Merchant Marks

Samuel Flicke 1635 Merchant Mark

Samuel Flicke 1635 Merchant Mark

We have found records of a Merchant Mark belonging to Samuel Flicke in 1635. Here is a short description of the use and entitlement of Merchant Marks by F. A Girling.


Merchant Marks in Suffolk by F. A. Girling


“Merchants’ marks were used in order to ensure the speedy and

unambiguous recognition of goods belonging to individual traders.

They were in general use from about 1300 to 1600. Some are

earlier, as is shown by their occurrence at Bristol on deeds dated

1250 and on documents at Norwich dated 1286.1 The marks

identified the merchants and they thus became, to some extent, a

guarantee of quality and quantity. They were the precursors of

the trade mark of later times. The term merchant mark is not an entirely satisfactory one, for although all merchants appear to have

possessed a mark, the possession of a mark did not necessarily mean that its owner was a merchant. Many marks would, indeed, be

more accurately described as personal or identification marks. However, this term is the one which has become attached to the

group of? signs here under review and to change it would cause confusion.


Possibly the earliest use of a mark was to indicate the ownership of a house. From this it could be adapted to show the ownership

of such less important things as farm implements, cattle, swans, furniture and small personal possessions.


Marks were frequently used instead of signatures by the illiterate or in addition to signatures by the literate. They

were also used on signet rings, mainly for the witnessing of documents. As notarial signs they developed into fantastically elaborate

decorations. They were used heraldically, especially by men who had no coat of arms. Thus, benefactors of churches are commemorated

by having their marks carved on the fabric of the building or painted on window glass. A man would decorate his

house with his mark. He would also arrange for it to be placed on his tomb.


Linear marks are often similar to runes or combinations of runes,’ and there is evidence to support the theory that early

marks were derived froth runes. However, many simple marks which were adopted by men in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,

which have a runic appearance, certainly had no such ancient ancestry. Suffolk marks have, in general, a Nordic character,

even if not directly founded on runes. Probably trading contacts with the peoples in the Netherlands and around the Baltic was

responsiblefor this.”

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