I’ve fallen in love with this a set of 12 silver spoons, each about 5.5 inches long. The handles are all decorated with different scenes of people, animals, etc. The back of each handle is engraved “F 1939” The three other oval shape marks are too small for me to read. Can you identify them? Were they made for a child?
How wonderful! I stared and stared at these spoons knowing they looked familiar but not being able to remember why. Finally it occurred to me that all of the spoons illustrate scenes from classic fairy tales.
This trip back in memory, augmented with a trek to the public library, solved the mystery. All twelve spoons depict scenes from Hans Christian Andersen stories. More than likely then, the spoons were manufactured in Denmark.
Hans Christen Andersen (1805-1875) was the only child of elementary school educated parents who read to him classics including The Arabian Nights. Hans himself pursued acting but, at an early age, shifted to writing plays, novels and poems. In 1835, after moderate success as a playwright, he began to rewrite and publish retellings Greek poetry, Spanish anecdotes and fairy tales from his childhood. These collections became moderately successful and he continued to adapt classics and to author original stories. He eventually published more than 150 fairy tales.
In 1849 Andersen’s success grew with the publication of a story collection illustrated by 29-year-old Vilhelm Pedersen (1820-1859). These soft pencil drawings are the illustrations most familiar to anyone reading Andersen’s Fairy Tales.
Danish law maintains that an artist’s work retains its copyright for 70 years after the artist’s death. Therefore, in 1929, the 125 or more Pedersen illustrations fell into public domain. At that time porcelain manufacturers, tile makers and the Danish silver manufacturer W & S Sorensens of Horsens, Denmark began producing items featuring the famous scenes.
Sorensen produced this pattern in a limited selection of pieces as the collection was geared toward children. Of the knives, forks, spoons, mugs and napkin rings they made I can only find references for these 12 stories. The set of twelve spoons here was likely a Christening present to a well to do child in 1939.
The system of Danish hallmarking confirms this date. Beginning in 1893, Denmark imposed a standard method of identifying silver. The country adopted the three-tower mark, used in Copenhagen to indicate a minimum purity of .826 since the 17th century, to guarantee the national standard of .830 silver. In the first third of the 20th century, silver makers adhered to this rule as evidenced by the mark of the assayer (in this case Johannes Siggaard, who was tasked with the responsibility from 1932 to 1960). The final mark is that of the maker, Sorensen’s of Horsens. The silver marks on this set, corroborated by the engraving, indicate that the group was produced in 1939.
Sorensen continued to make the Hans Christian Andersen cutlery into the mid 20th century. In 2005, in honor of Andersen’s 200th birthday, the series was revived in stainless steel.
You have a situation where the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts: individually these spoons would sell in the $10-20 each range. Having the complete set of 12 with consistent markings mean the set of spoons would easily sell in the $300-500 range.