On modern Herend china, the number and letter sequence on the underside is a pattern and piece identification system, not a registration number, serial number or limited edition number. Knowing what the number-and-letter identifier means helps a seller identify a pattern and write accurate listings. And it makes it easy for buyers to know what's up for auction and match the Herend china they have.
My experience is with Herend tableware, so you should look elsewhere for a guide to Herend collectibles, animals, decorative pieces and fancies. Nor is this a guide for the less expensive lines of Herend Village Pottery or Present Tense. And this guide is of limited use for early 20th century and antique Herend because they have not always marked the identification system as consistently as they do now.
Please scroll to the end of this guide for a list of websites that provide information on Herend. Questions about Herend backstamps and dating can be answered at gemtrading.com. Questions about identifying common US Herend patterns can be answered by referring to the list at the end of this guide, and questions about identifying all Herend patterns can be answered at the manfacturer's site at herend.com.
Herend is the name of a Hungarian company that produces fine porcelain. The Herend ceramics factory was founded in the early 1800s in the town of Herend and began producing fine china tableware and decorative pieces in the mid-1800s. One of its most famous coups was producing perfect replica replacement pieces for a Meissen china service owned by Count and Countess Esterhazy in 1844. Much of Herend’s early production imitated work produced by the Meissen and Sevres factories elsewhere in Europe.
Herend survived wars and changing economies, ownership, tastes and governments and continues production today. During the communist era, sales of Herend china to the West were an important source of hard currency for Hungary. The company became a government enterprise in 1948 and returned to private ownership in 1992. Today Herend employees own about 75% of the company's stock.
Herend fine porcelain is hand painted by highly-skilled craftsmen. This results in subtle variations in the decoration and a limited supply of china. Each piece is almost unique. And since supply of the china is limited by the number of pieces these artisans can produce by hand, there can be a wait of many months for the pieces a customer has ordered. Herend claims that no pattern is ever truly discontinued and that it stands ready to produce any of its patterns or pieces by special order.
Martin’s Herend Imports is the sole authorized importer of Herend porcelain to the United States. Agreements between Herend and Martin’s determine what patterns and pieces are available for retail sale in the United States. Given the limited supply of Herend china, there is a lively secondary market. In addition to the Herend china sold at retail in the United States, second-hand Herend available on eBay includes vintage and even antique pieces, and, more importantly, pieces not usually seen in our country that people have bought in their overseas travels, especially to Europe and Bermuda, or that European sellers list for auction. Accordingly, eBay is a wonderful source for vintage and hard-to-find Herend, pieces that are only sold overseas, and pieces that are out of stock at retail and would have to be ordered. Not least, secondhand Herend on eBay is usually much more affordable than retail. Martin’s is very protective of its distribution agreement with Herend and will move to stop anyone who tries to import its china to the United States as a business.
Herend makes an extraordinary number of different tableware pieces. Aside from a variety of serving pieces, knicknacks, and decorative dishes in each pattern, the actual range of dinner plates, side plates, bowls, and cup-and-saucer sets is astounding, although many are not always available in this country. In addition, Herend has a half dozen different edge styles, including Osier (a flat basketweave), Rocaille (rippled or scalloped basketweave), Lisse, Esterhazy, and Mandarin (typically used for the patterns that replicate the old Chinese export patterns). Most of the Herend tableware patterns sold at retail in the United States are on the scalloped-edge Rocaille forms, but are available in Europe and Bermuda on the flat-weave edge Osier forms. Since both edge styles appear on eBay, it is useful to know their different form codes.
Martin’s Herend Imports has assigned names to the Herend tableware patterns for the American market that usually differ from their names in Europe. And some patterns come in color variations. For example the Chinese Bouquet pattern comes in single colors of raspberry, green, yellow, rust, and blue, as well as its original multicolor version. Queen Victoria and Indian Basket also come in single-color versions.
Getting to the Point: Pattern and Piece Identification
If all this sounds terribly complicated, well, it can be. And the result can be Herend listings on eBay that are erroneous, confused, or incomplete. But Herend provides a simple key on each piece of china that makes everything clear. On the underside of their china Herend and other manufacturers paint or stamp their names or marks (often called a backstamp) and sometimes an indication of the pattern or the year of manufacture. But most important on Herend china is the short series of digits followed by a slash and a few letters that appears in blue on the underside of every piece of Herend beneath the blue painted Herend mark. This is the form number and the pattern code. This is NOT a registration, serial or limited edition number as some sellers mistakenly think! The number (which is usually also impressed into the form) identifies the porcelain form -- the piece itself, while the first letter or letters denote the pattern name and the last letter or letters give the color if there are variant colors for the pattern. In fact, the letters are an abbreviation of the pattern name and color, but since the American pattern names differ from the original European names and the colors are in French, the abbreviations are not obvious to Americans. Also, the European handwriting can be difficult for Americans to decipher.
For example, the pattern Chinese Bouquet is denoted by "A", which actually stands for Apponyi, because the Hungarian name for the pattern is Apponyi Fleur (Apponyi Flower), named after the man who first commissioned it. The "A" is then followed by a "P" (raspberry) or "B" (blue) or "V" (green) or "OG" (rust) or "J" (yellow). Thus, no matter how bad the photo or inaccurate the seller’s description, if you know that the letters on the back of the plate are "AOG" you know that the pattern is Chinese Bouquet in rust.
The original multicolor Chinese Bouquet/Apponyi Flower is denoted "AF," and if you know that you won’t confuse a teacup in Chinese Bouquet multicolor with a teacup in the very similar multicolor pattern Windsor Garden, which is denoted "FDM."
Each plate, bowl, cup and saucer starts out as a plain white porcelain form (also called a blank), and under the Herend system each size and style of plate, bowl or cup & saucer set has its own number. Here are a few examples to explain the numbers: A 10½-inch dinner plate with the rippled or scalloped edge (Rocaille) has the form or piece number 1524. If the same size plate is made in the flat-weave Osier edge it has the form number 524. The smaller 9-inch scalloped-edge luncheon plate is 1521. The even smaller 7½-inch salad or dessert scalloped-edge plate is 1518, but the same 7½-inch plate with a flat basketweave edge (Osier) is 518. From this we can see that forms with the scalloped basketweave Rocaille edge are denoted by a four digits beginning with 1 and forms with the flat-weave Osier edge have a three-digit number. Note also that the plates are numbered in order from smaller size/lower number to larger size/higher number. The plate sizes increase in about half-inch increments. That's a lot of different plate sizes.
Similarly, the large rim soup plate is form number 503 and the smaller 8-inch rim soup is 504 – both have the flat basketweave edge. In a further example of the form numbers, the flared teacup and saucer usually sold in the United States is form number 734, while the Canton cup and saucer is 1726. Herend cups and saucers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from many styles of demitasses to mugs.
The point is that no matter whether the 10½-inch dinner plate with the Rocaille edge is painted in the Queen Victoria pattern or Chinese Bouquet Rust, the identifier will begin with the number 1524, followed by a slash and the pattern letter code. Thus 1524/AOG identifies a 10½-inch scalloped-edge dinner plate in Chinese Bouquet Rust and 1524/VBO identifies the same plate in the Queen Victoria pattern. Using this system, no matter how off the measurements in the description, how bad the photos, no matter what the omissions, if you know the numbers and letters on the underside you can tell immediately if it matches what you have or is the piece that you want. Sellers will maximize their bids, avoid email queries and avoid post-auction complaints by stating the number-and-letter identifier in the description and providing a clear, sharp photo of the underside markings. Before bidding on Herend china, buyers should always look for the identifying numbers and letters in the listing or photos or contact the seller for the information.
Those Other Numbers
That explains the form and pattern codes, but what about those other little numbers on the underside of Herend china?
The tiny two- or three-digit number painted at an angle near the footing identifies the painter of the particular piece.
Starting in the 1990s a date identification appears on Herend tableware as a letter and number code below the form and pattern identification. The letter denotes the month (in alphabetical order letters A-L for the 12 months) and the two numbers are the last two digits of the year ("93" means 1993). Hence "D 94" means April 1994. With the new century the year is written out in full, so "F 2001" means June 2001.
Also with the beginning of this century, Herend has added some digits and hyphens to the form number, usually zeroes, so that a newly-produced dinner plate is now marked 1524-0-00/AOG. In another example, the Canton teacup is now marked 1726-2-00/VBO and its saucer is 1726-1-00/VBO, thus the pieces in a set are now identified as such.
In recent years Herend also has added another number identifier below the form and pattern code, which gemtrading.com suggests is a country code.
Lastly, for the patterns that have multiple motifs (e.g., Rothschild Bird, Fruits and Flowers, Market Garden) there is also a numbering system for the motifs that appears below the form and pattern code. None of this affects the basic form number and pattern code identification sequence.
A Note on Herend Backstamps or Marks
Except for some anniversary years and first edition marks, the Herend backstamp has been pretty much the same since about 1948. But pre-1948 backstamps are often a key to dating vintage and antique Herend pieces. Both the manufacturer's site at herend.com and gemtrading.com provide pictures and dates for the old Herend backstamps for people who want to know how old a piece might be.
A Short List of Common Patterns
Here’s a short list of some of the modern patterns (with their code letters in parentheses) generally retailed in the United States that are also often sold on eBay:
Firstly, Chinese Bouquet [Apponyi Fleur] in rust (AOG), yellow (AJ), raspberry (AP), blue (AB), green (AV), grey/black (yikes!) (ANG), and the original multicolor (AF).
Other patterns with color variations: the popular Queen Victoria pattern [Victoria avec Bord en Or] (VBO), also available in monochromatic rust as Fortuna [Hedervary] (VBOH or VOH) and in blue as Fortuna Blue (VBOB); and Indian Basket [Fleurs des Indes] (FD), also available as monochromatic Indian Basket Raspberry (P), in green (FV) and in blue (FB).
(A Note on the [Queen] Victoria pattern: Herend produces several variations on the multicolored Victoria pattern. The only one imported for retail to the United States has the code VBO for Victoria avec Bord en Or [Victoria with Gold Border], called Queen Victoria by the importing company. Other variations are the borderless Victoria (V), the slightly simpler and borderless Victoria A (VA), and the Victoria A avec Bord en Or (VBA). A buyer might not immediately notice the differences among these pattern variations, so knowing the pattern codes avoids confusion and mistakes. To add further complexity, Herend has created yet a fifth pattern using some of the Victoria motifs which has a single peony center surrounded by butterflies and flower sprigs and is called Victoria Papillons et Fleurs (LVF) [Victoria Butterflies and Flowers]. This last is sold in Canada, but is unlikely to be confused with the Queen Victoria pattern. It has three color variations for the center peony and a half dozen single-color versions, of which raspberry (LVFP) and green (LVFV) appear most frequently on eBay. All the other four Victoria variations also are sold in Canada and do appear in eBay auctions. In 2007 the US importer added two more versions of the Queen Victoria pattern (VBO), one with pink border highlights and one with blue border highlights. This highlights the need to know and check the pattern code when buying pieces in any of the Victoria patterns.)
Several patterns with multiple motifs: the 12-motif Rothschild Bird (RO), also in Rothschild Bird Blue Border (ROEB or RO-EB) and Rothschild Bird Green Border (ROEV or RO-EV); the 12-motif Bouquet de Herend (BHR), also in Bouquet de Herend Green Border (BHR-EOV); the 12-motif Fruits and Flowers [Bouquet de Fruits] (BFR); the 5-motif Printemps [Bouquet de Tulipe] (BT) and Printemps Blue Border (BT-EB); the 4-motif Chanticleer [Groupe de Volailles] (GVL); and the 30-motif (!) Market Garden (FR).
And lastly there’s Blue Garland [Petits Bleuets avec Guirlande] (PBG); Blue Garden [Waldstein Blue] (WB); Livia (WBO or WBOS); Kimberly [Mille Fleurs] (MF); Windsor Garden (FDM), a variation of Chinese Bouquet/Apponyi Fleurs; the plain Golden Edge [Hadik Simple] (HDE); Coronation [Batthyany] (BAT); and the extravagant Cornucopia [Tupini, Corne d'Abondance] (TCA).
Note that Herend uses both the Rocaille and Osier forms for all the patterns listed above.
These are some patterns not usually available in the United States, but sometimes seen on eBay: Nanking Bouquet [multicolor] (NB), Nanking Bouquet Pink [raspberry] (NBP) and Nanking Bouquet Green (NBV); Eton (ETON); Queen Victoria in monochromatic yellow (VBOJ); the 3-motif Victoria Papillons et Fleurs [Victoria Butterflies and Flowers] (LVF) and its 6 monochromatic versions, which include raspberry (LVFP) and green (LVFV); the 6-motif Bouquet de Fruits Necker (BFRN), which is a variation of Fruits and Flowers [Bouquet de Fruits] (BFR); Waldstein (WMC), which is the original multicolor version of Blue Garden (WB), and its single-color versions in pink [raspberry] (WR-3), green (WZ-3) and yellow (WJ-3); Lichtenstein Garden (LTG); Persil [Parsley] (PE); Guirlande de Raisin [Grape Garland] (SZG) and its monochomatic green version Guirlande de Raisin Vert (SZGV); and Vieille Rose de Herend [Old Rose] (VRH), also sometimes called English Rose or Vienna Rose.
Some Herend Resources
Below is a list of some Internet resources for your Herend research. You can gain basic information about Herend, research patterns and pieces, check values in the secondhand market, figure out backstamps and dates, and look at retail information from Herend's US distributor at the following sites. You can also search the Internet for Herend retailers. The eBay policy on links prohibits me from giving the full site address, but you should be able to figure it out:
herend.com (the official site of the Herend factory in Hungary)
herendusa.com (official site of the US Herend distributor, Martin's Herend Imports)
replacements.com (Replacements, Ltd. deals in secondhand Herend)
gemtrading.com (Gem Trading has a guide to Herend backstamps and their approximate dates, and deals in secondhand Herend)
The best source for information on Herend is the site for the Herend manufactory/factory in Hungary (herend.com), which gives history, in-depth explanations and a full photographic display of the many dozens of Herend tableware patterns. Find out how to visit and tour the factory and museum in Hungary at this site. This is where I refer people who ask me questions about rare and antique pieces. By scrolling through their Set Collection section you should be able to identify most Herend tableware patterns. They also have a picture guide to Herend backstamps through the centuries.
You can research the patterns and pieces sold at retail in the United States at Martin’s website (herendusa.com), which also offers the Herend-US catalogue, a price list and a coffee table book, plus a list of retailers so that you can go see the china in real life or buy online.
Replacements, Ltd. (replacements.com) is a good research and purchase source for the secondary Herend market, although the stock varies. Replacements is a leading dealer in secondhand and discontinued china, silver and crystal. Look here to research the value of secondhand Herend.
The site gemtrading.com provides a guide to the Herend backstamps through the years that will help you date old and antique Herend, and also the marks that denote less desirable second-quality and third-quality and student work. This company deals in secondhand Herend.
You can find the patterns and pieces sold at retail in Canada at what appears to be the site of official Herend Canadian distributor and retailer, CANHU International. Ltd., at herend.ca. Needless to say Herend pieces from Canada can easily find their way onto eBay auctions.
If you are traveling to Bermuda, you can visit Bluck's, which sells Herend, in Hamilton and St. George's. View their site at blucksbermuda.com. Since they are not allowed to compete directly with US retailers, you can view the Herend patterns they carry on the Internet, but must contact them directly for information on price, availability and to order. Traditionally Bluck's prices have been lower than American retail, but that is not guaranteed. Bluck's usually carries the Osier or flat basketweave edge favored in the European market, not the Rocaille edge that dominates in the United States. There are a couple Herend patterns celebrating the Bermudian flora and seashells that are sold exclusively by Bluck's. They also carry some patterns not available in this country and they can order pieces for you that they don't have in stock. Using the correct Herend form number will assure that you end up with the edge style you want on the pieces you get from Bluck's. Anything bought or shipped from Bermuda is subject to US Customs taxes.
Herend china is sold in Europe, the Caribbean and worldwide. Check the Herend manufactory site herend.com to find retailers abroad.
Some of the Herend books provide the European names for current patterns as well as the names of older patterns. One of these is Herend: The Art of Hungarian Porcelain by Gyozo Sikota (Puski Publishing, New York 1988), which is often available on eBay.
I hope that by writing this guide sellers who are not familiar with Herend will be able to write accurate, complete listings and buyers who are just learning about Herend will avoid mistakes. I've tried to pass on to you, the reader, what I've learned from twenty years of buying my own Herend tableware in the United States, Italy and Bermuda and from my conversations with the store owners and staff in those countries. I have also dealt directly with Martin's Herend Imports in a couple of instances and I've done additional research to try to make this guide thorough but not arcane. If you've found my work helpful, please click the "Yes" button below. And please feel free to email me with any corrections or additional information that you think I should include in this guide.