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Two of the most expensive jugs ever sold at auction were produced in editions of only three: the model of Toby Gillette, the boy whose face was modelled in clay for an episode of , and that of the Staffordshire football legend Sir Stanley Matthews wearing Stoke (rather than England) colours.Although surprisingly few collectors buy both figures and character jugs, these two markets behave in much the same way.First named Watts & Doulton, the company started as a partnership between John Doulton, Martha Jones, and John Watts with a factory in London.The company changed partners several times over the following years, and by 1890, had 350 modelers and designers employed.Online trading, and e Bay in particular, has proved well-suited to Royal Doulton but it has brought a glut of examples to light - too many for even the large number of collectors in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to absorb.But rarities, those that plug holes in the collections of the top tier of Doulton collectors, are a different matter.

In determining the rarity from the run-of-the-mill, the collecting literature or online resources are essential starting points.As a general rule, the most desirable figures come from the first half of the 20 century.Exact production figures are not available but it has been said that even a popular pre-War figure would have been made in much smaller quantities than a modern edition - even a modern limited edition.Often it is the most popular Doulton designs, those that remained in production for many years, which can be bought most cheaply.Conversely, the more recent designs can become rare when the edition size does not meet collector demand.

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It took Charles Noke almost ten years to be satisfied with the standard of design and production, but in 1934 the first Doulton character jug was launched.