Between 1973 and 1979 the Boehm of Malvern studio issued a dozen different series of limited and non-limited edition plates; those issued in 1980 and later will be covered in a subsequent post. The first series (1973) was produced at the original studio location on Tanhouse Lane in Malvern but in the plates/plaques operation was soon moved to a separate location on Howsell Road. This was a two-storey building and the first floor was where the special 1975 one of a kind plaques were produced. The Howsell Road building lies within the village of Malvern Link, which is why the backstamps on those plaques say “Malvern Link” instead of Malvern.
European Birds was the first plate series, made at Tanhouse Lane and issued in 1973 as an edition of 5000 sets of plates selling for the equivalent of about $50 each USD. Among the species represented are the Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Kingfisher, Linnet, Swallow, and Tree Sparrow; each plate shows the male and female and is 10” (25.4 cm) in diameter. These plates were sold only in London and Paris. The London retailers were Algeron Asprey Ltd, Thomas Goode & Company, and Harrods; in Paris the sole retailer was the Reese Palley store (Palley already having a strong relationship with the Boehm studio in the USA.)
The 24k gold border nicely accents the plate; this is the Chaffinch.
Detail of the Swallow plate.
All subsequent plates were made at the Howsell Road facility and began with six sets of plate series, each series being an edition of only 100 and containing four designs per series. The first two plates in each series were issued in 1975 and the remaining two in 1976. These plates were larger than the European Birds set, being 12” (30.48 cm) in diameter. The six series were Butterflies, Flowers, Hard Fruits, Soft Fruits, Seashells, and Oriental Birds.
The backstamp on these plates is interesting because it specifically designated them as issues commemorating the founding of the studio location at Malvern Link. Note that they include the painter’s name, as did the one of a kind plaques being made “downstairs”. This example stamp is from the Swallowtails plate within the Butterflies series.
The plates are shown/listed below in chronological order of production. Each plate was given its own design number. I have shown at least one example from each series whenever possible. The plates within these six series sold for $450 each, much higher than any of the other plates from this decade.
The Butterflies series has the honor of being the ‘first of the first’; this is Jezabels, Delias Aruna issued in 1975 and assigned design #M-100.
Blue Mountain Swallowtail, Papilio Ulysses, also from 1975, is design #M-102. The other two plates, both from 1976, are Comma with Loops (#M-103) and African Butterflies (#M-104.)
The Flowers series began with Passion Flowers, [detail shown] design #M-200. The Lily plate, #M-201, depicts the lily cultivar ‘Empress of India’ although that is not specified in the backstamp for some reason. The 1976 plates depicted the so-called ‘Cup of Gold vine’, Solandra maxima (#M-202) and a Double Clematis (#M-203.)
The Hard Fruits series plates for 1975 were Plums (#M-300; not shown) and Pears (M-301). Reportedly the Plums plate shows the cultivar ‘Victoria.’ The second and third photos show the 1976 plate Peaches (#M-302); note that the lid is impressed with a rendition of the backstamp. The fourth plate was Apples (#M-303.)
Soft Fruits began with Loganberries (#M-400) and Cherries (#M-401) in 1975 and finished with Strawberries (#M-402) and Grapes (#M-403) in 1976.
Update, November 2021: Thanks to a helpful reader, I now have a photo of two of the Seashells plates: Rooster-Tail Conchs (#M-500) and Violet Spider Conchs (#M-501), both from 1975. In this series the decorative element on the rim is a length of seaweed rather than a sprig of foliage. Notice that on the Violet Spider Conch plate (lower photo) there are five of them rather than the usual three; perhaps the artist was feeling generous that day! The other two plates were Orange Spider Conchs (#M-502) and Cheragra Spider Conchs (#M-503) from 1976. (Many thanks, Rebecca!)
And lastly we have the exotic Oriental Birds series, beginning in 1975 with Blue-Backed Fairy Bluebirds (# M-600) and Azure Winged Magpies (#M-601, shown) and ending with Golden Fronted Leafbirds (#M-602) and Golden-throated Barbet (#M-603) in 1976.
1976 also saw the introduction of two new plate series which were very different in style from the studio’s initial offerings.
The Game Bird series spanned three years (1976, 1977 and 1978) and was a set of eight plates with designs rendered in black and white, reminiscent of etchings. The only color is the gold rim. These plates are 10.75” (27 cm) in diameter and do not appear to have been a limited edition; at least they are not so marked, and I haven’t found any literature or source citing an edition size for these. (Note: These are not the same as the later, full color “Game Birds of North America” series that Boehm issued in the 1980s and will be shown in a future post.) The backstamp is annoyingly unhelpful. Clockwise from upper left in the photos above, the plates are: [upper photo] Woodcock, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, California Quail, [lower photo] Bobwhite Quail, Ring Necked Pheasant, Canada Geese, and Mallard. Issue prices are unknown.
Although the New Jersey Boehm studio produced numerous items in conjunction with the King Tutankhamun museum exhibit in 1976, they issued only one collector plate and it was made in Malvern. It was an edition of 5000, is 10.75” (27 cm) diameter, and was produced from 1976 (at $125) to early 1979 (at $135.) It was accompanied by a 168-page book, The Boehm Journey to Egypt, Land of Tutankhamun, written by Frank Cosentino and relates Helen Boehm’s trip to Egypt before designing the entire King Tut Collection. Around the edge of backstamp are the names of the museums hosting the Tut exhibit tour.
Although this plate was issued as an American Bicentennial commemorative, it was made at their British studio. Sometimes known as the ‘Honor America Plate’, its actual title is the American Bald Eagle Plate. The “Honor America” misnomer stems from a misinterpretation of the backstamp. The plate design is a representation of a prior Boehm studio eagle sculpture. Another common error came from the informational insert originally sold with the plate which led some careless-reading seller to cite the plate as having been made in 1970. Not only would that be totally illogical for a 1976 Bicentennial item (duh!) but Boehm’s English studio wasn’t even launched until 1971. The 1970 viral mis-dating comes from the info-sheet (usually now missing) which stated that HonorAmerica is/was a private society formed in 1970 and who later partnered with Boehm to produce this 1976 plate. According to this insert the size of this plate edition was 12,000. It is 10.75″ in diameter.
Some or all of the plates that Boehm issued in 1978 and later may have been marketed exclusively by the Hamilton Collection, one of the larger mass-market collectibles producers that began seemingly popping up like weeds during the late 1970s. Hamilton marketed almost all of Boehm’s 1980s plates, but I’ve found no advertising evidence yet to show conclusively that these next three Malvern plate series were. (I will update this post if I do find information either way.) If not, then they were sold by Boehm’s retail galleries.
Both of the Boehm studio locations occasionally produced items for the benefit of various charitable organizations. The first such plate (from the Malvern studio at least) appears to have been the Great Animals of the World series of eight, done for the USA branch of the World Wildlife Fund in 1978. Notice that although the backstamp says Made in England the logo is that of the Trenton (NJ) studio: the horse and feather. Normally the Malvern items have the horse and crown logo. The eight plate subject are the African Buffalo, Bighorn Sheep, White Rhinoceros, Bengal Tiger, Leopard, Hippo, African Lion, and African Elephant. Prices are unknown.
Many thanks to the reader who supplied this photo of the Bighorn Sheep plate, which Google had been completely unable to ferret out!
Update, October 2020: A helpful reader has recently made me aware that at some point, Boehm also issued these plates in a non-World-Wildlife-Fund format.
The plate, size and front design are identical to the WWF series shown above; here are two examples.
However, the back of these plates is entirely different. The only marks are these. There is no issue year or any other indication as to when they were made.
Continuing the “..of the World” plate series theme was a Butterflies of the World plate series launched in 1978 as an issue of 5000 selling for $62 each. These are entirely different from the 1975 series but I have been unable to find any photos of any of them. The most I have unearthed is that one is titled Monarch and Daisy and another is Red Admiral and Thistle. If anyone has any information at all (plate titles, or whether it was a Hamilton Collection series) there is a direct contact form on the About the Chatsworth Lady page.
A concurrent 1978 series was Flowers of the World that ran for three years and so the Butterflies one may have done likewise. This was a series of six designs in an edition of 2500 each, issued two per year: Clematis and Rhododendron in 1978, Boehm Orchid [shown] and Yellow Rose in 1979, and Spider Orchid and Dahlia in 1980. The backstamp shown is not the one from the orchid pictured, which is a Paphiopedilum, not a “spider orchid.” These sold for $58.
The Malvern studio also produced the long-running Chickadees and Holly dinnerware range. The backstamp is a version of the one appearing on the first (Tanhouse Lane) limited edition plate series. According to various sources, including Replacements.com, this dinnerware pattern was produced from 1976 to 1995 which does fit with the ultimate closure date of the Boehm studio in England. I don’t know whether the dinnerware was physically produced at the same site as the porcelain sculptures and/or plates and plaques; the large volume and continuous production would seem to require a separate facility of its own. The extensive 1976 book on Boehm authored by Reese Palley doesn’t mention the dinnerware line at all but that may be because they were not yet in production, or simply because they were not “collector” items.
It should be mentioned that the 1970-1981 collector plate series Boehm Birds and the 1973-1982 series Woodland Wildlife were not made by either of the Boehm studios. They were designed by the Trenton Boehm studio but were manufactured by Lenox China and so should not be considered “Boehm plates.”
The next post in this series surveys the limited edition plaques produced by the Malvern Boehm studio during its first decade of operation.