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Walter Bosse Fakes – A History of the Greek Hedgehog Ashtrays

Greek Hedgehog Ashtrays

After finding of one of these “Made in Greece” stamped hedgehog ashtrays with a photo of a box, I figured it was time to do an updated post. Let’s start with the basics. This hedgehog ashtray is made of a white metal, probably a zinc based metal alloy with an applied antiqued patina in a bronze or copper color. It is not aluminum as previously thought as it is too heavy. This type of production would get you a much more detailed casting and richer color for much cheaper than casting with actual brass/bronze. You can tell it is a white metal casting because wherever the copper color is rubbing off, you see the silver colored metal underneath. They have textured fur and ears as well as eyes that stick out from the surface of the sets.

Greek Hedgehog Ashtray BabyGreek Hedgehog Ashtray Baby - Base

The baby has elongated legs looks almost exactly like the Russian sets (but with no incised ears). The casting seams from the mold are seen clearly running down the front of the face of the largest set and the bases all have holes where the sprues were attached just like the base of the baby.

Made in Greece Mark - Hedgehog Ashtrays
Greek Fallow Deer Logo - N A 1947As far as markings go, all sets are stamped on the inside bowls with “Made in Greece” and a Deer (possibly Ibex/goat) logo. The two letters inside the logo read “N” & “A”, possibly the initials of casting firm? The date inside the logo reads “1947”. We know Walter Bosse did not develop his hedgehog designs until somewhere around 1952. The date in the logo may just be referencing the founding of the company and not the date of manufacture. If you look at other items cast by this company the same date shows up, hence it’s just a part of their logo.

Ancient Greek Amphora from Rhodes with fallow deer Bronze Rhodian Fallow Deer Statue Rhodes Souvenir Deer Ashtray
It would make the most sense for the animal in the logo to be a Fallow deer, know locally as Platoni or Dama dama, and were considered the symbol of Rhodes in Greece. Two bronze statues of the deer face the entrance to the old harbor (see the images above), it was a symbol used throughout ancient times (as seen on the Amphora), and through modern times (as on this souvenir enamel ashtray). As the 50s and 60s came modernism grew and artistic depictions of the deer got more stylized. I believe this Fallow Deer is what is depicted in the logo.

Greek Hedgehog Ashtray BoxGreek Hedgehog Ashtray Deer Logo
From the box, we can gather a bit more information than just the markings inside the hedgehogs. I traced the logo so we can see a bit more of the detail. The box reads “Athens, Greece”, possibly where it was manufactured. The telephone number on the box reads “TEL: 2815747”, possibly an old style of telephone number that turned up no results.
I imagine this was the company manufacturing the hedgehogs, as well as manufacturing and casting other souvenirs for sale at shops in Greece.

Greek God Pan Ashtray - Made in GreeceRound Parthenon Ashtray - Greek God Pan Ashtray - Made in Greece
A quick Google search for metal ashtrays made in Greece started turning up other items from the same company with the same logo in the back. Here are a few examples of other items cast by this company above, including souvenir ashtrays of the Greek God Pan with goat horns on his head, and one of the Parthenon. The logo is a little better so you can get a lot more detail. These also have model numbers on them: curious enough they both are marked #29825, possibly for the shape of the ashtray instead of the design?

Greek vs Russian Hedgehog Ashtrays - Difference Operation
Greek vs Russian Hedgehog Baby - Difference Operation
Finally, I actually found the two Russian and Greek sets so similar I decide to try a “Difference” operation in Photoshop and was kind of astonished. I didn’t even try to take the photos in the exact same position and they almost match up perfectly, especially the overall shape of the sets. If you’re not sure what you’re looking at in the photo above, images of the two sets (1 Russian and 1 Greek) were overlayed on top of each other. The black of the image shows where the two sets are not overlapping. The lighter parts of the image show where the sets overlap (the Greek in the brown color and the Russian in the bluish color). As you can see, I also ran the same operation on the two baby hedgehogs and found similar results. I think these were cast directly from a Russian set, making a mold out of a Russian hedghehog, using it as their master. You would lose a lot of the original detail, which is exactly what happened here with the Greek sets. We know Russia was making these for export to Greece because 1МПЗ mentioned it on their site.

So that’s it! These were definitely not made by Walter Bosse, but by a company with the initials “N A” and founded in 1947, possibly in Athens, Greece. They were direct copies of the Russian sets and are made of a zinc alloy with copper or bronze plating. The same company made other souvenir Grecian ashtrays. I hope all this ended up being helpful!

 

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Walter Bosse Fakes – A History of 1МПЗ Russian Hedgehog Ashtrays

Russian Hedgehog Ashtrays

It has taken me almost 8 years of research until I finally made a break in this case 3 days ago. I have focused mainly on authenticating the Walter Bosse hedgehog ashtrays, but I thought I should turn my attention to researching the origins of this forgery. It all started with someone mentioned that they thought the set of hedgehogs were made by famous Russian casting firm “Kaslinsky foundry” (spelled Каслинском / Каслинское / or Касли (Kasli) литейном заводе). I began digging into their history to see what I could find. Here’s a snippet from their Wikipedia page:

“Founded in 1747 in Kasli, Chelyabinsk region. They made high quality art casting out of cast iron with sand casting method. Kaslino workers used German castings brought by Grigory Zotov from Berlin as their first samples. The cast iron alloy, has lightness and delicacy. And at the same time, the casting objects have a feeling of steel hardness and durability. In 1934 a special shop for artistic and architectural casting (completely renovated, expanded and modernized at the end of the 1980s) was established, which was tasked with updating the themes of artistic products in order to reflect modernity.”

Sounds promising? After a bit of digging but I ended up finding that although the dates worked out and they did do artistic-casting, they really only worked in a very specific type of cast iron. I was actually able to find a Russian set that looks like it was made with the same Kasli-metal but it is quite crude. You can see that it is solid black and has a sandy cast iron texture with a lot less detail. There is also definitely no silver polishing like all the other Russian sets (this is not done with cast iron). See photo below (courtesy of Kaslinskoe-Litye.com).
Kaslinsky Foundry Hedgehog Ashtrays
Considering the fantastic detail Kaslinsky they were getting out of their art casting I kind of still doubt this one was even manufactured by them (but cast iron is notoriously difficult to work with). Also, as a fine art casting foundry they were not set up to pump out thousands of these sets that now flood the market (and did back then as well). There was also no record of them using anything similar to the logo on the bottom of all the hedgehogs. It felt like a bit of a dead end.

1MPZ Russian Hedgehog Logo

So I decided to turn my attention to deciphering the Russian logo instead. I found a few other people mention that the logo reads МПЗ (which means MPZ), but I made a break in the case after my type designer partner suggested that there might be an implied “1” in front of the МПЗ. That brought us to 1МПЗ, or the 1st Moscow Instrument Making Plant, which has been around as far back at 1914 manufacturing parts for the aircraft industry and located in the Dorogomilovo district. It was initially called in 1917 Aviapribor (Авиаприбор), in 1935 it was named after Sergo Ordzhonikidze (Серго Орджоникидзе), in 1942 it becomes 1МПЗ (1MPZ), and in 1981 after Vasily Alexandrovich Kazakov (Василия Александровича Казакова). Their website can be found at https://www.1mpz.ru/ and a translation with google at https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ru&tl=en&u=https://www.1mpz.ru/. The history/about page on the website states:

“By 1940, the plant was the main enterprise for the production of aviation instruments, producing 80-100% of aviation devices in Russia. The plant glorified its name not only by rapid development and implementation of the most complex aviation control systems, but also by the production of consumer goods in 1945. Beds with a metal mesh, pharmaceutical scales, children’s toys, vacuum cleaners, high strength magnets, etc. were produced. In 1963, a specialized workshop for consumer goods was created from scattered areas. In the late 80s it grew into an Industrial Complex for the production of consumer goods for radio, household and souvenir products. Consumer goods produced by our plant were exported to Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Syria, Germany, France and other countries. In 1988, in order to improve quality of manufactured products and increase the volume of production of civilian products and profit, a specialized design bureau was created at the plant, engaged in the development and introduction of serial production of products for export all over the world, with high serialability as the main focus.”

Now that’s getting a lot closer! All the boxes the the Russian hedgehogs come in say “пепельница ёж сувенир” or “Souvenir Hedgehog Ashtrays” and the website mentions a history of specifically manufacturing souvenirs. Also Bosse mentioned in an essay he wrote that the Russian hedgehogs had to be manufactured in large quantities to make them profitable:

“The hedgehogs made in Russia seem to run in particularly large batches, because zinc injection molding requires expensive molds that are only really worthwhile for very large productions.”

So I guess these are now made out of zinc! I then turned my attention to finding as many boxes as I could to see if there was any detail I could decipher. Here are all the boxes and the logos on the bottoms of the hedgehogs:
1MPZ Russian Hedgehog Box1MPZ Russian Hedgehog Box1MPZ Russian Hedgehog Box
Orange MPZ Russian Hedgehog Ashtray BoxEarly 1MPZ Hedgehog Ashtray Marking  Later 1MPZ Hedgehog Ashtray Marking

The boxes all had similar specific manufacturing data on the sides and one set even had a manufacturing date. Two of the boxes even had old price stickers from the retail stores they were sold in. One sticker reads: “Beriozka” (Берёзка, “little birch tree” ) and the other “Березка”. Beriozka is a state run retail store that sold luxury items in exchange for foreign currency. Opened 1969, closed 1990s. Networks of Beriozka stores were called “birches”. Both had a cost of 1.80 (1 Ruble and 80 Kopecks). Here is what the boxes read:

ту 1-508-0005-80 / ту 1-508-0005-77         TU1-508-0005-80 / TU1-508-0005-77
Цена з PУБ.   Aрт. c-мг-434                           Price Per Rubles   Article S-MG-434
Дата выпуска   OTK штамп                           Date of Issue   Quality control department Stamp
Нояжь   1985 K-86                                            November 1985   K-861MPZ Russian Hedgehog Box

So now all I had to do was find this logo in use on some of the other products manufactured by 1МПЗ (1MPZ). Luckily, that’s exactly what I was able to find! Items include a zinc souvenir medal from the war of 1812, a magnetic cabinet latch (magnets manufacturing was mentioned on their site), an enamel medal from the 1980 Russian Olympic Games, a metal lighter, and a zinc souvenir bottle stopper from the war of 1812. Here’s a collection of the images below:

1MPZ 1812 Souvenir Zinc Medal
1MPZ Magnetic Cabinet Latch

1MPZ 1980 Russian Olympic Medal with Original Packaging
1MPZ Red Cap Metal Lighter
1MPZ 1812 Souvenir Zinc Bottle Stopper

So all these items seem to use the same logo. The bottle stopper and the medal both use the same type of zinc metal that the hedgehog ashtrays use (blackened with silver polishing). If and if you look at 2 packages that have information on the backs, they all use the same kind of model numbering system and are from the 1980s. For example, the Olympic medal reads:

Сувенир – вымпел              Souvenir – pennant
ОЛИМПИАДА 1980          OLYMPIAD 1980
АРТ. С-МГ-34Д-78             Article S-MG-34D-78
ЦЕНА 1 ру6. 90 коп.          PRICE 1 ruble 90 kopecks
Клеймо ОТК                         OTK Stamp (Quality Control Department)
Дата вылука                         Manufacture date
январь 1980 K-80               January 1980 K-80

1MPZ Olympic Medal Packaging

This is the exact same format used on the stickers on the sides of the hedgehogs. The last clue in the case came at the end of the packaging for the 1812 souvenir pennant. The bottom of the package has the 1МПЗ (1MPZ) logo as well as reading “Первый московский приборостроительный 3-д / 121170, Москва, Г-170” or “The First Moscow Instrument-Making 3-d / 121170, Moscow, G-170″ which is located within the Dorogomilovo district where 1МПЗ (1MPZ) still stands today.
1MPZ 1812 Souvenir Medal Packaging
Last but not least, I want to turn my attention to the winged sets previously attributed to Aeroflot. I have not seen them using the 1МПЗ (1MPZ) branding anywhere but they are definitely made by the same manufacturer. Below are two models with the winged logos: one earlier (from the 70s) and one later (from the 80s). The earlier one is bare light silver metal and the later one has dark applied patina and polishing. Other than that they look exactly the same and are made with the same metal and same casting techniques at the 1МПЗ (1MPZ). Russain Aeroflot Hedgehog AshtraysAeroflot Logo
Russian Winged Hedgehog Ashtrays

Russian Winged Hedgehog Ashtray Logo

So now let’s turn our attention to the winged logo and the possible Aeroflot attribution. The fact that 1МПЗ (1MPZ) was making aviation equipment for Aeroflot probably led to the attribution of this being an “Aeroflot” branded set. While it is possible that these hedgehogs were purchased and sold by Aeroflot when the plant expanded to making housewares and souvenirs, I don’t think they are Aeroflot branded. Here is a photo of the winged logo and a photo of all the Aeroflot logos ever used by the airline for comparison:
Russian Winged Hedgehog Ashtray Logo
Aeroflot Historical Logos
Upon closer examination of the two logos side by side shows significant differences between the two. The winged hedgehog logo only ever has two wings with 3 feathers surrounding a central design of interconnected circles with a dot in the center. The Aeroflot logo always involves a hammer and sickle in the center with two wings on either side. The wings always have 4 or more feathers with the two handles of the hammer and sickle extending below the circle.

Although it could be argued that the winged logo was a simplified Aeroflot design for use at a small size, we know the casting from the hedgehogs could capture detail well. Also, the Aeroflot logo was used in small applications, as seen on this small souvenir enamel pin. So with all that, I believe the winged logo is actually the earlier logo of “Авиаприбор” or “Aviapribor” before the name was changed to 1МПЗ (1MPZ) in the 1980s. There is no record of the “Aviapribor” logo, but similar logos show up on aviation equipment from the period (2 wings around a central design).

Now on to the box. The only box I have ever seen in existence that is associated with winged set is this orange and blue box with an illustration of a hedgehog on the front and reads “Hedgehog Ashtray” and “Souvenir” in a logo up in the right-hand corner. Here are photos:

Russian Aeroflot Hedgehog Ashtray Box
Russian Aeroflot Hedgehog Ashtray Box Stacked

If you look closely at the side of this box, it also seems to have some dating info on the side as well. This reads:

АРТИКУЛ С-1                               ARTICLE C-1
ЦЕНА 3 руб.                                 PRICE 3 Rubles
ту 1-508-0005-77                         tu 1-508-0005-77
Дата выпука И – 78                    Date of issue  June/July – 78
Штамп ОТК                                 OTK Stamp (Quality Control Department)
ТИЗ. зак № 10751-15000         TIZ. order № 10751-15000

This is the exact same numbering system used by 1МПЗ in the above hedgehog boxes and other product packaging so I believe it is made by the same company. The date of this set is earlier, made around June/July of 1978. Interestingly this set originally cost more money, 3 Rubles, even though it was manufactured earlier. It is possible that the increased price because they were made for Aeroflot as souvenirs for tourists, thus they could charge a higher markup. The other sets were sold domestically in stores to locals. It’s also possible that the expansion of the plant’s capabilities allowed for them to manufacture these even cheaper after the 80s.

Final conclusions (TLDR): The fake Russian hedgehog ashtrays are made by 1МПЗ (1MPZ), or the “1st Moscow Instrument Making Plant” and NOT by Walter Bossse. They are made of zinc with injection molding, which required large scale manufacturing. One set was made in November of 1985. The original price in the 1980s was 1 Ruble and 80 Kopecks and were sold at networks of Beriozka stores. The Aeroflot set was made by the same manufacturer and the original box has an earlier date of June/July 1978. It cost 3 Rubles.

 

 

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Common Walter Bosse Fakes – “M.I. Germany” Solingen

Walter Bosse Hedgehog Ashtrays - Green Patina Verdigris
Walter Bosse Hedgehog - Green Patina
Walter Bosse Hedgehog - Green Patina Walter Bosse Hedgehog Baby Comparison - Green Patina

I’m not sure how exactly I began this long strange journey, but I know it all started with this green hedgehog. I have seen these on the market for years, but something about them always bothered me. I think I have finally been able to get some proof that not only are the fish ashtrays made by “M.I. Germany” and NOT Bosse, but that these hedgehogs that use the same green patina/verdigris are most likely cast by the same company. If you look at the relatively small amount of “M.I. Germany” marked items out there, you will see they had a fondness for this green patina and a proficiency in casting brass as well as other metals.

Brass Fish Ashtray
M.I. Germany - Brass Fish Ashtray
UPDATE #1

I recently got a tip that there was a fish ashtray out there (that is often attributed to Bosse) that actually had a marking on the bottom. I finally found one and snapped it up so I could post it here. I think we finally have an attribution/artist for these! Surprise, it’s not Bosse! The marking on the bottom of this ashtray says “M.I.Germany”. I imagine the “M.I.” might stand for “Made in” as in “Made in Germany” but it’s kind of a strange way to typeset it. It could also be the artist’s initials, so I don’t want to throw out that theory. So for now, I’d say we can attribute these fish ashtrays to “M.I.Germany”, whether that be an artist’s name or workshop. My hunch is that these fish ashtrays started be attributed to Walter Bosse because of all the green patina/verdigris hedgehog ashtrays like the one posted above. As I have stated previously, I generally view those hedgehogs as fake and not authorized by Walter Bosse.

Brass Leaf Shaped Bowl - M.I. Germany
Brass Leaf Shaped Bowl - M.I. Germany
UPDATE #2
Next up is a ashtray with the same mark “M.I.Germany” on the underside. It is an abstract leaf shaped bowl with little tripod legs on the base. It has the same brown/black and green patina over brass. As we get to see more pieces of their work, it’s helpful to start to get an idea of the workshop behind the “M.I. Germany” mark and gain some insight into their aesthetic. I think it is highly likely that they are the originators of all the German (and possibly Austrian occupied) brass and bronze castings out there with green patina/verdigris. I’m not an expert in WWII trade between countries so I can’t say if this mark was used in Austria during the war when it was essentially considered German territory. I know you can also find a similar marking on vintage straight razors, knives, and sewing scissors. They often have the “i” in lower case and are accompanied by a stamp from their US importers.

M.I. Germany - Etruscan Ashtray
MI Germany Mark - Ashtray
UPDATE #3

Another example of an “M.I. Germany” marked ashtray/bowl with a swirling and somewhat Etruscan style. It also has black and green patina with polished brass highlights.

 

Solingen "M.I. Germany"

UPDATE #4
I have a theory that all of these may have been made in Solingen, Germany. Above is a pocket knife that uses the same mark in conjunction with “Solingen”. It has a stainless steel knife and a body made of deer horn. The “M.I. Germany” mark looks almost identical to the marks on the other items above.

M.I. Germany Key Corkscrew
German Key Corkscrew - Green Patina
Solinger Germany Tag
UPDATE #5
I found the above key corkscrew with the same “M.I. Germany” marking on it. It is similar in style to ones made by Carl Auböck where the shank unscrews to reveal the corkscrew and has a bottle opener component on the top. This one has a greek-key design on the bottom. I then found the same key with the telltale black and green patina of “M.I. Germany”. The next thing I found was a similar German key corkscrew with this “Solinger” (which means “from “Solingen”) golden paper tag. I doubt this is the ONLY company making items with the “M.I. Germany” marking but it is the only workshop I have been able to find using this mark at this point. Let me know if you have anything that can fill in the knowledge gaps!

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Common Walter Bosse Fakes – Striped Bell

 

Walter Bosse Style Richard Rohac Striped BellThe story of this bell has more of a happy ending than some of the other miss-attributions we’ve seen. Thanks to our friends Sal Robinson and Wayne Meadows for finding a copy of an original sales catalog from Richard Rohac’s workshop. We are now able to confirm this bell is made by Richard Rohac!  If you are interested in learning about Bosse, Rohac, Hagenauer and more in the context of their corkscrew designs, go pick up their book  “AUSTRIAN FIGURAL CORKSCREW DESIGN: AUBÖCK · BOSSE · HAGENAUER · ROHAC” (ISBN 978-0-9689294-1-4).

Check out the original catalog page below!

Richard Rohac Catalog Page - Black Gold Striped Bell

And there it is, #64 on page 55 of his catalog! These bells are often unmarked and we’re not sure why except that there isn’t a lot of flat surface are to put a mark on and you’d probably only get a partial mark out of it if you tried to stamp it.

A little background about Richard Rohac. He worked at Werkstätte Hagenauer for a period of time, refining his technique. In the 1950s/60s he branched out and started his own company (see the front of his original catalog below). His works are rendered in a more realistic style and are extremely finely cast and finished.  He worked in brass in the Modern Viennese Bronze style with acid-etched black patina with polished gold highlights. They are often marked with two R’s (RR) with their backs facing each other. He also used a secondary mark “Made in Austria” stacked and set in a slight oval shape.

Richard Rohac Catalog Page

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Common Walter Bosse Fakes – Donkey Salt and Pepper Holder

 

Walter Bosse Style Donkey Holder with Salt and Pepper Shakers

Walter Bosse Style Donkey Holder with Salt and Pepper Shakers Walter Bosse Style Donkey Holder with Salt and Pepper Shakers Walter Bosse Style Donkey Holder with Salt and Pepper Shakers Walter Bosse Salt and Pepper Shakers

Walter Bosse style Donkey Pulling Wooden Cart Salt CellarWe’ve seen this donkey holder with salt and pepper shakers all over the place! Generally, these donkeys are made of  metal coated with paint, with wooden salt and pepper pots resting on brass wire rings. The brass wire rings are attached to a piece of metal that rests in the middle of the donkey’s back like a saddle and are riveted in place. We have also seen versions of these donkeys pulling wooden carts with matching wooden spoons/scoops. They look to be used as salt cellars. It has quite often been attributed to Bosse but it just so happens it is NOT made by him. We’ll outline the details why below!

  1. These donkeys seem to be made of a white/silver metal (which Bosse did not work in) and coated in a black paint or enamel. As a result, the black paint tends to chip off in little flakes, revealing the metal underneath. If you are not sure and want to test what the metal is, it’s a good idea to pick an inconspicuous place like the bottom of one of the feet and do a small test scratch. Generally, if the metal is silver, it is not Bosse!
  2. The donkey has no polishing points and is just solid black. Bosse liked to use the play between matte black and shiny polished brass to highlight areas of design on his animals. He either fully polished or acid etched a patina and highlighted with polishing, but he never left items with a full patina and no polishing. Often times, you will find vintage Bosse brass items that look all black, but if you look closely, you can see the original areas of polishing.
  3. The design of the donkey is similar to Bosse, but not the same. The design of the legs and tail are too thin.

This donkey is one of the items that walks a line between being a copy and being a similarly modernist styled item. A few of the things that make this donkey more of a copy are the ears, eyes, tail and mane: they are all very similar to Bosse’s. The salt and pepper pots have also been seen with authentic Bosse models. This could be because these salt and pepper pots were an off-the-shelf item you could get locally. We’ve seen these pop up mostly around Europe and Austria so it was most likely another Austrian maker working in the same period of the 60s. This donkey is always unmarked.

Real Bosse Salt & Pepper Holders:

See some of Bosse’s original salt and pepper holders below for comparison. The zebra is marked “Baller Austria” and has toothpick holder pots instead of salt and pepper pots. The first donkey is marked “Baller Austria” and has glass pots with brass screw on tops. The second donkey is a later model done while Bosse was in Germany. It has a rougher and flatter shape and has bent brass wire rings resting on its back for holding the salt and pepper pots. The camel has the same wooden shaped salt and pepper pots as the fake donkey above. It is marked “Baller Austria”. All the holders (with the exception of the German donkey) have the rings for holding the salt and pepper pots cast in place with the animal. They are not a separate piece.

Walter Bosse Zebra Holder with Salt and Pepper Shakers Walter Bosse Donkey Holder with Salt and Pepper Shakers Walter Bosse Donkey Holder with Salt and Pepper Shakers Walter Bosse Camel Holder with Salt and Pepper Shakers

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Common Walter Bosse Fakes – Dachshund Bottle Opener

Fake Walter Bosse Dachshund Bottle Opener

We’re not sure where this little dachshund figurine came from but it sure is cute! These are often attributed to Bosse but are NOT made by him. Though he did work with un-patinated polished brass it was mostly early in his career. It took quite a bit more finishing work to get a high-shine finish. Working with black patina over brass and picking your highlights was actually an easier process and would hide casting issues much more easily.

This is another item we wouldn’t necessarily deem a fake but more of a similarly modernist styled item. We’ve seen this dachshund pop up mostly around Europe and Austria so it was most likely another Austrian maker working in the same period of the 60s. This little guy works as a bottle opener and knife/spoon rest and is always unmarked. It’s also pretty common and would bring about $35-$45 depending on condition.

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Common Walter Bosse Fakes – Brass Fish Ashtray & “M.I. Germany”

Fake Walter Bosse Fish Ashtray

We’re not sure who started the rumor that this is a “Walter Bosse” fish ashtray. 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 come in 2 different sizes, 1 large and 1 smaller. The largest is pictured above and the smallest below.

Brass Fish Ashtray M.I. Germany - Brass Fish Ashtray
UPDATE 3/20/2021

I recently got a tip that there was a fish ashtray out there that actually had a marking on the bottom. I finally found one and snapped it up so I could do a post about it. I think we finally have an attribution/artist for these! The marking on the bottom of this ashtray says “M.I.Germany”. I imagine the “M.I.” might stand for “Made in” as in “Made in Germany” but it’s kind of a strange way to typeset it. It could also be the artist’s initials, so I don’t want to discount that theory. So for now, I’d say we can attribute these fish ashtrays to “M.I.Germany”, whether that be an artist’s name or workshop. My hunch is that these ashtrays started be attributed to Walter Bosse because of all the green patina/verdigris hedgehog ashtrays that are on the market. As I have stated in previous posts, I have a hard time with those sets and I generally view them as fake and not authorized by Walter Bosse.

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