HOBBY Incredible, collectible egg cups are popular

Though somewhat displaced by cereal, the utensils remain a favorite of collectors.
For centuries, egg cups elevated breakfast to a high art. Men, women and children patiently severed the tops of soft-boiled eggs and placed them on tiny, bowl-shaped pedestals. Adding a dash of salt and pepper, they scooped out the gooey contents.
"The egg was always soft-boiled, and the shell was pretty much intact," says Nancy Bryk, a curator at the Henry Ford, a cultural repository in Dearborn, Mich.
Though cold cereal has displaced the genteel ritual, egg cups are still popular -- as collectibles. The Henry Ford has 60 in its collection.
Egg cups date back more than 2,000 years and were found in the ruins at Pompeii. A Turkish mosaic from the third century documented the use of egg cups in one scene, and in Europe knights used wooden ones in royal courts.
"What's interesting is that egg cups have been made in a lot of different materials and a million different shapes," Bryk says. "There are very fancy ones made of Limoges porcelain and ones made of silver."
Crossing class barriers, egg cups have also been produced from cheap materials. Some are adorned with cartoon characters that appeal to children. "There are whimsical ones with Snoopy and the egg in his backpack," Bryk says.
In Denver, egg cups can be hunted down in antique shops, thrift stores and souvenir outlets. Ross Bolt of Finders Keepers, says egg cups are popular with his customers.
"They're easy to collect, because they're small," he says. The most desirable come at a price. When he can find them, Bolt sells egg cups made by a 300-year-old French company, HR Quimper, for $55. The tin-glazed cups are coated in yellow, blue or red glaze and hand-painted in a few brush strokes with rustic flowers.
Bolt, who also likes whimsical egg cups, recently found three duck-shaped vessels produced in Japan before World War II. He plans to sell them for $25. "The body of the duck actually is the egg cup," he says.
New egg cups often are a better bargain and come in contemporary designs. Sur la Table sells a simple, silver-plated egg cup for $5.95.
On the Web
Alessi, an Italian accessories company, sells a stainless-steel pedestal egg cup for $14 and a plastic, three-piece egg cup of a hatted boy holding a spoon, $28, available at www.unicahome.com.
The Web site of the Egg Cup Collector's Club of Great Britain is www.eggcupworld.co.uk. A $32 membership opens access to a forum and photo gallery of members' collections.
For an idea of how to serve eggs in an egg cup, go to www.facts-facts.com and click on More Than You Wanted to Know About Egg Cups.

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