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Hertha Baller vs Herta Baller? Lets Clear Things Up…

Hertha Baller vs Herta Baller for Walter Bosse

Original catalog pages (front cover and cover letter) from Herta Baller’s 1950-60s catalog. See her signed name as “Herta Baller” at the end of the cover letter.

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.

Walter Bosse and Staff with Herta Baller

Walter Bosse (lower right corner) and Staff with Herta Baller (seated directly next to Bosse with a cat in her lap)

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.

Cat Egg Cups - Walter Bosse German vs. Herta Baller

Walter Bosse’s German Cat Egg Cup (left) and Herta Baller’s Cat Egg Cup (right).

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”.

Herta Baller in Walter Bosse's Retail Shop

Herta Baller in Walter Bosse’s retail shop, holding a pottery fox. You can see a number of Walter Bosse’s bells, toothpick and candle holders for sale on the shelves behind her.

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.

Herta Baller Petting a Fluffy Dog with Hans Waldstätten in Walter Bosse's Shop

Herta Baller petting a fluffy black dog with Hans Waldstätten in Walter Bosse’s shop. See the hand ashtrays and whale ashtrays on the shelves behind her.

 

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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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