- Authenticating Your Walter Bosse Hedgehog Ashtrays: Curious Cases – Steel & Ferrous Metal
- How It Works – Lost Wax Casting for Walter Bosse
- Hertha Baller vs Herta Baller? Lets Clear Things Up…
- Authenticating Your Walter Bosse Hedgehog Ashtrays: Part 3 – All the Hedgehogs!
- Walter Bosse Figurines: “Baroque” Series
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Tag Archives: nesting bowls
I recently came across a few strange metal hedgehog sets and was surprised to find that they were all highly magnetic! That is a trait shared only by ferrous metals, or metal with iron in them. So I figured I should put a post together and talk about all their curious traits and how I think they fit into the catalog (if at all).
This is the first set I came across. I thought it might be another solid copper set like the one I already have in the collection. But like I found out with all the other sets, it is magnetic, and copper certainly isn’t magnetic! The further I looked at it, I could see some of the steel underneath (showing through the copper plating). Here is a closeup photo of it on the spines:
It seems like this set was cast in steel in some steel alloy and then plated afterward with copper to give it that golden coloration. The whole thing was then put through a patination process afterwards, possibly to give the patina something to adhere to. The spines and ears all have the copper highlighting, while the body retains most of the patina. The color of the patina ended up more of a grayish color than the rich black you get from a traditional solid brass hedgehog set. Here is an authentic brass hedgehog set next to this copper plated steel set:
The coloration is very different. As you can see, they are very close in size and look as if they came from the same mold or pattern. Even the baby of the sets look almost identical, though the steel one is more crude (see below):
Steel Set #2:
This second steel set is identical to the first copper plated steel set, and they were purchased together so that’s not a surprise. They were most likely from the same experimental batch. Where these sets differ is in the execution. This set seems to be cast in the same metal, and the same copper plating was applied. But that copper patina seems to have been too thin or failed as it was then polished off to reveal more of the steel. The results led to a somewhat two-tone effect, fading from black to copper to silver, that can be seen especially on the front legs of the largest bowl.
The patina is also the same grayish tone as the above set, but has some oil-slick rainbow coloration on parts of the patina (see photos below).
From my research, this rainbow coloration may be due to the fact that the patina was put on at too hot of a temperature or had a chemical reaction to the steel. Here is a photo of an authentic solid brass set next to this steel set:
The baby of this set is also identical to an authentic solid brass baby from a hedgehog set .And the babies of the above copper plated steel set are exactly the same as well (see photos).
Another curious thing about this set of steel hedgehogs is the fact that all of the eyes have polishing around them. This is something I have never seen done on any Walter Bosse hedgehog ashtray sets in all my time and research. I have to say, I kind of dig it! I possibly like it just because it is different… I would definitely not trade the classic polishing on an authentic solid brass set of hedgehogs. But this is super fun to look at and (I think) certainly suits this set well!
As I mentioned with the above set, I believe this set to be some kind of experimental model, not made for production.
Steel Set #3:
This set of hedgehogs is also highly magnetic and (I believe) made of steel as well. This set differs in that is seems to have black paint applied instead of a patina, or at least a glossy coat of lacquer applied over the black patina. This model seems to be an attempt to try and get the rich-black patina of a solid brass set of hedgehog ashtrays. It looks to have not had any plating process like the above sets, just a light polishing on the tips of the spines and nose. In some spots, orange rust from the steel shows through the black (see photos).
And here is the steel set of hedgehog ashtrays next to an authentic solid brass set of hedgehog ashtrays. They look almost identical to me as well.
The baby of this set is also identical to an authentic solid brass baby from a hedgehog set. Also, the babies of all three of these sets look identical as well (see photos).
As I mentioned with the previous sets, I believe this set to be some kind of experimental model, not made for production.
Cast Iron Set:
I’ve shown this set in previous posts but thought I’d bring it back in because it is also ferrous and super magnetic. As I stated before, this cast iron set is super heavy and very crude because it is quite a bit harder to get detailed casting out of cast iron. Cast iron is also more brittle and some spines are missing as well as some chunks of overcasting. These were not ground down or polished in any way. They come out of the mold looking very much like they do now. The base metal on the cast iron set has a warmer tone to it, as opposed to the steel (which has more carbon in it) and usually has a cooler or more neutral grey tone (see photos).
Right off the bat, all 3 of the “steel” sets seem to have been made with the same mold even though they were purchased from different places. The cast iron set seems like it may have been made with a different mold, at least the baby in the set it indicative of being from a different mold (as it has the X leg configuration). See below a comparison between all the steel babies (with the cast iron one in the 1st position on the left) and a comparison between a solid brass baby and the cast iron baby.
And here is a comparison between the full set of cast iron hedgehogs and an authentic set of brass hedgehog ashtrays.
And last but not least is a random little steel baby I came across. It didn’t come with a full set, just a lone baby. It looks like it is just raw straight out of the mold and never had a patina applied (nor was it polished in any way). Here it is next to the authentic brass baby. Looks like the exact same mold was used again.
All the sets match up almost exactly with a known authentic brass set made by Walter Bosse. I’m inclined to say they were all experiments by Bosse or one of the foundries he was working with. At the time, a few of the foundries he worked with also had the capability of producing iron and steel products. One of those is Kurt Jesch KG, who was later sued by Bosse for selling his works without permission or proper royalties paid. If I had to guess, I bet these came from the Jesch foundry during Bosse’s time in Germany in the 1960s. Whether Bosse oversaw the making of these or not is a mystery that will probably never be able to be answered. But if I had to guess, because of the attention to detail of the castings and similarities to authentic brass models, I would say someone with an artistic eye worked on these… maybe that was Bosse himself!
Lately I’ve noticed some confusion when it comes to authenticating Walter Bosse hedgehog ashtrays. Whether you own a set already and want to check them or are looking to possibly buy a set of your own and want to make sure it’s real and not fake, I thought it would be good to clarify some points. I’ve decided to put together a list of all the hedgehogs I’ve come across in the wild that are authentic.
What I want everyone to keep an eye out for when looking at all these sets is the diverse variation. All of them are different and unique in some way or another. As they were all made by hand, some have funny drilled eyes, some have shorter legs, some babies don’t have X legs at all. The old sand casting method that was used to make these was not a very precise way of casting and would result in all kinds of shape variations with each set.
One thing to note, I’ve very rarely come across a set that is brass and is fake. Most often, the fake sets are made of another metal entirely and that makes them very easy to spot. The only fake brass set I have seen is a very funny looking French set that I have listed here. I am also starting to come around on the very sharply cast and polished sets that often have a green coloration in the patina and a mottled texture. It looks somewhat like it has been sponge painted on. I think these sets were not done directly by Bosse, but by the foundries he contracted with in the 1960s when he was in Germany. They were most likely using his original molds, but cast them without his knowledge because he left them with unpaid debts (and this was their way of recouping them). But that is a post for another day (keep an eye out on the Blog for that if you are interested)!
So lets jump in to some Walter Bosse hedgehog goodness!
And here’s a gallery of authentic babies (or littlest hedgehogs in the ashtray set). Check out all the variations, especially the length of the legs and spines and the location and detail of the drilled eyes. Also, some spines are a lot more rounded than others.
I will update this page with any new hedgehogs I find, so keep checking back in the future to see the latest!
Hi everyone! I’m sorry it has been such a long time since I last posted. First off, I want to thank everyone for taking the time to educate themselves on authentic Walter Bosse hedgehogs and fake ones. When I first started off doing this, the fake Russsian and Aeroflot hedgehog ashtrays were selling for more than Bosse’s originals because everyone was incorrectly attributing those logos to him. Since then, Walter Bosse’s originals have made a big comeback! I am super grateful to everyone who has read my articles. And so I thought I should post another update since it has been such a long time.
Since the last time I posted, I have kept my eye out for any other interesting hedgehogs that can help add to Walter Bosse’s story. Turns out, I have found quite a bit more hedgehogs that I would like to share with you! Get ready for the updates below!
Update #1 : Berg Lübeck
This hedgehog was not found in a set, but by itself. Fortunately it still had the original sticker on the bottom. The sticker is brown with gold foil. It looks to be a later hedgehog in somewhat rough shape (unfortunately a spine broke off). After a bit of research I wasn’t able to find much except that Lübeck is a city in Northern Germany. I wasn’t able to find out what Berg was referring to (possibly a shop somewhere in Lübeck). There are a few other photos of stickers out there on other products (one on a glass decanter and one on a fat-lava pottery vase).
Size : 4.75″ long x 3″ wide x 2″ tall
Update #2 : Handmade in Austria
This hedgehog set is a pretty rough one, but it is a full set of 6. The baby has the incised X legs. It looks to be probably from the 60s or 70s. You may recognize the “Handmade in Austria” sticker from other Bosse items. It’s is gold foil and yellow ink and is usually loosely attached to the base of the castings. It is often found on his larger useful objects, such as table bells, thermometers and keyracks. This sticker belongs to the casting company Kurt Jesch KG which did regular casting in Austria in the 1960s-current. They produced a large number of Bosse’s designs for him as well as their own designs (such as pendants, candlesticks, etc.). I have a feeling that these stickers could have originally been on more hedgehog sets but because they were never attached very well they often fell off.
Weight : 1 lb 11.3 oz / 774 grams
Size : 4.5″ long x 3″ wide x 2.75″ tall
Update #3 : Made in Germany Mark
I absolutely love this set, it’s one of my favorite versions. The casting is superb, with the nose is slightly turned up at the end, the eyes drilled proportionally and the polishing is subtle and feathered. The baby is detailed and has the elongated legs. All the trays with ears have them polished on the edges, which is also rare. The “Made in Germany” mark is very rare, I’ve only ever seen 2 other sets marked this way and they were of equal quality.
Weight : 1 lb 13 oz / 824 grams
Size : 5″ long x 3″ wide x 3″ tall
Update #4 : Unmarked
I’m a big fan of this set. It’s probably one of the nicest sets I’ve come across and it’s completely unmarked. I believe it’s probably a earlier or mid career set. The finishing and patina is really nice and untouched (mostly black with a bit of brown tint). The baby has the elongated legs and good casting detail. Some of the eyes are drilled a bit funny, but that’s just character!
Weight : 1 lb 10.3 oz / 746 grams
Size : 4.75″ long x 3″ wide x 3″ tall
Update #5 : Berndorf / Atelier Jesch
So you know Jesch already from my post above, but this is a completely new logo / sticker that I’ve never seen before. It seems like it was most likely created for Berndorf company, which is still in business and using the same bear logo and wordmark. The sticker is white paper and reads “Berndorf / Creation Atelier Jesch / Messing Handgegossen / Brass Hand-casted / Kunsthandwerk Made in Austria / Artistical Handicraft, made in Austria”. The sticker also has a faint gold hand-print in the background. This hedgehog set is super terrible quality and I’m not sure why this would have been put out there as a product. The sand casting is really rough and a patina was never put on it, a practice which was usually only reserved for better castings because the black patina could hide more defects. The set could have used a good grinding and polishing, but it looks like they only bothered polishing the noses. The baby is small and flat with incised X legs. My guess is that this set was created for sale at the Berndorf cutlery store in town in the 1970s. Highly polished sets are more rare because they took more time and effort to finish and polish to a high standard. This method of finishing the original raw brass (without patina) was much more time consuming and costly to produce. Patination could hide minor flaws but fine polishing had to be perfect.
Weight : 1 lb 9.3 oz / 716 grams
Size : 5″ long x 3″ wide x 2.75″ tall
Update #6 : Copper / Bronze
This set is very interesting and I’m not sure what to make of it. When I first saw it, I thought the color was a bit off. Upon further inspection it is very different from the usual brass alloy that Bosse uses. It looks to be made of copper or a very copper-heavy mixture of bronze because it has a very reddish-orange tint. The weight feels different and the sound the metal makes when it clinks together is completely different as well. The black patina didn’t take to it very well, which may be due to the high copper content. It is unmarked. It looks like maybe it was an experimental model because the finishing is done very well and there is good attention to detail. The baby is finished very well and has elongated legs of the earlier models.
Weight : 1 lb 9 oz / 706 grams
Size : 4.75″ long x 3″ wide x 3″ tall
Update #7 : Mega XL
I call this monster hedgehog because this set is insane and kind of ridiculous looking! I’ve only seen a few of these XL hedgehog ashtrays as they tend to be super rare. This one is definitely the biggest I’ve seen at around 21% bigger than normal. I’m not totally sure where they fit into the catalog but my guess is these larger sets might have been some of Bosse’s first models/prototypes as he refined the design over the years. Over time the hedgehogs got shorter spines and shorter noses as well as thinner walls overall. This guy is beefy and you can see how much bigger the baby is than a normal Bosse baby. You can differentiate these larger hedgehogs from their normal sized counterparts due to their extra long spines.
Weight : 2 lb 7 oz / 1106 grams
Size : 5.75″ long x 3.25″ wide x 3.25″ tall
Update #8 : Aluminum
I posted about this in the last update but I thought I’d share more details about it here. This guy is extremely lightweight and made of aluminum with a black paint applied and ground off. It’s not very highly polished and has quite a bit of wire brushing on it. The quality of the casting isn’t great and can be a bit sharp. The baby is flat and squat with just X incised legs. It’s quite rare, but most likely because it wasn’t a great idea.
Weight : 8.4 oz / 238 grams
Size : 5″ long x 3″ wide x 2.75″ tall
Update #9 : German Silver / Nickel
This is another one I posted in the previous update. 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, I’ve only seen 1 other one. It is unmarked and the quality is very high. It is highly finished and polished and the baby is good quality overall with X incised legs. My guess is this is an experiment in plating with nickel over brass. Hagenauer often plated his figurines in nickel and Bosse actually plated some of his pottery in his early years to make them heavier for use as bookends.
Weight : 1 lb 11.4 oz / 776 grams
Size : 4.75″ long x 3″ wide x 2.75″ tall
Update #10 : Cast Iron
This set is super heavy and very crude. But it is quite a bit harder to get detailed casting out of cast iron and it shows here. Cast iron is also more brittle and some spines are missing as well as some chunks of overcasting. These were not ground down or polished in any way. They come out of the mould looking very much like they do now. I have seen 2 or 3 of these sets lately but they are still quite rare. If you look in Bosse’s catalog you can find a mention of the use of cast iron but I have not ever seen any other examples of his use of cast iron in any other context. The baby in this set has the X-incised legs. As you can see, Bosse liked to experiment with other materials and finishing methods and I suspect this is another one if his experiments with different casting materials. Not many were made because they were difficult to control with the sand casting method they were using. It is consistent with Bosse’s other hedgehogs because it has the same exact size and proportions as his classic hedgehogs in brass, indicating the same master mould was used to cast it. That is why I believe it is authentic and not fake.
Weight : 1 lb 8.4 oz / 694 grams
Size : 4.75″ long x 3″ wide x 3″ tall
Update #11 : French Hedgehog from Galerie d’art Bourmes
This hedgehog is worth an honorable mention for its creativity. More inspired by Bosse than a direct copy, this hedgehog set is very large and extremely heavy. The eyes are painted on and not drilled out. The quality is very good in terms of casting. Although it only has 5 pieces in the set, it weighs almost twice as much as a Bosse set because the side walls are extremely thick. The smallest of the set has a hollowed out top like a regular ashtray. With the side walls being so thick, there was no room for a 6th baby. The patina on this is also painted on, with a bit of artistic flair. There are water decal labels on almost all of the hedgehogs from a French souvenir shop that is still in existence today. The decals read “Galerie d’art Bourmes” which is an art gallery frequented by tourists and carrying the work of Georges Gouzy and Robert Chiazzo who were contemporaries of Pablo Picasso. We are not sure who made these hedgehogs, but it is most likely the work of a local artist. This set is super rare, I’ve only ever seen this one.
Weight : 2 lb 11.2 oz / 1224 grams
Size : 5.25″ long x 3″ wide x 2.75″ tall
Update #12 : SDL
This mark is something I’ve seen a few times and this set has the clearest iteration. It seems to have a very faint “SDL” mark on the bottom, similar to a number of Bosse’s later German cast objects. I’ve included a photo of a Scottie egg cup with the a similar incised mark. Sometimes, only just a hint of 3 areas of indent can be seen on the bottom of certain hedgehogs, but I believe it is from the same SDL mould. The SDL most likely refers to the master’s catalog name/number for internal use only and not really meant to make it into production. The mark looks like it was originally incised into the master used, and therefore made its way into the mould. In each subsequent casting, the mark gets more and more faint, and also varies with the quality of the sand casting and mould. This set has good quality casting and “baby” with X-incised legs.
Weight : 1 lb 11.3 oz / 774 grams
Size : 4.5″ long x 3″ wide x 2.75″ tall
Last but not least, I discovered in an old Bosse catalog page that your could purchase each hedgehog dish separately if you desired. So although the majority of hedgehog ashtrays out there were sold together as sets, sometimes people purchased only the individual pieces they wanted. So if you have an incomplete set or just one piece, don’t feel bad… it may have been purchased that way! I’ve also heard a number of stories from people whose grandparents had a set of hedgehogs and each family member took a dish from the set to keep as a memento. I don’t think Bosse would have minded his sets being split up for that reason. After all, the hedgehogs were meant to be shared with friends and guests at parties.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope this info is helpful to everyone. Keep in mind, these are the more rare models so don’t get discouraged if your hedgehog set doesn’t look like these. If there’s any info I’ve left out or if I have made an error please email me. Keep on collecting!
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. It is thought that maybe he cut costs such as making the “baby’s” legs an incised cross instead of 4 raised legs. But it seems the two may have even been used at the same time. The “baby” was used as a tamper / or snuffer to put out cigarettes and the one with the incised legs has a flat bottom (which makes it more effective).
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 – 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!