NSCCShelley Plaque NSCCShelley UK PlaqueShelley UK Plaque - rear

Other items include coasters, trinket boxes, serviette rings and tiles showing Mabel Lucie Attwell designs.

- Pieces produced by another company name but with approval.

In 2000 Oakleigh Ceramics obtained a licence from the Mabel Lucie Attwell Trust to produce a range of items using designs from the 40's 50's and 60's. Fisherman Joe, Cowboy James, Little Blue Bird, Donkey and Cart, Caravan and Tricycle. These items are clearly marked with the Oakleigh Ceramics backstamp.

Oakleigh trinket boxOakleigh trinket box baseOakleigh serviette ringOakleigh mug

Items produced under other brand names include several Mabel Lucie Attwell pieces. They are included here not because there is anything wrong with them having been produced, as that happened even in Mabel Lucie Attwell's time and with her permission. Rather they have been included as their production was closely associated with the clubs through whom they were sometimes sold. Other items in this category include pieces produced without approval, in the same style as Shelley but of a far lesser quality , and usually around the time that the particular style was produced. They are generally easily recognised by their poor quality, often showing far less than the fine finish of the genuine Shelley article or having aged poorly.
Items of Queen Anne shape produced by other factories are shown below. The 'Cottage' and 'Crabtree' patterns are shown with the copy on the left and the original Shelley item on the right

Fake Queen Anne Cottage Cup and SaucerQueen Anne Cottage pattern Cup and Saucer  Queen Anne Crabtree pattern Cup and saucer  Queen Anne Crabtree pattern cup and saucer 

- Pieces produced by someone else but with a clear acknowledgement that the piece is not an original Shelley item.

Lil Bill and Lilybet
Examples in the third category are the Lil Bill and Lilibet statues in the Mabel Lucie Attwell style produced in 1997. While marked as having been produced for what claims to be the US club, these items were produced without their agreement by a club member and marketed by the member.
Generally the china is not as fine as original Shelley and although there are acknowledgments on the items, some sellers neglect to mention that fact particularly in listings on internet sites such as eBay. It would be reasonable to assume that an original Shelley item of that style would be very hard to find however these items appear on a regular basis.

Lil Bill and Lilybet backstamp

This guide is based on an article written by Gary Hoare for the Australian Shelley Collectors Club Magazine with contributions from members of all three collectors clubs. It is by no means a complete catalogue of all the 'fakes' that have been found but is published in the hope that it will assist collectors of Shelley to identify what is and what may not be the genuine item

If you are looking to buy something which you are not quite sure of, the services of the Shelley Group ( are available, so CHECK BEFORE YOU BUY!

Click here to view our Fake Backstamp Identifier.