I am sending a picture of an object I hope you can help me understand. We believe it came into our family in the 1960s. It is marked "MZ" with an emblem, the words "Australia" and "Hambsburg-China," and some other things. Any information would be greatly appreciated.
A famous company made this chocolate pot — but it was not located in Australia, nor did this piece have anything to do with the land down under.
Actually, the mark does not say "Australia"; it says "Austria." And the initials "MZ" stand for Moritz Zdekauer, who ran a porcelain factory in Altrohlau, Austria (now Stara Role, Czech Republic). This factory has a long history that began in the 1810s when Benedikt Hasslacher started a faience and earthenware factory (faience is a type of opaque glazed earthenware).
After it went out of business in 1823, August Nowotny & Co. acquired the concern and continued to make faience and earthenware at first but later started making porcelain. Moritz Zdekauer purchased the company in 1884, and its porcelain pieces were marked "MZ Austria" until 1909, when C.M. Hutschenreuther of Hohenberg, Bavaria, Germany, took over the firm.
Hutschenreuther renamed it Altrohlau Porcelain Factory and marked its wares "MZ Altrohlau" between 1909 and 1945. After World War II, Czechoslovakia nationalized the company. What all this means: Manufactured sometime between 1884 and 1909, the chocolate pot in today's question was more than 50 years old when it came into the possession of the reader's family.
Originally, this pot would have had matching cups and saucers, and the fact that they are missing diminishes the current monetary value somewhat. A complete set is almost always more valuable than its individual parts.
The last part of the mark mentioned in the letter — "Hambsburg-China" — actually reads "Habsburg China," which refers to the ruling family of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in power at the time.
The pot is a beautiful piece, with lovely transfer decorated roses on a ground that shades from dark to light. In the photograph, it looks to be green with reddish rose accents at the top to a pearl-white at the bottom.
One of the unhappy facts of collecting is that the price of most European porcelains of the late 19th century has declined significantly over the past few years. This piece is still quite lovely, but we feel that, at the moment, it has an insurance-replacement value in the $150-$175 range. Five to 10 years ago, the price would have been somewhat higher, in the vicinity of $225 to $275.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 27540, Knoxville, TN 37927. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.