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TREASURES IN YOUR ATTIC: Size matters when estimating value of porcelain figures

Helaine and Joe tell readers which antiques might be valuable:

Dear Helaine and Joe:

Upon cleaning out my mother's house, I discovered these two figurines, which appear to be a set. They are in excellent condition with no chips, cracks or crazing. They are marked "Keramos" in a shield with "Wien" above and "Knight Ceramics" below plus "Made in Austria." I am hopeful you can tell me a little more about these pieces and if they have any value.

Yours truly,

E. A., Clifton, N. J.

Dear E. A.:

To answer this question, we have to start back with the ancient Greeks and briefly recount a bit of mythology.

Ariadne was the daughter of Cretan king Minos and his wife Pasiphae. She is famous for helping Theseus kill the Minotaur, and later, Theseus promised to make Ariadne his wife. Sadly, Theseus abandoned her on the island of Naxos.

But then, Dionysus stepped in to save her and subsequently married her. Many children came from this marriage, including Oenopion, who Dionysus taught to make wine, and Keramos (or Kerameus), who became a potter (maybe creating vessels to hold the wine that Oenopion made).

In any event, the word "Keramos" has come to be connected to the art of pottery and the making of pots from clay. Various potteries have used this word as part of their marks, including at least one company in the United States, and others in Italy, France, Israel, and Mexico.

The pair of figures in today's question was made by the Vienna Art Ceramic and Porcelain Manufactory Wolf & Co.. This firm is not exactly a household name among American collectors, but they were founded in 1920, and according to the best information we could find, are currently still in business.

True Chinese style hard paste porcelain has been made in Vienna since 1719, and "Keramos" is carrying on the tradition today. Besides porcelains they also make earthenwares, but they are best known for their figures, which feature likenesses of animals (horses, dogs, etc.) and people.

The earlier pieces of their production are marked with the initials "K. W. K. inside a triangle, which was sometimes placed inside a square box. Around 1945, they adopted the shield like mark seen on the pieces belonging to E. A.. This shield has a ribbon across the middle with the word "Keramos" and the name "Wien" (Vienna) above. There is no indication that the use of this mark has been discontinued.

The two relatively modern figures belonging to E. A. are somewhat in the style of Hummel figures and they show a typical representation of a young boy and a girl on their way to school walking barefoot and carrying their shoes. She has on a backpack of some kind and he is carrying his books in his arms. They both have very winning looks on their face, but unfortunately, this type of figure is a bit out of fashion at the current moment and the market is very soft.

E. A. did not tell us how large these particular figures are, and for purposes of pricing, we are going to assume that they are in a normal 5-to-6 inch tall range. If this is the case, the insurance replacement value is in the range of $125 to $175 for the pair, but if they are larger, that price would go up significantly.

Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of the "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95).

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