by Lesley Pinder
  (click images for larger view)


These days it seems that everyone collects something, it certainly seems like that when you visit a collectors fair and it is amazing what people do collect from buttons to grandfather clocks and everything in between. 
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When I say to people that I collect egg cups they usually smile and recall an egg cup they had as a child when they were told to "eat up your egg and grow big and strong." They all seem to think egg cups are nice little things and say there must be quite a few different ones. Well, this is the understatement of all time and when I started to collect egg cups in 1985 I didn’t realize what this was going to lead to and that life was not going to be quite the same again!

I was talking to my sister-in-law and said that I would like to collect something. She suggested egg cups as it was Easter time and there were some chocolate eggs about in egg cups. I thought about it and liked the idea so that was it. Family and friends took an interest and started to give me egg cups. They all thought it was a bit of fun and really enjoyed having something to look out for on their travels. 

My enthusiasm grew and I was totally hooked on collecting these fascinating little things. I was constantly on the look out at jumble sales, car boots, bric a brac shops etc. never intending to spend much more than 50p (about 80 cents) on a cup! I started to visit collectors fairs and saw some wonderful egg cups that were far beyond my budget. However it was not long before my original 50p per cup had increased to about £5 ($8) as I could not resist some of the egg cups that were about.egg1-b2.jpg (15220 bytes)

By 1992 I had 500 egg cups! Never in my wildest dreams did I think of such quantities when I started collecting but more were to come! In 1993 I joined The Egg Cup Collectors Club of Great Britain and they were, and still are a source of inspiration.

In 1994 I went for the first time to Newark in Nottinghamshire. It is a huge antique and collectables fair, probably one of the largest in Europe, held every few months. I thought it was the most fantastic place and although I came home with only two egg cups they were £10 ($16) each, a record payout for me! Seeing some very expensive "quality" egg cups made me determined to try and treat myself now and again to something "special."egg1-t3.jpg (13130 bytes)

I collected all types steadily over the next four years visiting some good fairs around plus many smaller venues which sometimes proved more productive, this made me realize that even the smallest fairs are worth a look as you just never know what you might find.

In 1998 with over 1100 egg cups and a big display problem I made the momentous decision to collect older traditional style egg cups, known as the pedestal shape. So now I have to "dispose" of earlier egg cups to make way for the older "new" ones.

Right from the start it has been a fascinating and absorbing hobby especially with the research involved on unmarked egg cups of which there are many. The anticipation of the ‘find’ is the best part of going out and about for me and also the lovely people I have had contact with along the way. Having The Egg Cup Collectors Club to air ones news and views and meet fellow pocillovists is lovely. 

We have some really good swop-meets where we buy and sell and have a very good "eggy" day.

History

The earliest images of egg cups appear in a Turkish mosaic dating from 3AD and examples were found among the ruins of Pompeii from 79AD. The date of the advent of the egg cup in England is uncertain but we do know that Elizabethans roasted eggs and in 1690 a certain Lady Harvey referred to "a silver egg thing" in a thank-you letter. 
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Wooden cups were probably made before silver ones but are very difficult to date. In the early 18th century wealthy people used silver egg cups engraved with the owners coat of arms with matching spoons and from 1743 the less well off could buy them made from the cheaper Sheffield plate. Throughout the 18th and into the 19th century pottery and porcelain egg cups featured as only part of a dinner service and would have been of matching style, colour and pattern.

During the 19th century, egg cups were produced in their own right as individual pieces of chinaware although most egg cups did not have a ‘makers’ mark on the bottom so it helps to look out for larger pieces in the same pattern to identify the make and give an idea of the date.

Silver cups made in the 19th century were often gilded inside. This was to prevent the sulphur from the egg from staining the silver which some say affect the flavour. At this time ‘egg’ spoons tended to be made of horn, ivory or bone and these are now avidly collected.
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In France, Louis 15th helped the popularity of egg cups as people bought an eggcup to try and emulate their king as he was reported to be able to "decapitate an egg at a single stroke."

Egg cups were so common and were not considered anything "special" at this time so were often chipped or broken. This explains why intact 19th century designs are so hard to find and expensive when you do! 

The earliest examples of Victorian egg cups often come in sets of four, six or even twelve as breakfasts had become gastronomic feasts by this time and families of more than 10 were commonplace. You can pick up cups that have become separated from their sets or sets with one or more cups missing at a reasonable price, but you will be on the look out for the ‘missing’ pieces which can be hard to find.
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The size range of egg cups is surprisingly wide as the Victorian farmyard contained many more species of egg laying poultry than the modern battery farm so egg cups range in size from the smallest for quail eggs to chicken, turkey, goose and even swan eggs.

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An advertisement for Harrods in 1911 shows a set of six electroplated nickel silver eggcups on a stand with matching spoons for 22/- (£1.10) ($1.75), today in good condition these would cost around £200 ($320).

The egg hoop is like a waisted napkin ring with one end sometimes larger than the other to take different sized eggs in one end for hens egg and the other for turkey or duck egg. The hoops are quite rare these days especially if in good condition and with a famous factory mark on them such as Wedgwood or Spode.

The double egg cup became very popular in 1930’s, these being used to eat a boiled egg in the small end as usual and the larger end is for the egg to be chopped, mixed with salt and pepper and eaten with a spoon or fork.egg7-b3.jpg (15486 bytes)

During the 1900’s the huge growth in railway travel launched a boom in the holiday souvenir trade and potters were quick to supply cheap egg cups bearing a black & white or sometimes a full colour scene of the sea-side resort or town. Probably the most well known of the souvenir ware makers were Goss of Stoke on Trent who produced somewhat better quality cups up to 1930. These cups had a towns’ coat of arms and name and were not just limited to popular destinations and seaside resorts but many inland towns were featured. These souvenirs sold at the time for pennies but today it would be difficult to find a genuine Goss egg cup under £20 ($32) in perfect condition, many many egg cups from this period are chipped or have a hairline crack which most dealers would point out to you but you have to be wary if the price seems a little low or the seller readily reduces the price. 
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All genuine Goss pieces have a Goshawk stamp on the base and are very very collectable today so go home and check the cupboards and let me know if you find one!

Also popular around this time was what is known as Devon 'motto ware'. These cups usually have a motif of a cottage , crowing cockerel or seagull with sayings such as 'fresh today' or 'waste not, want not'. Again these are very collectible today and can fetch high prices. Not surprisingly vast quantities of egg cups were being made to appeal to children to encourage them to eat more eggs and cups were decorated with pictures of favorite characters from children's books, and comic strips such as 'Felix the Cat', Bonzo and Mickey Mouse and later came Muffin, Sooty, the Muppets and there has even been a set of TeleTubbies produced.

Novelty cups are probably the most diverse of all cups, chickens (being a common shape), birds, fish, mammals and the rest of the animal kingdom has been well represented over the years. Humans have not escaped attention and have been produced from the Edwardian 'face' cups with the monocled 'Duke' being very popular and the smiling or crying children's faces up to the more recent soldiers, sailors, policemen and of course politicians such as Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock.

In the early 1980's the duo Luck & Flaw (who went on to make us laugh with spitting image puppets) produced caricatures of our Royal Family these being highly collectible nowadays especially as the Factory that made them closed in 1989.

Carlton Ware as it was known produced some very imaginative designs one of the most popular being their 'walking leg' pieces.egg7-t1.jpg (11778 bytes)

Wooden egg cups make an interesting collection and again many hundreds have been made over the years. In fact, some of the earliest egg cups were made of wood. Many different types of wood have been used to make egg cups such as maple, pine, rosewood, mahogany, olive wood, fruit woods, oak, birch, ash, walnut, the list goes on especially when you take into account all the wooden eggs cups made abroad. Modern egg cups we see today are factory made and very inexpensive however collectors lookout for the older more unusual pieces.

Most pottery firms large and small have a range of egg cups in their pattern books, some had short production runs and some were made for many years, i.e., Minton 'Haddon Hall' first appeared in 1949 and still being produced today.egg8-b3.jpg (15732 bytes)

The egg cup has to be one of the world's simplest and successful ideas produced in countless 1000's but really has become 'collectable' during the past few decades. Popularity has grown along with the price and collectors now search far and wide for the rarest.

New collectors usually collect anything and everything to begin with as it is all so exciting and people say " oh I haven't got that one" and buy it but as time goes on they become particular  as their knowledge increases and also as they run out of space to keep all the egg cups! You may say 'they are only little things' but when you get 500 or a 1000 I assure you that storage becomes a real problem and you start to take over the house with shelves and cabinets of egg cups , an understanding spouse is very helpful.

We have many men in our club who collect egg cups and they are just as enthusiastic and in fact generally spend more on egg cups than the ladies. I think we tend to think about things a little more whereas men say 'go for it, it might not be there tomorrow' which is perfectly true. Collectors will travel 'far and wide' to hunt for 'something special' and even abroad there are always egg cups to be found somewhere.egg8-b1.jpg (19943 bytes)

As with all antiques, prices are increasing all the time, but collectors who have been "bitten" by the bug just love the search and then to find that illusive cup is a real thrill.

 


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Editor's note:

From February 2005,  ECCC HAVE a new PO Box number and a new secretary,
Phillippa Goddard, who will act as contact point for the club.

New email address    
phillippagod@hotmail.com 

New postal address   THE EGG CUP COLLECTORS' CLUB of Great Britain
                              PO BOX 64
                              NEW ROMNEY
                              TN 28 9AD

For full details please visit
www.eggcupworld.co.uk

Regards Phillippa Goddard (new secretary).
 

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