Need ID help please - Some kind of Trench Art?

Any ideas as to what this is? It came to me from an uncle, and he says it came from France. That’s all the info I have, other than what’s in the photo. I can measure or take pics of anything if more is needed.

Any guesses as to what it’s worth?

Thank you,

W.P. “Hoot” Gibson

Don’t think it’s trench art, this would’ve had to have been made by an artist or smith in a shop. Try posting this in an “Antique’s Roadshow” type forum, they are the antiques sleuths

It is Austro-Hungarian, and dated 1900 as you show. I’d guess the caliber as 24cm from the rim diameter, but can’t be certain because of all the damage to it. The original cartridge case is certainly quite scarce, but it’s only value is as an decorative item now.


After WW1, there was apparently quite a trade in items like this, where salvaged brass cases were worked into vases, umbrella stands, etc., etc., so this wouldn’t be true “trench art”, but sort of related to it.

I have been told that most items sold by antuique dealers as “trech art” were actually made from salvaged cases in small workshops years after the end of WW1 to sell to tourists visiting the area. Items such as the vase shown in this thread are far too complex to produce in a trench environment.

I am no expert in this field, that’s for sure, but it seems trench art is a broad term nowadays. I have seen a few books on trench art sell on EBAY over the years and tons of trench art items. It seems almost anything made from ammunition components, from the extremely simple to the extremely complicated is called trench art. I’d say 90% or more of these items, although super neat could never be produced in a trench unless they had a pretty advanced machine shop underground at the front lines. Type “trench art” into ebay and you will see what I mean. I would speculate that most the highly ornamental and complicated trench art was made after the fact at formal factories or small shops? Just a guess.

PS: Either way, your vase is very nice, indeed!

I used to collect bits and pieces of trench art about 30+ years ago when nobody wanted it and it was considered worthless.
My only real interest was because of the ammo content initially.

In those days most of the pieces I picked up could be linked directly to an old soldier who had brought the items back from the war. Things like "my father brought that back " or “That belonged to my late husband, he was a soldier” so some of the stuff was contemporary at least but definitely not actually made in the trenches. More likely made to sell to soldiers by field workshop personnel behind the lines as a side line.

Some pieces, like the paper knife with a bullet handle must have been churned out in some volume because they crop up quite often. The same with the bullet crucifix. Best of all were the reworked artillery shells, some of them were beautiful.

After the war there wasn’t any real tourist trade in the area. Only family members visiting graves and they wern’t likely to buy souvenirs.

Even today the battlefields are not what you would call tourist traps with souvenir shops, there are a few places where you can buy bits today but you would have to know where to look.

Have I still got the pieces? No, my first wife hated them.

Thanks all for the informative replies! Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you, but I’ve been to a gun show this weekend.

Sorry too about using the term “Trench Art.” I never figured it really was made on the battlefield, but fell prey to the easy, if incorrect, descriptive.

It’s too bad this got bent up, but it would probably have wound up being melted if it hadn’t. At least there’s some of it’s former glory to look at and wonder about.

I haven’t figured out what to do with it yet, so maybe I’m meant to just polish it up and put some plants in it.

Thanks again,


During and after WWI some amputees and other wounded men were given tools and shop space to make things like this. The items were sold to make money for the men.

The term trench art is accurate for all sorts of stuff, some of it made by POW’s and other items made from shells in high end metal working shops after the war. Some war-time items are of excellent quality because fine artists and artisans were drafted along with everyone else.

Some of the top quality pieces are up to the standards you would expect from a piece of good silverware and are obviously craftsman made.

I have always assumed the bigger pieces were made later and possibly back in the home country because you can’t imagine a soldier sneaking a hugh ornate artillery case back in his pack.

Although the ground was littered with the debris of war, scrap metal particularly brass was actively collected up and salvaged for the war effort. Therefore any soldier diverting brass from being salvaged would potentially be acting illegally.

I have a ship in a bottle that was made by a POW back in this country and bought by my late father.

The veterans workshops that were set up in this country, and still exist by the way, made things in mostly in wood like bird tables and had tie ins with local industries to make packing cases and the like.

You may like to have a look at the website to see the sort of quality that can be found.

Here’s nother good website with perhaps more American interest

This pretty much decides the trench art controversy. I think.

[i][b]Now what really is trench art? I found the following definition at

"…Trench art is a highly evocative term conjuring up the image of a mud-spattered soldier in a soggy trench hammering out a souvenir for a loved one at home while dodging bullets and artillery shells. This is an appealing but very false conception of the reality of this art form. A few types of trench art (finger rings made from melted down aluminum are a good example) could be made easily in a trench during lulls in the fighting, but the hammering involved in making many trench art pieces would have been greeted with unwelcome hostile fire from the enemy. Trench art items made during the war were in fact created at a distance from the front line trenches either by soldiers

Thanks Rick!


Thanks much folks, this has been a very informative session!