It’s All In the Marks: Dating Royal Copenhagen Figurines

This Royal Copenhagen figurine, “Farmer with Sheep” was designed in 1905, but we can only know the date this particular piece was made by examining the marks.

To well-seasoned or novice collectors, determining a maker or origin of a piece can be very confusing if it is outside their normal area of interest. Any markings that can be found can often help unravel the mystery—if you know what the marks mean.

If you don’t, however, they can lead you well astray of the truth. In this series of Q&A articles, I’m going to answer the questions I hear most often regarding marks on antiques and provide a straight path off an often-twisted trail.

I’ve received a Royal Copenhagen figurine called “Farmer with Sheep.” I’ve done a little research on it and it appears to have been a quite early one, but the model has been made for a considerable period of time. I’ve included an image of the mark on mine. What do I need to look for to determine if mine is an old one or a later piece?

Here’s my response:

Well, the short answer is no, this is not an early example of this model. In fact, it dates more than 50 years after this model was first designed.

I’ll show you how this is determined.

Like some other porcelain companies, Royal Copenhagen figurines have a variety of ways to determine a date range. The markings found on Royal Copenhagen figurines provide a great deal of information, more so than many other companies, but there is more than one way to determine date ranges on these pieces. One can look for the decorator’s initials or number, the type of crown used in the company marking, the form of company stamp or the actual date code within the company mark itself.

The easiest method is using date codes, Royal Copenhagen employed two types of codes; one from 1932 to 1949 and a second from 1950 to 1984. The earlier of the two uses a dash over one of the letters on the company marking. The later system uses a dash mark under a letter in the company marking.

The dash above the “R” means this item was made in 1935.

The dash below the “R” means this item was made in 1950.

The exact year can be determined by which letter carries this dash mark.

I’ve included a chart to illustrate how it works.

R 1935 R 1950
O 1936 O 1951
Y 1937 y 1952
A 1938 A 1953
L 1939 L 1954
C 1940 D 1955
O 1941 E 1956
P 1942 N 1957
E 1943 M 1958
N 1944 A 1959
H 1945 R 1960
A 1946 K 1961
G 1947 C 1962
E 1948 O 1963
N 1949 P 1964
E 1965
N 1966
H 1967
A 1968
G 1969 to 1974
E 1975 to 1979
N 1980 to 1984

Since 1985, the company has been using a new system in which two dash marks indicate a date range. For example, hyphens over the letters “RO” were used for 1985 to 1991, the letters “RY” from 1992 to 1999 and the letters “RA” 2000 to 2004.

The marks on the “Farmer with Sheep” figurine, with the dash under the “E” in “DENMARK” reveals it was made in 1956. The decorator’s mark and model number also show more background.

When we examine the marking on your figurine, we find the letter “E” in “Denmark” has the dash marking beneath it. According to our chart above, this indicates that the figurine was made in 1956.

More information can be gleaned from the other markings as well. For example, the marking “NMK” is that of the decorator, who unfortunately I have no records for.

The number “627” is another clue. This model number indicates it was one of many designed by Christian Thomsen (1860-1921). Thomsen worked for Royal Copenhagen from 1898 until his death in 1921. During his time, he designed more than 100 figurines. He designed this one in 1905, and my records indicate it still was in production as late as 1981.

Even though this is later-made edition of an early model, it has been discontinued and is no longer in production. The fact it is no longer in production does add to its collectability over time, but how much values appreciate is a matter of speculation.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.


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