Dear Helaine and Joe: I have two large plates that are 17 1/2 inches in diameter. They are marked Villeroy and Boch, Mettlach, and one is numbered 1066 and the other is 1067. Both are signed by the artist "F. Reiss." Any further information would be appreciated. — C.F., Sylvania, Ohio

Dear C.F.: Villeroy and Boch was founded in 1841 with the merging of three German factories, two of which had been established in the 18th century. The amalgamated company had its headquarters in Mettlach, Germany, which was the location of what is now their most famous factory.

The name Mettlach is derived from Latin for "mid-lakes," and in 1836 Nicholas Villeroy and Eugene Boch joined forces and formed a stoneware factory in an abandoned abbey which had a tower that had been completed in the year 1000. It was modeled after a cathedral built for Charlemagne in 786, and a representation of this venerable edifice was later used on the company logo. It began appearing on ceramics as part of the Mettlach mark in about 1883, and current collectors refer to it as the "Castle" mark.

Mettlach is most famous for its steins, and they made some of the most highly desired of these beer containers. But Mettlach also made a wide variety of other objects including vases, ewers, tazzas, tobacco jars, beakers, punch bowls, pokals (large ceremonial drinking vessels with lids), teapots, covered dishes, jardinieres, baskets, clock cases and ink stands.

Some of the Mettlach products that are commonly found are wall plaques, which the company catalogs referred to as "Schalen" or "dishes." These came in a variety of sizes from a diminutive 7 1/2 inches to an impressive 35 inches in diameter. The vast majority of these plaques were round, but oval, square, rectangular, octagonal or shield-shaped forms can be found.

A wide variety of decorating techniques were used on Mettlach plaques, and the most valuable (as a general rule) are the ones that have etched designs. The example belonging to C.F., however, is perhaps the most commonly found type of decoration and is called "print under glaze" or "PUG."

There were a lot of subjects depicted on these "PUG" pieces, with images of castles and German scenes being the most numerous. Most of these were on Mettlach's 1044 blank, but not all pieces are marked with this number. The two numbers quoted by C.F. are the decoration numbers on the 1044 blank, and the 1066 and 1067 were intended to be a pair when they were made.

The two scenes of a thatched room farmhouse or mill with a water wheel and the gaggle of geese drinking water from the runoff of an old pump both have mountains in the background and depict a pleasant slice of German rural life at the turn of the 20th century or just after. It is unfortunate, but we cannot find any information on the artist "F. Reiss," but his signature should appear on both plaques, and he probably is responsible for the original image that was turned into the prints used on these plaques.

Some Mettlach "print under glaze" plaques can be relatively inexpensive, but these are charming and are a good size. For insurance replacement purposes, these pieces should be valued in the $1,200 to $1,500 range if they are in perfect condition.

Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of the "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Questions can by mailed to them at P.O. Box 12208, Knoxville, TN 37912-0208.