Egg Cups

When I tell people that I collect egg cups, they often say “you collect what?” Egg cups! Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what they are. Egg cups are used much more regularly in Europe and other parts of the world than they are in the United States. They are small cups, usually made of porcelain or ceramics, but sometimes also metals or wood, that are meant to hold an egg in the shell. The idea is to break off the top of the cooked egg and eat the inside with a spoon. Brits love them soft boiled, so that they can dip toast strips or “soldiers” into the yolk.

I began my egg cup collection when my mother gave me one for Christmas when I was a teenager. She had seen it at a rummage sale and thought it was pretty and bought it for me. It was the only one on my nick-nack shelf for many years, until I happened to see a few at the local swap shop and took them home. They looked so pretty together, I eventually went online and began perusing ebay for some more of these little gems. Now I have over 1.000 egg cups, and my collection is still growing! The term for someone who collects egg cups is “pocillovist”.

There are three main types of egg cups, in terms of use, and many categories within those three types. The most common type of egg cup is the single cup. These can be either similar in design to a small cup, with a foot/pedestal, or in the bucket style that has a flat bottom. There are also double egg cups, which feature a holder on each end, usually one smaller than the other. The larger end may be used for eating an soft boiled egg that has been broken open, or even a poached egg. The third type of egg cup is a single larger style, similar to a custard cup. These were more commonly used in 19th century United States. Many railway lines and military posts used this style of egg cup, two varieties that are highly sought after and tend to fetch a high price.

Most egg cups, however, can be found at reasonable prices in antique shops, kitchen and cook shops and on ebay. Although egg cups are more commonly found in European households, you would be surprised at how many can be found for sale online in the U.S. Apparently this method of eating eggs was more often utilized in earlier decades in this country, and many survive to be sold and collected today.

Because there are so many varieties, collectors tend to focus on one or two varieties of egg cups. The figural egg cup is very popular. These cups are fashioned into the shape of a dog or cat, clown or soldier, basket, house or donkey cart… almost anything you can think of! I collect elephant figurals and have about 20 so far. Another variety that is often collected are souvenir egg cups, or those with different places and travel destinations on their design. Some people narrow their collections to floral motifs, or focus in on single pedestal egg cups, or double egg cups. One of the more unusual varieties that I collect are egg cups with images of royalty on them. I have several with members of the Dutch royal family and many that feature members of the royal family of Britain, including some antique pieces with monarchs of previous generations.

Displaying your egg cups can be a challenge as well as a joy. Unfortunately, they tend to be dust catchers, so if you have a display case or curio chest with glass doors, that would be ideal. I do not, and frequently recruit my teenaged daughter to help me wash them, dry them, wipe down the shelves and return them sparkling clean. Since I have so many, I clean them on a rotating basis. They sit on nick-nack cases on the walls of my living room as well as on tiered shelves that I have set on the fireplace mantle and on bookshelves. They are very attractive, and everyone who comes into my home remarks on them and wants to hold one or two for a closer look. I find them pleasing to look at and fun to collect.

You may well have further questions about egg cups and egg cup collecting. There are not many books about egg cup collecting, but three notable ones are Brenda Blake’s Egg Cups, An Illustrated History and Price Guide, Javad Hashemi’s The Joy of Collecting Egg Cups, and The Collectors Book of Egg Cups by Pat Stott. In addition, if you are at all interested in pursuing egg cup collecting, you might want to check into a Yahoo group called Pocillovist’s Corner. They are a community of collectors who are always welcoming to newcomers, and will be able to answer any questions you may have as you begin to explore this most charming and unique collectible.

Egg Cups An Illustrated History and Price Guide by Brenda C. Blake, 1995 (1-57080-013-8)
The Joy of Collecting Egg Cups by Javad Hashemi, 1998 (0-95192-883-X)
The Collectors Book of Egg Cups by Pat Stott, 1993 (0-9697532-0-9)

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