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Strange Collections: Coddlers and Chamber Pots


Have you every wondered what coddlers and chamber pots had in common?  Yes, each is a container and has a definite utilitarian purpose, but that is about as far as the comparison goes.  We thought we had seen everything until we had to appraise a couple's collection --- hers was coddlers and his, chamber pots!

Most Americans have no idea what a coddler looks like much less what the use was.  They are made of porcelain or pottery with a decorative cup shaped base normally on a pedestal bottom, a screw-on lid with a "lifting ring" used to prepare "coddled eggs".  The egg is broken into the buttered coddler to be "soft cooked", seasonings added, closed and then partially immersed in boiling water, cooked until the desired firmness is reached and then served.  Coddlers have been used in England since the early 1800's and were known as a "pipkin" or an early medieval cooking container.

Coddlers are often painted and glazed with many different patterns, designs, styles, and sizes. With such a variety, the collector who searches for something different can become addicted to this practical kitchen and breakfast container.  There are over one hundred and sixty different patterns such as butterflies, flowers, birds, vines, and made by thirteen porcelain factories such as Spode, Wedgwood, Adams, and Porcelaine de Paris. Of course there are coddlers made from pottery and metal; some have no markings and are made for more than one egg; and others with unusual designs that make for a collector's delight. Values range from as little as $5.00 to as much as $75.00 for the unusual.

Chamber pots or to appear "uppish", "pot de chamber" are also an "off beat" collectible.  Everyone who is fifty or older knows that this bowl-shaped container normally with a lid and a handle was kept in the bedroom under a bed or in a cabinet and was used to "relieve" oneself at night. In Victorian times, some chamber pots would be built into a cabinet with a closable cover. Such pots were in use in this country until the middle of the 20th century and are still in use in rural third world countries.

Much can be written about the pot especially since they date back to the thirteenth century BC.  They have been made of tin, lead, earthenware, stoneware, ceramic, pewter, copper, silver and even gold.  However, most were constructed of earthenware, porcelain, and metal.  Every type of design was created from the elegant to the political cartoon statements added to the inside of the bottom of the pot.  There was even a chamber pot designed for females called the "Bourdaloue".  The collector can literally go crazy deciding what course the collection should take.  Values can range from as little as $5.00 to the thousands.  The adage, "I don't have a pot or a window" comes from the early Victorian era when the bedroom's windows had been sealed due to the "window tax" and that no money was even left to buy a "thunder pot", another common name for the potty.

Uses today are varied and as interesting as the collector.  Coddlers, of course, are still used for the proverbial egg, kitchen décor, and to the most unusual, one family with six brothers and sisters, used the coddler to hold a little of mother's cremains so each family member could keep a "little bit of mother" with them.  And the chamber pot's uses are as equally varied --- room décor, used as a plant container, and to the most unusual, a set of matching pots used to store dry foods such as bulk rice, beans, and pasta!

As appraisers, we have discovered that the strange world of people's collections and their uses never ceases to amaze us.

Arizona Personal Property Appreaisers
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Tom Helms - 602-319-4207
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