- 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: real vs. fake
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!
In recent years we’ve began to notice the proliferation of the use of a misspelling, “Hertha Baller”, to describe items made by Walter Bosse and by Herta Baller. So I’d like to clear that up in this post, it’s “Herta Baller” and not “Hertha”.
Normally I’m not sure where things like this originate from, but I can very much remember this rumor/error starting a few years ago. I noticed the phrase “Walter Bosse for Hertha Baller” popping up on some listings on 1stDibs. At the time I didn’t think much of it, it seemed like one seller with some inaccurate info. But now, years later I’ve seen that “Hertha Baller” has taken over quite a number of Walter Bosse listings, and even made its way onto Wikipedia. So I think it’s time to clear some things up.
For reference, the above photos show a water decal that was used for a short period of time saying “Made in Austria H.Baller Vienna” and the cover letter page where Baller signs her name “Herta Baller” at the end of the letter in her catalog.
A Brief History:
As for the phrase “Walter Bosse for Hertha Baller/Herta Baller”, Walter Bosse did not ever work FOR Herta Baller. For a time, Herta Baller worked for him in the early 1940s. But they had a falling out after he fled debts in Austria for Germany in 1947. He handed over ownership of his Austrian company to Baller with an understanding that if she sold or used any of his designs, that she would pay him a royalty. Those royalties never came because the original shop catalog with all model drawings along with their artist attributions was changed to remove Bosse’s name from all items in production. Herta Baller said that all models that were now on offer in her catalog were solely her designs and therefore she did not owe Bosse any royalties. Their relationship soured after this point.
Walter Bosse had to start over entirely from scratch in Germany, creating a whole new catalog of items. This is why Bosse’s German items look different than items from Herta Baller’s ownership of the Austrian company.
Another common misconception: Herta Baller never owned the rights to nor produced any of Boss’s iconic hedgehog ashtrays. These were developed solely by Bosse in Germany. This is why you never see a hedgehog set with any “Baller Austria” marks on it. No hedgehog ashtrays were ever made by Baller, and certainly not “Walter Bosse for Herta Baller”.
After turning the Herta Baller owned “Bosse” company around and settling all debts, Baller died at 36 years old on December 1957 of the Asian flu. Hans Waldstätten, who was working as an employee and (according to the commercial register) had the power of attorney, ended up with ownership of the company, running it until the 1980s.
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!
We’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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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.
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. 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!