Collecting Egg Cups: A Unique and Beautiful Hobby
Egg Cups Are Wonderful Collectibles
Interested in collecting? Looking for something unique and fun to collect that displays well? Consider collecting egg cups! The word used for an egg-cup collector is pocillovist, and egg cup collecting as a hobby is called pocillovy.
Collecting these pretty little cups is not common in the United States, mainly because eggs are seldom served in them in the U.S. It is a fairly common collectible in Europe and elsewhere in the world, however, as most European countries and many others do eat their boiled eggs from them. You will commonly find egg cups that are manufactured all across Europe, in Australia, Canada, India, and Asia as well as some middle eastern countries.
What Are Egg Cups For?
Many people, especially in the United States, are unaware of what an egg cup exactly is. It is a small receptacle, made of varying materials from ceramic to porcelain to glass to plastic or wood, that is meant to hold a boiled egg for eating. The egg can be either soft or hard-boiled.
To eat an egg from a cup, the boiled egg is placed in the cup with the broad side down. A small knife or special scissors made for the purpose are then used to cut off the top of the egg. A small spoon is used to scoop out the egg from the shell (egg spoons are available online). If a soft boiled egg is served, slices of toast (known as "soldiers" in Britain) may be dipped into the liquid yolk.
Egg Cooking Advice From Britain!
Types of Cups to Collect
There are three main types of egg cups and several sub-types. A single cup is the most common type and the type most commonly collected. These are either like a little cup, with a foot or pedestal that they stand on, or what's called a bucket single, which is flat on the bottom.
The second type of egg cup is the double or "American" cup, since this type was more widely used in America. A double cup has a small cup on one end, which is used like a single cup, as well as a large cup when you turn it over. The larger cup may be used for dipping toast in soft boiled eggs or even for a poached egg.
The third type of egg cup, also more often seen in America, is the type that is similar to a custard cup. These appeared frequently during the early 20th century and some people like to collect them. They were often made by hotels, railway lines and branches of the military, and carry the markings of these.
Three Types of Egg Cups and Examples of Collectible Sub-types:
This table shows the three main types of egg cups and just a sampling of the many sub-types of egg cups a collector may wish to focus his/her collection on.
Single Egg Cups/Sub-types
Double Egg Cups/Sub-types
Custard Egg Cups/Sub-types
with foot or pedastal
without foot/bucket type
armed forces insignia
with particular maker's mark
country or city coats of arms
The Single Egg Cup
The single egg cup, since it is the most commonly collected and has the most variations, will be the focus of the remainder of this article. A single can have any kind of design or motif. There are many designed for use by children, for example, that may have cartoon characters or nursery rhyme figures on it.
One frequently collected genre of single cups are royalty cups; that is single egg cups with images of the royal families of Europe on them. Commemorative royalty egg cups are usually issued for coronations, weddings, and the birth of children, so there are lots of these to collect.
There are also many series' of cups made that are very collectible, such as the "Bunnykins" bucket cups and a series of early 20th century pink souvenir cups of various European landmarks. (see images below)
The bucket cups are simply single cups with no "foot" or pedastal. Many collectors focus on this sub-type to collect. They can range in design and motif from whimsical to elegant, and are manufactured by most of the major porcelain manufacturers that make single pedestal egg cups.
Other Variations on Singles
A variation on the single egg cup is the figural cup. A figural cup is simply a single made into the shape of an animal or person or object. Figurals can be elephants, pirates, houses, shoes, swans, soldiers, etc. Many collectors choose a type of figural to collect and concentrate on that or build on it as part of their collection. For example, a collector might look for figural egg cups of Santas or donkeys or funny faces. Figural cups are lots of fun and a few even come with added features such as the much-sought after whistle egg cups and some that may be sitting on a little wind-up music box!
Single egg cups also come attached to little plates where the discarded shell can be put or a spoon placed. Many of these are beautiful, but they do take up more space to display.
Some collectors look for pieces by a certain porcelain maker. For example, those that are stamped "occupied Japan" is one example, or collecting cups manufactured and marked by Spode, Wedgwood, Goebel or in a particular country such as Germany or Italy. Several in these categories are at the more expensive end of the spectrum, but others, such as Japanese made ones, can be inexpensive as well as varied and beautifully made.
Egg cups are also a collectible that can be found most places around the world as souvenirs. Often a collector will look for them with motifs from different countries, cities and towns or monuments. One popular collectible are those with a crest or coat of arms on them, usually the crest of a town or city in Europe.
Where to Buy Egg Cups
Besides being available almost everywhere in Europe, there are a surprising number of egg cups available online in the U.S. This method of eating eggs was popular in the United States during the 19th and about the first half of the 20th century, and there are still lots of these around for collectors to find. (Abraham Lincoln reportedly had an egg in an egg cup every morning for breakfast!) Ebay is the best place to start your collection, but don't stop there. Online antique dealers and china/porcelain websites may also have deals, as well as crafty/collectibles sites such as Etsy.
The cost varies, but for the most part, egg cup collecting is a very reasonably priced hobby. They can be found in antique shops for under $10 (and sometimes under $5) quite often. Buying online, you incur shipping costs, so that boosts the price up a bit. But there are still excellent deals to be found on ebay, often under $5 or $6 for a pretty little cup. Of course, there are factors that will make a cup more expensive, such as age, marking, and how sought-after it is among collectors. Some can go for several hundred dollars online, but most are reasonably priced.
Displaying Your Cups
Egg cups don't take up too much space, especially the single pedestal and bucket types, and you will want to display this eye-catching and unique collection in your home. A sturdy wooden wall shelf is ideal, though using a free-standing curio cabinet or built-in shelving unit works too. I display mine on my fireplace mantel on little tiered shelves which are made to hold spices. You can buy these at a kitchen shop or online, usually for less than $20.
Unfortunately, they do tend to be dust-catchers, so having a feather duster for frequent dusting is a must. If dusted regularly, they will only need to be taken down and washed about twice a year. If the collection is large, this can be done on a rotating basis. One way to eliminate the dust problem is to house them in an enclosed case or cabinet with glass doors.
However they are displayed, they will always spark comments and compliments, as they are such an unusual and attractive collection.
Resources for the Pocillovist
There are a handful of books about egg cups, some of which are out of print but can still be found for sale online. Javad Hashemi's The Joy of Collecting Egg Cups is very informative, and Brenda Blake's Egg Cups An Illustrated History and Price Guide (below) is an older book, but still interesting. One other book that is also a price guide is by Pat Stott called The Collectors Book of Egg Cups.
There is also an active facebook group called Egg Cup Collector's Group where there are some very knowledgeable collectors who are willing to help beginners learn the ropes as well as assist in identifying and pricing a "mystery" cup. It's a great place for the beginning collector as well as those who've been collecting for a while. From the facebook group, you will find a link to another group that focuses on buying and selling. People often post whole collections for sale, such as part of an estate sale or collectors who are giving up their collections.
Useful Resource for the Egg-Cup Collector
This book was my first egg cups guide and, while it is not a new book, it is still a valuable resource, especially for the new collector. It gives you ideas for what types of cups you might wish to focus on collecting, covering a wide range of types and sub-types. Most of the cups featured in this book are ones you will commonly find for sale in antique shops and online.
Starting Your Egg Cup Collection
Anyone who enjoys collecting or would like to start a first collection should consider egg cups. In the U.S. people will be impressed by this unusual hobby. In addition, they are small and easy to display, inexpensive, and pleasant to look at. Why not start a collection today? Maybe you'll one day have as many as this collector in Ireland! Amazing!
© 2014 Katharine L Sparrow