Prussia by Theme
Part 1

by Lee Marple


Collectors of RS Prussia are an interesting lot. Some try to acquire an example made in the same mold pattern and decoration. For some, the goal is one of everything that was made in a given mold pattern. However, others save just one kind of thing, such as shaving mugs or cake plates. When you collect by theme, there are no bounds to the collection, as objects can be made of glass, porcelain, metal, or even wood. Many years ago I went to an antique show on the East coast where there was a dealer with three or four hundred toothpick holders on display, most from one collection, and all made of metal or glass. I inquired if he had any made of porcelain in the boxes that were sitting under the counter, and he replied that he did not have any and in addition that he didn’t know of any. Apparently, the only thing that restricts ones’ collecting is their depth of interest. In the following notes, we show a few of the examples made just at Reinholds factory that can be acquired to start an interesting collection.

Porcelain Card Holders

For many years, an evening with family and friends was capped off by a game or two of cards. Bridge and “500” are two common games that quickly come to mind. When at either of my uncles, the merest mention of having a game was all that was needed for a deck of cards and a folding table to magically appear. Around the beginning of the 20th century, Reinhold Schlegelmilch made several types of porcelain holders that allowed one to keep the cards at a handy, visible place, and many times well protected from dust.

There is another type of card holder, one with cards that keep track of the day, month and year. These were meant for the writing desk, and often times the cards were made of celluloid. The “year” cards were the tallest, and the “day” cards the shortest. I only know of one complete set, but the holders are not all that uncommon. And you can make your own cards!

Demitasse Cups

Collecting demitasse cup and saucer sets can be hazardous to your pocketbook! Reinhold Schlegelmilch made many different patterns in these sets, and decorated them in a variety of different ways. They are all made of thin, translucent porcelain, and on occasion in the same patterns that were used for tableware. Not too often will you find them marked. From 1900 to 1905 you can find the RS Steeple mark on a cup, or a “Royal” mark such as “Germany Royal Frankfort”, but I have yet to find a marked saucer. The decoration on the saucer always matches the décor of the cup, so the lack of a mark is not a drawback. In the absence of any mark, one can easily identify the RS sets by comparing the shadow flower patterns and/or small floral transfers to those on examples made in known RS molds. There are several interesting aspects of these sets. For one, the handles are often made in a more complex shape than the handles of regular size cups. Second, the top of most demitasse cups is very irregular, making it difficult to use without dribbling. And finally, cups with feet almost always fit in depressions or marked areas of the corresponding saucers.

Can You Match This?

Only on rare occasion did wholesale firms that issued catalogs in the 1895 to 1905 period offer decorative or accessory items made of porcelain. The focus seemed to be totally on tableware, mugs for various uses, and children’s toy tea sets. In the listings in any category, examples made by Reinhold Schlegelmilch are always the higher priced items. What we show here are match holders, items that must have been sold by firms that handled imported merchandise, but not in the quantity as Butler Bros or G. Sommers & Co. We suspect these were small firms that either issued catalogs with limited distribution, or no catalogs at all. 

Match holders fall into two groups. In the first group are stand alone pieces intended just to hold matches for general use. In the second are holders that are incorporated into some other functional piece, such as a candlestick. One of the characteristics of match holders is that a striker is built into the mold. When these pieces were made, matches would strike on any rough surface. I had an uncle that used to light matches with his thumbnail. He did so until the day a burning head broke off and stuck under the nail. Usually strikers on holders are in the form of corrugations in either the side or bottom of the box, or on the underside of the lid. This characteristic makes it easy to differentiate a match from a toothpick holder, for the latter were often made in the same shape molds. Sometimes the contents are evident by a raised image of a match or pin on the lid. Holders in smoking sets that combine several functional items into one piece are very uncommon. We have only seen two examples in all our years of collecting. But you never know, as there might be one right around the next corner at the nearby antique mall.

Part 2 Coming Soon . . .


Copyright 2012 Lee Marple

Card Holders

Demitasse Cups

Match Holders