Dear Helaine and Joe: What can you tell me about this piece? It is 7 3/4 inches tall and is marked "Royal Bayreuth," Bavaria. It is in mint condition.
Thank you. — M.L.V., Alexandria, Ky.
Dear M.L.V.: Tettau is located in the Thuringia Forest in eastern Germany, which is in the Bayreuth Mountain Department (in this case, a department is a geographic division of a larger government). Located on a hill overlooking this town is a porcelain factory that was established in 1794 under the authority of Kaiser Wilhelm II, king of Prussia.
This factory opened in December 1794 and was given the privilege of using the word "Royal" as part of its name. Initially the wares made in this facility were marked with a "T," and they were special because they were the first German porcelains made to be used by people who were not royalty or members of the upper classes.
A little later the company marked its wares with a lion holding a shield or banner with a "T" inside. Around 1900 (actually, circa 1902), the company began marking its items with a sort of coat of arms that consisted of two lions holding shields with a "P" in one and a "T" in the other or two lions holding medieval looking flags.
There was also a version with one lion holding a shield with a "T" inside. Often, but not always, these marks had the words "Royal Bayreuth" above and "Bavaria" below. These "Royal Bayreuth" pieces are now highly collectible and can bring rather high prices on the current antiques market.
The most collectible of the Royal Bayreuth pieces are such things as the "tapestry" pieces, which are covered with gauze like cloth that has been decorated with a variety of scenes and other designs (one of the most popular of these is roses). In addition, they made a variety of figural table wares that can be found in the shape of everything from sunflowers, Santa Clauses and strawberries, to monkeys, snakes, kangaroos, elks, lady bugs and, yes, lobsters.
Some of the rarest of these pieces such as the Santa Clauses and the Art Nouveau Ladies can bring exceptional prices, but others have somewhat more modest values because they are more readily found.
The tomato-shaped objects, for example, turn up very frequently and are rather modestly priced, and the "lobster" line must have been very successful because it too turns up with some regularity.
The lobster pieces came in a variety of shapes, and it is possible to find lobster-shaped water pitchers, milk pitchers, cream pitchers, sugar bowls, celery bowls, mustard pots, candy dishes, salt and pepper shakers, ashtrays, cracker jars, humidors and cups.
Do not confuse these with the shell-shaped items that have lobster-shaped handles because these are another line altogether.
The lobster design, however, did come in several variations. The most commonly found examples are primarily red with green handles, but much rarer pieces have an orchid (also described as purple) and white satin finish. Another variation is called "lobster and leaves" and has lobster claws with green leaves.
The piece in today's question is the lobster humidor and is among the most desired items in this line. For insurance replacement purposes, this circa 1910 red lobster humidor should be valued between $650 and $750.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of the "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Questions can by mailed to them at P.O. Box 12208, Knoxville, TN 37912-0208.