Analysing the Vienna Catalogue

In our last blog post we wrote about the similarities and differences between one of the Estimate Exhibition books we made available last year and a separate “Catalogue of Ornamental Pieces” related to the Vienna Exhibition of 1873. Having since transcribed this document into a suitably nifty Excel spreadsheet we thought we’d take a look at the results and furtle out some interesting statistics to share with you…

Let’s start with the basics. 928 items were taken to the Vienna Exhibition by Minton (3 items in the ledger were “not sent”) of which 77 were “Returned to Walbrook”, 14 were “broken” or “smashed”, and 4 were given away. (There are also 58 entries with nothing recorded against them which we’ll treat similarly to the returns and breakages in our stats.) All these items are categorised under 549 unique “V”-prefixed identification numbers which, as we mentioned last time, bear little resemblance to the “V” numbers found in the Estimate Book (sigh).

Top 5 Buyers
by number of items purchased
  • Austrian Museum (31 items)
  • Karlsbad Kunstgewerbeschule (17 items)
  • Pest Museum (14 items)
  • Bavarian Museum (12 items)
  • Stuttgart Museum (8 items)

The vast majority of Vienna Exhibition pieces were sold to individuals rather than institutions but as a whole it’s the latter which were more serious about collecting, purchasing an average of 7.5 pieces each compared to just 3.3 pieces for the individuals. Among the buyers were 16 Counts & Countesses, 13 Barons & Baronesses, and 11 Princes & Princesses, alongside other prominent collectors including “H.R.H. The Prince of Wales” (3 pieces), “The Emporer of Germany” (2 pieces), and “The King of the Belgians” (2 pieces), as well as South Kensington Museum director “[Philip] Cunliffe Owen” (11 pieces). Items from Minton’s stand also found their way into the collections of museums as far away as Moscow (2 pieces), St. Petersburg (1 piece), and Massachusetts (2 pieces).

In total Minton’s Exhibition stock was priced at £5610 12s 11d (5610 pounds, 12 shillings and 11 pence), or just over £350,000 today. The National Archives’ Currency Converter suggests that if you were minted enough to have bought the entire Vienna display you could’ve alternatively ponied up the cash for almost 400 horses or, if we’re milking these comparisons for as many terrible puns as possible, an udderly ridiculous 1050 cows! As for individual pieces, these ranged in price from a hefty 200 Guineas (or 4200 Florins) to a more manageable 4 pence (or 1/2 Florin), which today translates to about £13,000 and £1 respectively. Those big-ticket items were very much in the minority however: over half the display stock was priced at or below £1 10s (30 Florins) – that’s around £95 today.

Top 5 Buyers
by total spend
  • Austrian Museum (£144)
  • Bavarian Museum (£60 2s 7d)
  • Pest Museum (£51 16s 6d)
  • Hamburg Museum (£36 4s 6d)
  • Stuttgart Museum (£33)

When it comes to money spent our percentage chart is even more heavily-skewed towards individual buyers than it was last time around, and in our table there’s also a bigger difference between the cash splashed by the top collectors and their similarly-placed institutions. However, just as before the averages tell a slightly different story: the sheer number of individual buyers, and the huge gulf between the top and bottom spenders, means the average individual spend sits at around £17 18s compared to the average institution’s expenditure of £20 14s.

1655 (16 entries)

1348 (15 entries)

487 (13 entries)

1786 (10 entries)

1718 (10 entries)

Of the 928 items taken to the Exhibition 469 have a defined shape number, though as this count includes multiples of the same item it might be more accurate to say that 186 unique shape numbers are recorded as making their way to Vienna. Although that makes for a considerable amount of duplication only the top five pieces shown above are actually found in double digit quantities, while the vast majority of shape-numbered items – almost 75% – are present in quantities of 5 or less. Within this latter group you’ll find shape 1311, pictured below and described in the ledger as a “1311 Vase Maz[arine] gr[oun]d, Pa[inte]d Venus etc.” – this was Minton’s most lucrative shape-numbered item. Two examples were taken to Vienna and both were sold at 200 guineas each, meaning these two vases alone accounted for about 10% of the sales money taken by Minton at the Exhibition!

Time to wrap up our Viennese whirl (last pun, we promise!) through the pages of SD 1705/MS1385; our next job is to update this item’s online record with some of the most useful information from this post, as well as link it and the Estimate Book together. Look out for that on your next browse through the catalogue!