Treasures: Viennese chocolate set is attractive, but not of superior quality

It’s pretty, but is the neoclassical scene painted by hand?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

Like all “boomers” I am in the process of shedding all those things acquired or passed on to me throughout many years. My mother-in-law insisted on giving us this chocolate set. It has been boxed in the back of a closet for a couple of decades now. Any thoughts on how to price or dispose of it?



Dear N.J.:

We are “boomers” also and understand all too well the predicament. And as estate specialists, we deal with this potential problem every day.

The first rule is a biggie: Never dispose of anything until you know what it is and what it may be worth. That old painting some people think is hideous might be worth big bucks, or that piece of glass purchased years ago while on vacation in Italy might now pay for another trip to an exciting place.

To be clear, most of the household junk we collect over the years is that — just junk. But some of it might have potential value, and the possibility needs to be explored before things are sold, given away or just trashed.

The pieces in today’s question are marked with an image that looks something like a bullet with the word “Austria” boldly printed underneath. Many collectors call this bullet-shaped symbol with its two stripes across the middle a “beehive.” But it is actually a “Bindenschild,” which was the shield-shaped symbol in the center of the Austrian or Hapsburg coat of arms.

The mark was first used by the Vienna Porcelain Manufactory as an impressed mark in 1744. Founded by Claudius I. Du Paquier in 1718, the firm was soon taken over by the Hapsburgs and became the Imperial & Royal Porcelain Manufactory, sometimes shorthanded to “Royal Vienna.” This chocolate set is a commercial interpretation of Royal Vienna’s more artistic work.

The company ceased to exist in 1864, but the Bindenschild mark continued to be used by many other companies around the world to this day. Because the pieces in today’s question are marked “Austria,” we feel they were made in that country sometime between 1891 and the World War I era. The mark was placed there in response to the American McKinley Tariff Act, which required that items exported to the United States after 1890 had to be marked with the country of origin.

Austrian companies that used the mark during this timeframe include Josef Vater (Vienna), Franz Dorfl (Vienna), Carl Knoll (Fischern, Bohemia), Radler and Pilz (Vienna), and Josef Riedl (Giesshubel, Bohemia), among a few others. The decoration on the example belonging to N. J. is transfer printed, not hand painted, and while this is an attractive set, it is not of superior quality. It’s a fragmentary set with six dessert plates, five cups and saucers, one creamer and one chocolate pot, but it still should bring around $150 to $175 at a good mid- to lower range auction.

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