Queen Victoria helped create love of collectable china

Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at collectable festive plates.
These plates are rare and collectableThese plates are rare and collectable
These plates are rare and collectable

Christmas has come and gone and many of us would have brought out the ‘best’ china.

This week, we’ll be looking at a very specific field which branched out from celebration china: the collectable plate, specifically, Christmas examples.

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Plates started as wood, then earthenware, with the Chinese discovering how to make porcelain around 600 AD. When manufacture crossed to Europe in the 18th century, porcelain remained beyond the means of most people until the 19th century.

At the same time as collectable plates were becoming a popular, and affordable, hobby. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were creating the Victorian love of all things Christmas.

Bing & Grondahl's 1895 ‘Behind the Frozen Window’ was the world's first collectable Christmas plate. Showing a view over Copenhagen's skyline from Frederiksberg castle, originals fetch thousands of pounds today!

Christmas plates quickly became very popular, with most large porcelain manufacturers producing them ever since. Royal Copenhagen, for example, have issued Christmas plates with a different motif every year since 1908.

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In a lovely local link, Hornsea Pottery, beloved ceramics manufacturers for many years in the very building where the antiques centre is situated, produced Christmas plates every year from 1979 to 1987.

Featuring intricate medieval designs and one calligraphy letter apiece, the set reads ‘CHRISTMAS’ when displayed together.

We have several in the centre at the moment, pictured are ‘C’ from 1979 and ‘I’ from 1982. Prices range from £95 to £140 each across the range, as they are very rare and collectable, especially for anyone trying to complete the set!

Virtually every ceramics manufacturer you can name has made Christmas plates. Most new editions still sell out, and there is continued interest in early plates from European porcelain manufacturers.

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Look out for examples by Wedgewood, Royal Doulton, Bradford Exchange and Franklin Mint. Sets in original boxes can fetch several hundred pounds, but you can pick up individual plates for a pound or two, making it a fun ‘treasure hunt’ hobby.