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If you've ever wondered how to 'read' a weights and measures verification mark, this short guide should help.

From 1878, British law changed to require local authorities to begin using a uniform system of verification marks. Marks were applied to a range of items pertaining to weights and measures. The object was to test the weight or measure to ensure it was not below the legal standard. It could be used if above the standard as no consumer (customer) would be cheated. Obviously, if below standard the customer would be the loser.

Typically, a verification mark carries the monarch's cipher (VR, GR, ER) followed by a numeral (single, double, triple digit). The monarch's cipher is easy to read (V = Victoria, G = George, E = Edward / Elizabeth). The numeral after the cipher (or below it) indicates the authority which passed the item as being of legal weight or measure.


1. In the example below of a verification mark on a wooden yardstick, the numeral 5 appears after the VR (Victoria) cipher. The 5 indicates the yardstick was verified by weights and measures inspectors based in Manchester.

2. In the example below of verfication marks on a pewter tankard, the number 392 appears after the VR (Victoria) and ER (Edward VII) ciphers, indicating the tankard was verified by weights and measures inspectors based in Carlisle.

The authoritative source for identifying issuing authorities is 'Marks and Marking of Weights and Measures of the British Isles', by Carl Ricketts (1996; ISBN 0952853302). This is a scarce book and is only available directly from the author. To order a copy, please email Carl Ricketts:

Fortunately for collectors the database of marks is available online and is fully searchable. Ebay does not allow external links to be placed into guides, so here's what you need to do to find the site:

1. Replace the three {DOT} bits below with, well, dots:


2. Google search for:

"A Brief Introduction to Verification Marks"

– Copy/paste this search string into Google (or any other search engine), making sure you keep the quote marks at the start and end.

– Make sure you search using "Pages from the UK"

– The top link should than take you straight to the Verification Marks look-up tool on the Antique Metalware website.


With thanks to Carl Ricketts for advice and information, and for permission to use the image of the Carlisle verification marks.

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