Welcome to the Zaphir Pages!
The Zaphir brand and its connection to Lladró is even more of a mystery
than the NAO brand. No one looking at a Zaphir-marked item could fail to note
the more-than-passing resemblance not just to the Lladró style but
to its quality as well.
This item is Zaphir #584, "Feeding My Colt," which retailed
at $275 before the Zaphir brand was reincorporated into the NAO collection sometime
in the early- to mid-1980s. The model is no longer being produced.
(Photo from an original Zaphir catalog dated 1978.)
As it turns out, the sculptor for this brand was none other than Jose Puche,
one of the famous core collection sculptors. (A full-page picture of him at
work on a model is found in a 1978 Zaphir catalog in my possession.)
How this came about is an interesting matter for conjecture. Did the Lladró brothers
give him leave to begin a new brand on their behalf? Or was he trying to strike
out on his own?
In the history and tradition of pottery and porcelain-making,
it was not unusual for artists to move from brand to brand and company to
company. Similar movement in and out of the Lladró collections
would only be surprising if it had not happened. [9/23/07
Update: Actually, I have an official NAO price
list from Lladró for the year 1981 that has the intriguing headline "Zaphir (USA) Distribution
Corp." So at least as of 1981, we have this circumstantial evidence that
Zaphir was a Lladró-affiliated name. This doesn't, of course, rule out
that Puche could have started a brand by that name on his own
as early as 1978. It's also possible that Puche's company was, at least at
that date, serving
as the actual distribution network for the NAO by Lladró brand as well
as its own Zaphir brand. After all,
up until about the mid 1980s, some other company served
as the distributor even for Lladró's core brand - whose distributor in
those days was Weil Ceramics & Glass, Inc. In any case, this Zaphir distribution
header on NAO's 1981 price list brings more mystery than clarity to the question
of Zaphir's origins as a brand.]
In any event, the Zaphir collection was a relatively short-lived venture, from
about 1978 to the early- to mid-1980s. Post Zaphir, Puche was brought back
into the core collection fold, where he continues to this day. The last of the Zaphir models
were recycled as NAO models, which kept the same serial
numbers as their Zaphir originals. Hence, it is not uncommon to find clones
of Zaphir models with NAO marks.
Speaking of the Zaphir mark, it consists solely of the cursive name Zaphir (with
the script somewhat difficult to read, so that people sometimes mis-render it as
"Laphin" or "Zaphin") and the legend "Hand Made in Spain," all in a green backstamp
with no other logo or attribution. (Nor is there anything in the Zaphir
retail catalog from 1978 that indicates it has any relation at all to
A Collector's Book of Retired Lladró
by Peggy Whiteneck
Old Line Publishing, LLC
Ever since its founding in the 1950s and its subsequent, stellar rise to global prominence,
collectors have been fascinated with the singular modeling and attention to detail in
Lladró Spanish porcelain figurines. Eventually, collectors discovered that Lladró
wasn't just one brand, but several. At the same time, other companies began to sprout up all
over Spain, particularly around Lladró's own region in Valencia, working
"in the Lladró style" and hoping to catch a ride on the tailwinds of its popularity.
This book is written to acquaint readers with retired figurines in all the Lladró and
Lladró-affiliated brands and to help distinguish them from the work of other Spanish
companies. The book features substantive chapters on the Lladró "core brand,"
NAO by Lladró, Zaphir, Golden Memories, Rosal, and Hispania, complete with
representative photos for each brand.
Retail Price: $29.95
S & H: $5.95
at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com
or through any bookseller by ISBN order #13: 978-0-9845704-6-1.