A guide to Coffee Cans


Straight-sided cylindrical coffee cans were a part of the tea services made in the period from 1780 to 1820. Few have makers marks, but many can be identified by their characteristic handle shapes. Here are some examples.

This guide will help you trace a can to the factory which made it. More help can be found in "A Compendium of British Cups" by Michael Berthoud. Since most makers did not use marks, many cans cannot be identified. Future research may reveal which of the known porcelain and china potteries made these cups. 


To use the guide click on pictures which match your can and follow the links to examples of each type. Clicking on a can picture will show an enlargement. See the Notes page where I explain how the measurements were made.

Features used to trace factories are: Marks on the base (uncommon), Handle shapes (perhaps the most useful feature after marks because they were cast in moulds), Pattern numbers on the base (only used by some makers), Decoration, Body (hard-paste, bone-china, colour, crazing, translucency, etc), Shape of can and base (thickness of the can walls, depth of cavity under base).  This colour indicates confident identification. In most cases identification is tentative!


Marks are found on cans made by Derby, Hicks and Meigh, Miles Mason, Minton, Rathbone, Spode, Wedgwood, Worcester and others. Click on the picture to see examples.

Derby Derby   Minton Wedgwood
Rathbone Rathbone Seal mark Seal mark Worcester

 Handle shapes are shown below.  Handles were made in moulds so are quite consistent. Distinguishing their fine points is important as some types can guide us quickly to the maker. Click on picture to see the varieties within each broad type. Click on "French" + others for more angular shapes or handles that are unlike any picture. White arrows indicate distinguishing features.

simple loop simple loop + kink loop + dent loop + rest loop + inner spur square + others
loop + kink loop + kink loop + 2 kinks ring ring + rest ring + clip

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