THE “RB” MARKED PIECES
By Craig Nissen
One of the 2015 Society banquet presentations was on the topic of the “RB” marked pieces made by McCoy. This article is intended to be a summary of that presentation.
In late 2003, I wrote an article on this topic for the Journal. However, the point of that article was mainly trying to identify what the “RB” mark was and who was the customer. Since then a number of additional facts have surfaced as well as a couple of pieces not known at that time so given the 10+ years since that article and the new information, the topic seemed to be something that could be of interest to McCoy Collectors. The main point of the presentation centered around proving that these pieces were made by McCoy and not about what the “RB” mark stands for. The “RB” mark question still remains an unanswered one and we may never be able to clearly answer it but the facts could present themselves at any time.
There are not a lot of these “RB” pieces that have publicly surfaced but then it might also be fair to expect that it may partially be true because they are not marked McCoy and so collectors and dealers in general do not identify them as a piece of McCoy and they don’t know of a well-known maker that had the RB initials. Having said that, it is important to share that four of the pieces in the following photos have surfaced for sale in the last 12 months so finding one of more of these pieces is not an unattainable goal.
The first piece we reviewed is a well-known shape of a rare McCoy piece from 1939. The catalog image shown below is from a rare 1939 McCoy catalog sheet and the only year this piece was made. The two similar pieces to the right are of the same height and weight. The left is in the typical McCoy gloss aqua glaze. The right is in a gloss lime green glaze. The McCoy catalog piece carries just the “USA” mark and the other a “RB” mark. The bottom design is also identical on the pieces. In the catalog image, you can see that the McCoy production piece was made in green, yellow and white. The “RB” marked example has also been found in a gloss yellow.
The second piece for review is similar to what we collectors call the “V-Vase” in the Hobnail and Butterfly Lines. In the comparison photo, we have the “RB” marked piece on the left and the production Hobnail Line piece on the right. They are exactly the same height. The top rim and the side designs are identical. The bottoms are also of identical designs. The RB Vase has a completely different design running down the center of the piece. It is in a matte blue glaze, identical to the McCoy matte blue glaze used on many pieces in the early 1940s. This is the only glaze color found on this RB Vase to date.
The next piece is the “little brother” of the Vase above and is pictured next to it in the photo to the left. It is proportionally the exact same design reduced to a shorter size. As we collectors know, there are a number of pieces produced by McCoy from this early 1940s era that came in two sizes of similar designs. It is also marked RB on the bottom in a similar fashion as above. AS with the larger size, it has also only been found in the matte blue glaze.
The next piece is a small Vase of about 6 inches in height. This Vase is more available than not. Certainly it is not common but a handful show up on EBay in any given year. The two examples shown in the photo are typical matte aqua and matte blue McCoy style glazes. The bottoms are totally dry bottom and hence carry no mark. McCoy collectors have long felt this was a McCoy product but not found in any catalog listings.
The next piece is the “big brother” of the Vase above. It is proportionally the exact same design only larger at about 8 inches tall. This example is in the typical McCoy matte aqua glaze. It is marked “RB” on the bottom as you can see in the photo so this is very interesting and important. It explains why the smaller version above has not been found in McCoy Pottery catalogs of this era as it was likely part of the “RB” group of production pieces made. As we collectors know, there are a number of pieces produced by McCoy from this early 1940s era that were made in two different sizes but having similar designs. This Vase has also only been found in this matte aqua glaze.
To the left is a comparison of the NM Block style mark from many early 1940s McCoy pieces and that of the RB mark on some of these “RB” pieces. Note their similar styles. Even the “S” in USA is slightly larger in each mark. The other point to note is that as often as not, the RB pieces found have a mark that is difficult to read, lacking detail, which would suggest the mold for the piece was used to produce a noted amount of pieces and not just a very small quantity.
The next piece is a “Trough” planter which is 7-1/2” long and 4-1/2” wide. Note the photo showing the smaller “Trough” planter which is a catalog McCoy product from the era. You can see they have very similar design styles and proportions. It is marked RB on the bottom in a similar fashion to most of the other RB pieces. The bottom of the McCoy production piece is dry bottom. This RB Trough has been found in matte aqua and matte yellow glazes.
Now we have a little different twist. Below is the six inches tall McCoy Vase on the left in the photo. It has a dry bottom. On the right is the piece shown in the 1941 McCoy catalog. Shown on the right in the photo is a similar design Vase to the McCoy piece which was likely made by Haeger. So now that we have identified this McCoy product production piece, read on to the the information on the last RB piece in this article.
In this photo, we have a larger Vase standing about nine inches tall and in a similar design style to the six inch style Vase discussed above. This Vase adds a new wrinkle to this story. It was only produced in 1952 as it is in the McCoy Pottery 1952 catalog, (see catalog image on next page), and has only been found in typical early 1950s style glazes which would be consistent with the 1952 catalog timing.
Above is photo of the 1941 six inch Vase next to the nine inch Vase example. The six inch Vase is in the gloss aqua glaze from the early 1940s and the taller example as the soft minty style glaze from the late 1940s thru the early 1950s. The catalog image is from the 1952 McCoy catalog. Note the colors offered.
The other very interesting point is that this nine inch Vase has only been found with an “RB” mark on the bottom. None have surfaced with any different bottom design such as a “McCoy” mark or a dry bottom. Also, look at the style of this mark shown. It is exactly like that of the previous photo in the article showing the bottom mark of the eight inch tall matte aqua Vase.
Thinking in terms of the glazes colors, this nine inch Vase has been found in gloss yellow, gloss off-white, and two different gloss greens. One of these is the typical darker green of this early 1950s era and the other the typical soft or minty green from this era. All of these examples found have the same style RB marked bottom.
So how do we explain this timing related to the other pieces? First of all, we have no facts telling us exactly what and why. However, it seems one good possible scenario is that these two Vases above were both designed in the early 1940s to be part of the RB marked pieces. But then for some reason, they were not included in the production of the RB pieces. The smaller one was added to the McCoy products family and the larger one, already marked RB, was set aside for future use. Then in 1952 they decided to add it to the McCoy product family and used the mold, with the RB mark already there, for the production run.
One final twist on this nine inch Vase; a similar style Vase was made by more than one competitor of McCoy Pottery. As you can see in the photos to the right, Brush Pottery made one, which is marked Brush, and another one by likely Haeger. Abingdon is another possible maker of this 3rd example but given Haeger made the six inch size we previously discussed, Haeger is likely correct. So if you see one of these across the room for sale, don’t knock over everything getting there as it may not be the “real” McCoy.
Above are three different makers: McCoy, Brush and Haeger.
Note the difference in handle thickness…The Haeger on the right is much thicker. The McCoy and Haeger have similar upper shapes from top view whereas the Brush Vase does not flare in equal directions..
Bottom views showing the McCoy piece with the RB mark, the Brush marked piece and the typical bottom found on many Haeger made vases from the era with no mark.
So in summary, while we may never know what the “RB” letters represent nor who the customer was, it would seem the correct conclusion that we have proven these pieces to have been made by the McCoy Pottery Company. As such, keep a look out in your hunting, any of these pieces would be a nice addition to any McCoy Pottery collection!