Authenticating Your Walter Bosse Hedgehog Ashtrays: All the Fakes

As the years go by I am astounded at the number of different fake sets I’ve been finding. The two main ones you will often find are of course the Greek and Russian sets but there are SO many others out there that I didn’t expect. Some of them seem pretty small batch or handmade, but others seem to be mass produced. So I thought I’d get a post together of all the fake sets I have found over the years and hopefully it will be informative to you. I will continually update this post with new sets I find out there in the wild.

Russian Hedgehog Ashtrays
Russian Hedgehog Ashtray BoxOrange Russian Hedgehog Ashtray Box  Russian Hedgehog Ashtrays - MB Logo  Russian Hedgehog Ashtrays - MB Logo

Russian Hedgehog Ashtrays
These zinc set (not aluminum as previously thought) of hedgehog ashtrays were produced as souvenirs as well as promotional giveaways for an airline (possibly Aeroflot). The Aeroflot ones are marked with a winged logo and the other set of dishes by 1МПЗ (1MPZ) with another mark that looks almost like “MB” or upside down “ELW”. Both dishes are considerably lighter weight than the authentic solid brass sets, but lighter weight that Bosse’s solid aluminum set, which makes me sure they are some kind of zinc composite of “white metal” or “pot metal”. They have polished silver noses 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.” The boxes with the illustrations are most likely earlier (1970s) than the one with the printed photograph (1980s).
SEE MY IN DEPTH POST ABOUT THESE RUSSIAN 1МПЗ (1MPZ) SETS HERE
Weight : 1 lb 3.3 oz / 548 grams
Size : 4.5″ long x 2.75″ wide x 2.5″ tall

Greek Hedgehog Ashtrays

Greek Hedgehog Ashtray Box     Made in Greece Mark - Hedgehog Ashtrays

Greek Hedgehog Ashtrays
Next up is another set of white metal trays. This set is usually plated with a copper or bronze colored metal and can also be plated in a shiny golden metal. These are usually marked “Made in Greece” on the inside of each bowl but can also be unmarked. These are the lowest quality I’ve seen, with most having seams from casting that were not ground off. Casting seams from the mold are often running down the sides of the face. 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 but can also have elongated legs. I have a feeling these may have been cast from a Russian master, so it’s essentially a fake of a fake, hence the low quality. They were sold in a bright blue box.
Weight : 1 lb 2.6 oz / 530 grams
Size : 4.25″ long x 2.75″ wide x 2.5″ tall

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

This set of trays is the typical set you see with green patina or “verdigris”. These sets are made with sharp edges, golden eyes, polished ears on the first 3 sets. I’m inclined to say the green patina is an error in the patination process because there is no existing black patina underneath and the green penetrates down to the brass. I really do not like the verdigris finish on these, it’s just a little strange and not at all in keeping with Bosse’s aesthetic. I’m pretty sure the green arose from the manufacturer not having the chemical composition of the acid bath just right, or leaving it in there too long, or not knowing how to seal the surface properly. I have seen these with the X-legs baby and the full-legged baby. They are never marked. These sets are the furthest from Bosse’s original aesthetic ideal for the hedgehogs, even though they were possibly made with his original molds and masters (see the original “Authentication” post here). For whatever reason, Bosse was not able to pay off some of his debts to casting firms he was working with and they began casting and selling his designs without his knowledge to repay those debts. Since there were no copyright laws on the books for artists at the time, Bosse went to court to try and fight. In the end, he did not live to see the benefits of his court cases. In the meantime, these casting firms proliferated his designs. So these sets were made with Bosse’s original molds and masters, but possibly without his knowledge. I’m inclined to categorize them as fake because they are about as different in intent as the Russian sets are from Bosse’s originals. The only other items I have seen on the market with a similar green patina on them are NOT Bosse designs, but are often attributed to him because of these green hedgehogs.
SEE MY IN DEPTH POST ABOUT GREEN PATINA AND M.I.GERMANY HERE
Weight : 1 lb 10.7 oz / 756 grams
Size : 4.75″ long x 3″ wide x 2.5″ tallFrench Hedgehog Ashtrays - Galeri d'art Bourmes French Hedgehog Ashtrays - Galeri d'art Bourmes French Hedgehog Ashtrays - Galeri d'art Bourmes French Hedgehog Ashtrays - Galeri d'art Bourmes French Hedgehog Ashtrays - Galeri d'art Bourmes

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
Made in Italy Brass Hedgehog Ashtrays
Made in Italy Brass Hedgehog AshtraysMade in Italy Brass Hedgehog AshtraysMade in Italy Brass Hedgehog Ashtrays

Made in Italy Hedgehog Ashtrays
This set actually reads “Made Italy” and is a fully gold polished set of brass hedgehogs. Each is stamped on the bottom with the exception of the baby, which is stamped on its side. The baby has the simplified X-legs. The whole set looks like they took one of Bosse’s originals and made a new mold from it to cast their fakes. Each hedgehog has the same characteristics as Bosse’s authentic hedgehogs. It’s actually a really nicely made set and is excellently cast and finished… actually it’s nicer than a lot of Bosse’s later polished gold sets coming out of Germany. It might be tempting to try and put this in the “real” category because it is actually done really well, but Bosse never authorized casting in Italy. Everything authentic comes out of either Austria or Germany. If it wasn’t marked, I probably would have been fooled too.
Weight : 1 lb 10.5 oz / 752 grams
Size : 4.5″ long x 3″ wide x 2.75″ tall

Honorable Mentions

I would consider all these sets to be more inspired by Bosse then direct rip offs. You can definitely see Walter Bosse’s influences on each set though. Some of them are vintage, but some are actually currently being made and sold today. Crazy that his work is still being copied and sold, but I guess it speaks to the timelessness of his designs.

Ceramic Hedgehog Measuring Cups
Ceramic Hedgehog Measuring Cups
These sets of measuring cups are super inspired by Bosse. They come in a set of 4 sizes and nest inside each other. They even went as far as adding gold tips on the spines on one version. Each set has a nose and eyes painted on as well as little dashes for fur. They are currently being sold at number of places online and are probably being white-labeled from China.

Anthropologie Ceramic Hedgehog Measuring Cups
Anthropologie Ceramic Hedgehog Measuring Cups
Similar to the above set, these come in a set of 4 sizes and nest inside each other. Gold has been added around the ears, eyes and feet. They don’t nest quite as nicely inside each other, but still make for a cute set. They also have textured spines and fur on the outside of each cup. They are not being sold at Anthropologie any more, but they can still be found on the the secondhand market.

Glazed Pottery Stacking Hedgehogs
Black Glazed Pottery Hedgehog Ashtrays
This set of hedgehog ashtrays is made in pottery with a black glaze with gold speckles and painted red eyes and nose. They were manufactured in Japan sometime in the last 30 years and are about the same size as Bosse’s hedgehogs. The walls are thicker to reinforce the set for slip-casting in pottery. They come in a set of 4 and are relatively difficult to find on the vintage market.

Este Italy - Porcelain Hedgehog Bowls
Este Italy - Golden Porcelain Hedgehogs
Este Italy - Yellow Porcelain Hedgehogs
Este Italy - Yellow Porcelain Hedgehogs
Este Italy Ceramic Hedgehog Bowls
These porcelain/ceramic hedgehog bowls are quite a bit larger than Walter Bosse’s hedgehog ashtrays, coming in at 7.5″ long. Because of their size I would categorize them more as bowls/trays than ashtrays but they could be used as such. They came in 3 different color combinations: white, yellow and gold plated. The full set is 6 pieces with the smallest/baby of the set being a full bowl as well. The set has a completely smooth surface and high-gloss glaze over a white ceramic base. Each hedgehog has eyes which are raised from the surface (no ears) and spines surrounding the edges like Bosse’s original designs. Only the largest of the set will have the marking on the bottom, which has a castle in the clouds surrounded by a circle and reads “ESTE, Made in Italy, A 44A, 51”. They are definitely vintage and probably from the 1960s or 70s. The sets are quite fragile and lightweight so the spines have often been chipped over the years.

Weird Hedghog Ashtrays
Funky Hedgehog Ashtrays
This set of hedgehog ashtrays is super funky and is definitely inspired by the idea of Bosse’s hedgehog ashtrays. But they took the idea and ran with it! The trays look to be more flat on the bottom and have more cartoonish looking features. They are actually a stack of 7 instead of Bosse’s 6 so you get one more hedgehog to share with friends. The design reminds me more of something pre-Columbian like Mayan or Aztec.. I’m not sure what the metal composition looks like but it could be bronze or brass. My guess is these were cast somewhere in Asia, India or the Middle East and are most likely vintage.

 

 

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