Unloading a collection of egg cups
It was beginning to feel like an invasion – the non-threatening kind, though.
First, there were the cute pedal cars, a rainbow-colored mass of little engine-less vehicles that crowded rows of tables two months ago at the auction house.
Then there were the pigs – all shapes, sizes and colors, some with wings and some without, a month ago.
This time, it was egg cups – not as many, it seemed, as the cars and pigs but still matching them in variety. Some were on pedestals, some were not. Some were serious, with rose patterns and English blue designs, and others were novelties.
Someone had decided that this was the place to sell all those collectibles that cost too much money and took up too much space in the home. That someone could have been the collector or the family he/she had left behind at their demise who just wanted to get rid of the stuff.
Each time, the collection was a treasure trove for dealers and those wanting to become a pocillovist, or an egg cup collector (the practice of collecting is called pocillovy, a Latin term for “a small cup for an egg”). Collecting egg cups, I found, has its fair share of hobbyists. Martha Stewart did a segment about egg cups on her show a few years ago.
As before, the auction house had arranged the egg cups on overflowing tables (this time there were none in boxes on the floor), but they were loose enough so we could see them clearly – if we took the time to do so.
I’m not much of a hard-boiled egg eater, so I’ve never felt the need to buy a cup to hold my hot egg while I chopped off the top or peeled it. There was a time when I was really into gadgets, but those never seemed to grab my attention.
These at auction were sweet, though, especially the whimsical ones that the auction house had placed in glass cases. In fact, that’s where the staffers had placed those that bore brand names on their bottoms.
Many were unmarked, indicating that egg cups were made by just about any and every china maker, including some of the best: Spode, Havilland, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. They were also made out of all kinds of materials, too. They came in both singles with and without pedestals, and doubles that you can flip over.
Egg cups were said to date back to the city of Pompeii in 3 A.D., and some were found in the ruins after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that both buried the town and preserved it. Turkish mosaics found in the city showed people using egg cups.
They seemingly did not appear again until the 15th century when England’s ruling class started using them, and they were picked up by commoners who also had to have them. The same was happening in France. It would be the 19th century before they were marketed commercially and became part of the dinnerware patterns offered by major china makers. By the 20th century, they had become more prevalent and accessible.
Egg cups didn’t seem to become as much a fixation in this country, maybe because we generally like our eggs scrambled with bacon. But if you come across some egg cups that you like, you could always find other decorative uses for them besides decapitating an egg.
Here’s a sampling of the egg cups at the auction: