Subsequently, another collector posted a message to me on the World Collector's Net Lladro Message Board, informing me that she has Teresa Schmitt's puppy model shown on the previous page but with the same gold foil Tang sticker as on Jorge's dog (and the same cobalt blue "Made in Spain" as on the base of both).
Given the experience of these two collectors, I am willing to concede
that most, if not all, of the items marked "Made in Spain" in cobalt blue
with no other attribution - including my Borzoi dog grouping pictured on
the previous page - are,
in fact, either Tang or Rosal,
as both are known to have used, at some point[s], stickers for
manufacturer attribution. That much
of the mystery, at least, appears to have been solved.
That solution, however, still begs the questions: When was the item made, and who owned the Tang brand? The affinities with the Lladró style might indicate that the Tang brand was owned by one of the Lladró sculptors. It isn't at all clear that employee relations between the Lladró company and its early sculptors were anything other than the loosest of freelance arrangements, at least early in the company's history. It's possible that one or more of these early sculptors had their own early brand lines that Lladró would have wanted to acquire in the process of consolidating its own brand identity.
While this is a reasonable guess, I must stress that it remains conjecture. So please, no eBay auction descriptions on these unattributed Made in Spain items that say, "Whiteneck says this is Lladró!" The relationship between Tang and Lladró is indirect at best and would have to have been based upon acquisition rather than invention.
It should also be pointed out that a block-print Made in Spain stamp is a lot easier for copyists to imitate than an actual maker's mark. Once word gets out that these items have a probable affiliation with Lladró, however indirect, we can probably expect the cobalt blue country mark to appear on a variety of newer models of obviously inferior quality. (For all we know, this may already have happened - though I haven't yet seen anything with this cobalt blue mark that I didn't think looked like a Lladró in quality.)
Because the attribution of these maker-unattributed items is ambiguous, giving value estimates on them is difficult. My advice for this, as for all secondary market collectibles, is, "If you like it and can acquire it at a price reasonable by your own standards, buy it." Beyond that, you can establish a value by asking yourself what you'd be willing to let the item go for on resale. There is, of course, no guarantee you'd ever get that for it, but at least you'll know where you stand on willingness to sell and at what price.
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