Collecting risqué Victorian fairings

Victorian fairings were given away as prizes, or sold inexpensively at fairs for display on mantle-pieces in middle-class homes. Made from porcelain and hand decorated, the base bears a caption that supports the subject shown. They date from the rise of funfairs from the mid-19th century until the early 20th century. Some were modelled as trinket boxes, with the group on the lid, or incorporated small pots to hold spills or matches.

Themes were typically bawdy and risqué for the period, with scenes of marital life, courtship or cheeky seaside humour. Although thought of as British, most were made in Germany with Conte & Boehme a major manufacturer. Some of their production is marked with their logo or a shield containing an arm holding a dagger. However, a great many fairings were unmarked. From the 1870s onwards, many fairings were marked with a number that indicates the shape. These run from 2850 to 2899 and 3300 to 3385.

Earlier examples tend to be better quality, with more detailed and carefully applied colours. From the 1880s, quality drops with poor-applied details. Values have also dropped as they've gone out of fashion but collectors have chosen to collect the work of higher quality makers. Damage reduces value considerably. This love-themed fairing, ‘Love in winter’ is valued at £550-£650.

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