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Tag Archives: authentication
We’re not sure who started the rumor that this big ol’ fish ashtray was by Walter Bosse. This guys is not as much a fake, but is more of an original by another artist working with blackening brass. They are most often found in Europe so we’re thinking they might be from another artist working in Austria around the same time. The style is definitely more realistic and heavily detailed, unlike Bosse’s work (Bosse mostly worked in a simple modernist style, with simple holes or dots for eyes). These fish ashtrays often seem to have a grey or greenish tint to the patina, which was the result of not sealing the patina properly or letting the object sit in the acid bath too long. These fish are never marked.
Don’t let all the listings out there fool you! This is NOT a Bosse. We’ve even seen these listed for $500 on 1stDibs as designed by “Walter Bosse for Hagenauer”. Bosse never worked for Hagenauer, they were competitors! Sellers often want to make the item their selling to seem the most valuable or rare so they’ll attach as many famous names to it as possible. These ashtrays are fairly common and would carry a value of around $40-$60 depending on condition.
Some of the most common Walter Bosse fakes out on the market right now are a collection of items from England. Almost always unmarked, the most common items are giraffes, horses, firehorses, dachshunds, donkeys, cats, gazelles, kangaroo, ducks, geese, and elephants. Sometime in the 1960s–’70s, a company in England started making copies of a few select Bosse models, and even went so far as to try and copyright them. We’ve seen a few marked items, and they are most often hand ashtrays and corkscrews. You can even find a patent number on the bottom of some of the items. After doing a bit of research on one of these patent numbers, we found it was associated with a generic casting company in England in the ’60s. They were most likely making these items on the side to make some extra money.
Is my item an authentic Walter Bosse or a copy from England?
Though some of the items are direct copies of Bosse’s work (like the firehorse, elephant, and donkey) many are not Bosse’s work at all. In the case of the firehorse, the English fakes just have the tips of the mane and tail polished, and not the whole mane or tail. These are also slightly smaller as they were most likely cast from a Bosse casting, not the original master. Similar to the Taxco fakes out there, these items were most likely imagined by an artist working for the casting company in the style of the items taken directly from Bosse. These English castings can be identified by their shiny black painted surface, which chips easily. They were not familiar with Bosse’s patina process, so they used black paint instead.
Check out all the fakes below:
And now, proudly reintroducing Walter Bosse’s legendary nesting hedgehog ashtrays. Modern Vienna Bronze has released a limited edition of 20 sets of Walter Bosse’s iconic six nesting hedgehog ashtrays, with handmade wooden crates and letterpress-printed certificates of authenticity. These famous nesting creatures have not been available since the 1960s, and now is your chance to own them in brand new condition, straight from Bosse’s original master molds.
This limited edition batch will be available exclusively through Fab.com, along with corkscrews and a selection of miniatures starting today. Quantities are extremely limited, so get them while they are still available!
Proudly reintroducing Walter Bosse’s legendary nesting hedgehog ashtrays.
Modern Vienna Bronze has released a limited edition of 20 sets of Walter Bosse’s iconic six nesting hedgehog ashtrays, with handmade wooden crates and letterpress-printed certificates of authenticity. These famous nesting creatures have not been available since the 1960s, and now is your chance to own them in brand new condition, straight from Bosse's original master molds.
Check out our little promotional video of the hedgehogs in motion:
Each set comes packed in a custom, solid wooden crate, nestled in shredded paper bedding. The boxes are topped with a sliding slatted wooden lid, and decorated with hand painted hedgehog silhouette and Walter Bosse graphics on the sides. The certificates of authenticity have been masterfully letterpress printed, with hand-applied gold dust on the logo.
Where can I get my Walter Bosse hedgehog set?
IN OUR SHOP
This limited edition batch is available through the Modern Vienna Bronze shop. Quantities are extremely limited, so get them while they are still available!
A note on history and authenticity
In 1952, Walter Bosse moved from Austria, his home since 1904, to Iserlohn in Western Germany. During this period spent in Germany, Bosse was prolific. Myriad new creations were produced, and in the late 1950s, the hedgehog ashtray was born. The revolutionary new design was immediately successful, and Bosse was not able to keep up with demand on his own. He sought partnerships with larger foundries, but his business relationships were fraught with trouble. Some of his suppliers would use his molds without authorization, casting additional models to be sold from underneath him. Others simply created their own facsimiles (with varying degrees of allegiance to the originals). Even the Soviet airline Aeroflot produced their own unauthorized sets as promotional gifts for frequent flyers. Thousands of copycat hedgehog ashtrays flooded the market, with examples identified from Spain, Greece, England, Germany, and Austria. Many of these vintage forgeries are being sold online today using Walter Bosse’s name. Bosse persevered despite the difficulty he had in protecting his work, and continued to sell his own sets. At one point, Woolworths offered Bosse millions in exchange for the right to produce the hedgehogs in mass quantities, but Bosse refused, recognizing that mass production on such a scale would necessarily impact the quality and craftsmanship of the merchandise, and ultimately hurt his name.
Bosse fought hard against the counterfeiters, making tremendous personal sacrifices to protect the integrity of his work and his name. His legal battles set precedents in the protection of copyright and intellectual property for creative artists. We look at this new generation of hedgehogs as an opportunity to honor Bosse’s work and legacy, adhering to the same high standards of materials and workmanship to which he devoted his life.
How to identify a real set of Bosse hedgehogs
Here are some of the characteristics that help to indicate the differences between an original Bosse hedgehog ashtray set and a reproduction:
- Bosse’s set of hedgehog ashtrays consists of six individual parts.
- The length of the largest hedgehog is about 115mm.
- Bosse’s hedgehogs were cast only in brass.
- Bosse originals were polished and patinated in a manner consistent with those shown in our photographs.
- The eyes of the hedgehogs are small, concave indentations; many fakes and forgeries feature protruding, convex eyeballs.
- Many fakes include textured fur on the sides of the hedgehogs; this is incorrect and indicates a copy. The surfaces of original Walter Bosse hedgehog ashtrays are smooth.
As an additional mark of authenticity, our reintroduced Bosse hedgehog ashtrays are marked with “Bosse Austria” on the underside of the largest hedgehog between the front legs.
We are proud to be able to give Walter Bosse collectors worldwide a new chance to own the design that best represents his life’s accomplishments.
More information on spotting the differences between original Walter Bosse hedgehogs and fakes can be found here.
IN OUR SHOP
A bit of history on Walter Bosse’s hedgehog ashtrays:
At the end of 1952, Walter Bosse moved from Austria, where he lived since his birth in 1904, to Western Germany. He settled in the area of Iserlohn, because creditors were chasing him and his friends and business partners were cheating him. He wanted to concentrate on his job of being an artist. This time was very productive for Bosse, and he created an entire collection of new designs in the late 1950s. During that period, the hedgehog ashtray set was born. It was a revolutionary design, and quickly became popular worldwide. He was not able to even keep up with all the international orders and looked for partners to perform the casting on his behalf. Some foundries used his moulds and masters without discretion and sold models illicitly without his knowledge. Meanwhile, many thousands of copies based on Bosse’s design were being produced and sold throughout the world. The Russian airline Aeroflot even produced a set as a gift given to their frequent flyers. Copies were made in Spain, Greece, England, Austria and Germany. Bosse knew about this, but he kept on selling his hedgehogs at the Frankfurt International Fair for many years. Interestingly enough, Bosse’s hedgehogs could have made him a millionaire: Woolworth offered Bosse a several million dollar contract for the copyright of the ashtray set but Bosse would not agree. He feared that with mass-production, the hedgehogs would lose the charm and quality of his originals.
Bosse spent most of his later years fighting copyright cases for his items, mostly over this set of hedgehog trays and hand-shaped ashtrays. They were among his most prolifically stolen designs. Unfortunately, he was not able to benefit from the court’s decision. Bosse died soon after the courts decision to award him copyright of his items. His was the first decision of its kind and a landmark case that would live on and benefit all arts and crafts makers and designers from that point forward.
And now, here’s a list on spotting the differences between all the stacking hedgehog ashtrays out there.
A FEW THINGS TO NOTE FOR AUTHENTICATION:
Bosse only produced these ashtrays in brass, never in aluminum/pewter or ceramic. Foundries in Germany did work with aluminum later without his permission and sometimes German Silver items as well but these sets are much rarer and harder to find.
Bosse did not let largely flawed castings out of his shop and onto the sales floor. If an item was flawed it was remelted and cast again. The bronze fakes are often chipped and pitted and the aluminum fakes often have casting seams.
Bosse’s Hedgehogs were almost NEVER marked. With the exception of 1 set I found with the mark “Made in Germany” stamped underneath, his sets did not come with markings or stickers identifying the maker. 99% of the time they were unmarked.
Referring to the smallest hedgehog or “baby” of the set. It can be used to authenticate your ashtrays. Bosse’s moulds differed slightly from one to the next so both “babies” with elongated legs and incised cross legs are authentic. Remember, some of Bosse’s original moulds were destroyed during the war & he had to re-create a number of them. Also, during & after the war, metal resources were harder & more expensive to acquire so during this period Bosse’s designs were simplified. He cut costs such as making the “baby’s” legs an incised cross instead of 4 raised legs.
Bosse’s trays never had texture to them. They are always smooth bronze with a black patina. Fakes have raised fur, eyes and incised ears. He also made a rarer authentic version of trays in just polished bronze with no black patina.
First off, the only image out there of a real Walter Bosse set of hedgehog ashtrays is a picture of a Bosse catalog page from the book Walter Bosse: Leben Kunst und Handwerk 1904 – 1979. Though it’s almost 100% in German, even if you can’t read German it is an amazing resource on Bosse’s work.
REAL – In the catalog picture, note the length of the nose and shape of the spines. They are all rounded and polished to a slight fade as opposed to a sharp polished line. The quality of the castings is very high. This version’s nose seems to be shorter than the one in the picture. Both long and short nosed sets of trays were made by Bosse but with different moulds. The short nosed trays being later moulds and having a “baby” with incised feet. The longer nosed trays being the earlier moulds with elongated feet. Bosse’s work tends to differ greatly from mold to mold even within the same model as everything was handmade.
REAL – During Bosse’s time in Germany, he entrusted his casting and selling to local foundries and only asked for a licensing fee (as he did not have the money to set up his own workshop). He gave his originals and moulds to these foundries and found that they were casting and selling his items out from under him without giving him these fees. One such foundry, to save costs, started experimenting with aluminum. That is where this set came from. It is extremely rare but made with the same moulds and masters as the bronze items.
REAL – This set is quite a mystery and is the only set I have ever seen of its kind. It is made of “German Silver” or “Nickel Silver” which is a copper alloy with the usual formulation of 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. It is definitely from the same moulds as the originals and is the same size and consistency as the others. It is also very heavy (unlike the aluminum ones). This set is extremely rare.
FAKE– This set of trays is the “sharper” version and is not consistent with the catalog pictures. It is often lower quality with pitting and chips on the spines. The shape of nose and spines are very sharp and not rounded. The smallest hedgehog also has the elongated legs that Bosse’s earlier moulds had. Also, the interior of the eyes are drilled out and polished inside, which was not done by Bosse. The polish inside the eyes means the patina process was done before they drilled the eyes. Bosse’s moulds had the eyes pre-drilled and put the patina on after.
FAKE – This aluminum set was produced as a promotional giveaway for an airline (possibly Aeroflot) as well as Russian Souvenirs. The Aeroflot ones are marked with a winged logo and the Russian dishes with another mark. Both dishes are considerably lighter weight with polished nose and spines and incised fur, eyes and ears. “Babies” for both trays usually have elongated legs. The Russian ones came in a box reading “пепельница ёж сувенир” which translates literally to “souvenir ashtray hedgehog.”
FAKE – Next up is another set of aluminum trays. These are usually marked “Made in Greece”. These are the lowest quality I’ve seen, with most having seams from casting that were not ground off. A bronze colored patina was usually applied over the aluminum to give it a darker and less silver color. They look very similar to the Russian and Aeroflot aluminum ones, having the same incised fur and body shape, but there are usually no polished parts. The “baby” has the incised cross for legs.AS AN END NOTE: Remember, there is always an exception to the rule! No-one’s perfect and Bosse wasn’t either. So if you have any info I’ve left out or made an error please email. Thanks and hope this helps! Keep collecting!