When Easter Bunny has been and gone and that stash of chocolate eggs he left hidden around the house and garden has long since been discovered and demolished, what next? Why, eggcup collecting, of course. Children of all ages, and yes, that means you mums and dads too, will find a style, or a shape, or a theme, or a maker to catch your imagination and keep you amused for weeks, nay years.
Becoming a Pocillocist
Read on and I’ll turn you all into pocillovists, as eggcup collectors are called! (from the Latin pocillum, meaning small cup and ovi, meaning eggs)
No point in asking whether it was egg or cup that came first, because the answer is obvious.
However, one of mankind’s simplest inventions, the eggcup has been one of the most enduring. A wooden version was identified in a mosaic dating from the 3rd century AD and others were found amid the rubble of Pompeii, which dates them to 79AD.
Wonderfully tactile treen eggcups are not difficult to find, but they are probably not so old! Nevertheless, wooden versions undoubtedly came before those in silver and gold.
Crafted simply from a single block of wood on a turner’s lathe, their only decoration, if they had any at all, was restricted to concentric grooves on the base, or cup, although well-figured wood ensured their beauty.
Nowadays a collector would be prepared to pay £15-£50 for a single example, depending on its age, but you could pay as much as £1,000 for some treen examples, in sets of six or eight complete with elegant stands.
The best are those with turned stems terminating in an acorn knops and a turntable action similar to a Lazy Susan. They date from circa 1730-1800.
It is also interesting to note that 18th century eggcups were almost always part of a suite of silver or else a service of pottery or porcelain.
Dating silver examples is easy because each will be stamped with a hallmark. Gilded interiors in order to prevent the sulphur from the egg from staining and corroding the inside, generally date from the 19th century.
By about 1750, porcelain manufacturers had caught on to the idea of making eggcups for their wealthy customers.
Worcester was among the first with tall, pretty and elegant examples that were decorated with hand-painted floral sprays. Early examples can fetch a great deal of money.
One particularly fine pattern from the Worcester factory worth searching out is called the Queen Charlotte, which dates from circa 1800.
By 1760, the Bow factory was making an exceptionally simple all white eggcup decorated with prunus leaves in relief. Price today would be £500-£600, purely as a result of rarity.
Similarly, in 1790, another all white eggcup was being made in Leeds creamware.
Its only decoration was simple piercing around the rim, but a single example is now worth £175-£200, again through rarity.
By now, manufacturers were offering sets of eggcups with breakfast services, either decorated or plain white and some big enough to hold duck eggs, which were popular in Georgian England.
Caughley (pronounced Calf-ly) was one such pottery that specialised in duck eggcups, made circa 1790-1799, with a handle and hand-painted in underglaze blue flowers.
The purist eggcup collector would go for one example from each of the major manufacturer – say Crown Derby, Coalport, Spode and, of course, Worcester. Singles of this kind of quality might cost £15-£75 apiece.
Eggcups made for large Victorian families come in sets of four to as many as 12 and are generally accompanied with either a stand or a matching tray. They can be expensive when complete, but cheap as chips if a dealer breaks up a set with pieces missing.
The well-heeled pocillovist might well be drawn to the painted eggcups designed by Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper, doyennes of Art Deco ceramics in the 1920s. Be prepared to pay through the nose, with sets fetching hundreds.
My favourite, though, are the countless thousands of different children’s novelty eggcups, the search for which could last a lifetime.
Name a cartoon character from Mickey Mouse to Bart Simpson and there ís a strong chance youíll find a related eggcup.
The original idea was to make eggcups that appealed to children so they would be encouraged to eat more eggs. Nowadays it’s more a case of toy firms’ marketing wizardry.
No matter. Seek out the vintage stuff decorated with such old timers as Felix the Cat, Bonzo, Betty Boop, Popeye and, of course early Mickey. They’re sure to be investments, as sure as eggs is eggs.
Start your collection today – search for eggcups HERE
The eggcups below have been reproduced with kind permision of members of the Talking Antiques Group on Facebook