Stickley instructed his workmen to place the shopmark "in an unobtrusive place." He wanted customers to be able to find it without it detracting from the beauty of the craftsmanship. It was often placed inside or under one of the top drawers, on the back of a case piece, on a chair stretcher or seat rail, underneath a seat, inside a door or under an arm or a top. Since the fragile decals did fade or could be damaged by refinishing chemicals, a bright light may be needed to spot what is left of it.
This is believed to be the first mark Gustav Stickley used on his furniture. This one-inch to 2.5-inches high red decal contains a joiner's compass (an early woodworker's tool) and the motto "Als ik kan," which is Flemish for 'As I can.' Beneath it we find only his last name encased in a red box. This shopmark was introduced in 1902 and was used throughout that year and 1903.
In late 1902 and throughout 1903 Stickley utilized a new variation of this same decal, enclosing the entire mark in a one-inch red box. Some large case pieces, however, known to have been made in 1903 will bear the 2.5 inch mark from 1902. Overlaps like this are not uncommon and reinforce why dating a piece from a shopmark alone is not always precise.
In 1904 two of Gustav's brothers opened their furniture business nearby, prompting him to add his first name to a shopmark he introduced that year. In addition, he dropped the box around the joiner's compass.This mark appears in two sizes: 2.5 inch and ¾ inch. It is distinguished from the next variation by the looping letter "G" (see how obsessive Stickley collectors get?). The 'looping G' shopmark was used from 1904-1907.
In 1905 another mark began appearing. This one is 1.5 inches high and has a more formal signature with a pointed letter "G." It was used from 1905 into 1912 and is considered the most commonly found of all his shopmarks, since this was his era of greatest production.
In 1912 came the final version: a 1.25 inch brand bearing the joiner's compass and only his last name. Why he switched from his familiar decals to a brand is open to speculation, as was his motivation to drop his first name from his shopmark. This branded mark remained in use until the close of Craftsman Workshops in 1916.
Starting in 1905 Gustav began using paper labels along with his decals and brands to identify his furniture. The first paper label was 2.75 inches by 3 inches on white paper and only made reference to Eastwood, N.Y., where his factory was located. It remained in use from 1905 - 1907.
In 1912 the final version, also on brown paper but with blue ink and measuring 4 inches by 6 inches, was introduced. It corresponds with the brand also introduced in 1912 and contains a lengthy text and guarantee.
Although not a definitive means of dating a piece of Craftsman Workshops furniture, the shopmarks of Gustav Stickley certainly add another dimension for collectors. Keep in mind, however, that condition and design play the most important role in determining the value of a Stickley piece, not the shopmark. As author David Cathers noted, "Know the furniture first, then look for marks as confirmation."
Reference: "Furniture of the American Arts and Crafts Movement" by David M. Cathers (Turn of the Century Editions, 1996).