In 1895, Bing and Grondahl manufactured a blue-and-white porcelain plate for the Christmas holidays that they christened “Behind the Frozen Window.” Since that time, the limited edition collector plate has been with us in some capacity. It wasn't, however, until the latter half of the twentieth century that collecting these captivating pieces really picked up the pace as a variety of manufacturers joined in the fun.
Edwin M. Knowles collector's plate, “Edna Hibel Mother's Day” (1989)
The Popularity of Collecting Plates
According to some surveys, the numbers of collectors collecting limited edition collector plates is in league with the collectors of stamps, dolls, and coins. Collector plates are extremely popular and truly a worldwide collectible. There are many people who have a collector plate or two, but don't consider themselves collectors.
The expanding renown of this collectible field is a relatively recent phenomenon. As more and more people have become attuned to collecting the collectible as opposed to collecting memorabilia, they've set their sights on the many items manufactured specifically for collecting purposes. These are items—like limited edition collector plates—with a value attached to them and a presumption of increasing worth with passing time due to their limited numbers in circulation.
As a collectible, collector plates have a bewitching ambience surrounding them. This is probably because they encompass such an expanse of topics and present them all in such a finely crafted and richly colored fashion. After all, who and what hasn't decorated a collector plate? Ordinary people are all over them—and in many cases—doing very ordinary things. Old people and young people; the handsome and homely, and the famous and the infamous grace collector plates. Religious icons and images are also popularly pictured on these plates. You know you've arrived when you make it onto a collector plate. Unfortunately, many people are no longer of this earth when they get the honor. Historical events are also commemorated regularly on collector plates. TV, cartoon, and movie characters embellish them, too. And let's not forget the animal kingdom and nature, which generate big collector plate demand. From the soaring eagle to the lumbering manatee, there are colorful artist renderings of these impressive—but markedly different—creatures. Collector plate depictions are as endless as time itself.
When manufacturers apply a hand application of metals such as gold and silver to the rims of collector plates, it's called banding. Banding not only adds to their visual appeal, but to their value as well.
There are three commonplace methods of displaying collector plates: wall hanging, cabinets, and stands. The most popular method is wall hanging, but there are cabinets and individual plate stands that also enable you to prop the plates on tables for the world to see.
Planning a Collection
The art of collecting collector plates is best practiced by what is called specializing. Specializing is important in any and all hobbies that are simultaneously diverse and vast in scope. For instance, a Star Trek fan may wish to collect Star Trek–related collector plates. An admirer of Native American culture and tradition has a wealth of collector plates to choose from honoring warriors and maidens alike. A Civil War buff is afforded opportunity after opportunity to locate collector plates commemorating both the important players and the dramatic events in this monumental historical drama. Maybe you're a feline fan who just wants to collect cat-related collector plates. No problem—you'll find plenty of them if you do a little looking around.
Aside from the varying subject matter, there are series of collector plates issued all the time by manufacturers. Many collectors concentrate solely on these series. Others only acquire plates issued annually as part of a series.
Edwin M. Knowles collector's plate, “The Gettysburg Address” (1986)
Still another collector avenue that some determined souls travel down is the acquiring of only specific manufacturer-issued plates. This collector approach is the preferred method by collectors who value a certain harmony in their plates. Manufacturers ordinarily maintain a consistent style and look in all their collector plates. That is, you can tell a Hamilton collector plate from a Bareuther one. If congruity appeals to your decorative sensibilities, this is a collecting routine worth considering. Contrarily, collecting all over the map means an all-over-the-map collection. And since most collectors like to display their plates, this method of collecting will win them no Good Housekeeping medals. Of course, for some collectors it is great variety that appeals to them above all other considerations.
Collecting collector plates by specific artists is also practiced. Many collectors just love a particular artist for his or her use of color and attention to detail. Certain artists magnificently capture certain emotions on a plate, which in turn touch certain emotions in a collector.
In many collector fields, the terms edition and limited edition are bandied about with great frequency. Limited edition conjures up dancing images of dollar signs in collectors' heads, but it simply means that the manufacturer predetermines how long a period of time a particular item will be produced, or, the precise number that are going to made. Edition, all by its lonesome self, embraces the total number of pieces produced for a particular design in a series.
Where to Buy
It's a name synonymous with limited edition collectible items—particularly plates. It's called the Bradford Exchange. Search for their many collector plates at www.collectiblestoday.com. You'll find the many different types and styles of collector plates categorized by subject. And the alphabetized list tells you all you need to know about the diversity of artist depictions that find their way onto these sought-after collectibles.
Theodore Roosevelt commemorative plate (1904)
Here are the Bradford Exchange collector plate subject categories: angels, architecture, cherished teddies, children, Coca-Cola, cottages, country, country décor, cultures, Princess Diana, Disney, Elvis, entertainment, fairy tales, family, fantasy, history/patriotic, holidays, inspirational/expressions, Lena Lui, lighthouses, M. I. Hummel, Marilyn Monroe, marine/sealife, millennium, Native American, nature, Norman Rockwell, pets, Precious Moments, professions, religious, Sandra Kuck, Thomas Kinkade, Victorian, Warner Brothers, and wolves. No matter what kind of plate you're looking for, you'll find it at the Bradford Exchange.