August 2010 Feature Article
Article and photos by Dave Phelps
The Holy Grail
of bird collecting is the bird on the pineapple. Favorite of
the more popular collecting areas today is Czech figural birds.
The hand painted bright colors and unusual shapes enthuse
collectors everywhere. This bold statement is backed up by the
skyrocketing prices and number of new collectors seen on eBay
lately, but more of that later.
I started my collection 15
years ago with one of the most common bird vases—I found it at a
flea market. After finding one or two others, I was on my way to
a full-fledged collection. At the time I had no idea of the
variety and extent of this area. Although I now have over 200
birds in my collection, I am still finding new ones. In the past
year I was able to add about a dozen new birds and varieties to
my collection, some at bargain prices. Fellow collectors have
shown me pictures of birds I don’t have, so there is still room
I have limited my collection
to those that have the “red dime” mark. I do have a couple that
have other marks - I justify having them in my collection by the
fact that these tend to be the rarer birds. Since the appearance
is so similar to examples with the red dime mark, I suspect the
same birds may exist with the red dime mark as well.
Virtually no information
exists on which Czechoslovakian company(s) made these birds or
when. Some clues come from notes that were written on the
bottom, such as “Christmas, 1926.” The latest date of production
is probably around the beginning of hostilities in Europe as
Like live birds, the
figurals come in many varieties, and it is the varieties that
separate the most ardent collectors from others. Even the most
common of birds have several different variations in size and
color. The larger ones may also have different features, for
example the bird’s tail may be separated from the tree trunk or
are a little larger. You have to look carefully when shopping to
make sure you are not passing up a real find.
My second bird was a “bird
on the nest” wall pocket. This is one of the two most common
wall pockets, and it wasn’t until several years into my
collection that I learned that this one came in several sizes.
When I finally found the slightly larger size in a mall, it was
more than I wanted to pay, but I decided it might be quite a
while before I ran across it again. I proudly hung it with my
other birds. It wasn’t until about six months later that I
realized it was facing to the left, not to the right as are the
common ones. That was a find!
Wall pockets can be easily
identified by the mold number and most also have a letter
incised on the back. For example, the right-facing bird (mold
number 5675) comes in 4 sizes signified by the letters A, B, H,
and I. Interestingly, while the later letters typically indicate
a larger wall pocket, the one with the letter I is smaller than
the H version, at least on the “bird on the nest” wall pocket.
Some of the rarer wall pockets are size variations of common
In addition to size
differences, there are also consistent color variations. There
is a green version of the “bird on the nest” wall pocket, but
there are several birds with consistent color variations. These
are not limited to the wall pockets. Another example can also be
seen on the parrot vases which have both green and brown bases
and yellow, blue and red birds. The parrot vases also come in a
number of sizes, from the common size of just over 5 inches, to
6, 7, 8, 9 up to 111⁄2 inches tall. It can be quite a challenge
to find all the color combinations in all sizes. I have yet to
confirm that they all exist.
In addition, there are also
birds in white luster. The “bird on the shell” is the one seen
most often, coming only in the luster style. There are several
other birds in luster, including the toucan wall pocket. White
luster can add a premium to the price, for example luster
variety of a common bird can multiply the value several times.
Gold luster is quite
difficult to find, but there are a few known varieties, both are
variations of more common birds. Prices for gold luster birds
can range up to several hundred dollars.
Czech birds come in quite a
variety of forms. There are the vases and wall pockets that are
functional, and there are larger birds that are just ornamental.
There are also creamers, candle holders, baskets, and bowls, and
even one that was made into a lamp. There is only one piece that
I know of that has two birds, it’s a bowl with two candle
holders. As you can see, your collection can grow to a large
number of birds.
Like any collectible, the
value of bird figurals rests on three main factors: condition,
rarity and desirability. None of these stands alone; for
example, I would gladly pay a lot more for a very rare bird with
a little damage than a more common one that is perfect. I think
it is better to have an example of a bird that you only see once
in ten years than not to have it at all. Of course even this
should have limits, but that depends on the collector.
If you are beginning your
collection, any inexpensive birds should be in perfect
condition. Chips and cracks should be avoided. Check the beaks
closely. If buying on eBay, ask if the beak is OK, these are
especially prone to damage. Paint rubs and scratches should also
be avoided. While it is to be expected that there may be very
minor paint variations, paint loss will seriously detract from
the value. More expensive birds should be in the best condition
possible. Remember if you want to resell, others will want birds
One final factor affecting
value is whether a collectable has been reproduced. Apparently
some molds were sold and it appears that there may have been an
attempt to reproduce them. The good news is that these were only
made in a plain white and are of inferior quality and easily
recognized as reproductions. The high quality of the true Czech
birds is unmistakable.
Mention should also be made
of the impact of eBay. The cheaper birds can be picked up for
only a few dollars if you are patient. Like most other
collecting areas, eBay has also provided access to birds that
you might not ever see for sale elsewhere. Unfortunately, the
downside is that it has made collecting Czech birds even more
popular, adding to the competition (and price!). That is not to
say that rare birds can not be found at malls and flea markets.
Patience is the key. If you find an unusual bird, I would love
to have you send me a picture at email@example.com.
Finally, Collectors of Czechoslovakian pottery
and glass (as well as Austrian and Bohemian) are lucky that
there is a national group which hosts annual meetings. You can
find information on the organization and meetings at