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March 2005

Become a Pocillovist
by: Maria Hill

You may have seen them at antique stores, flea markets, or even in your grandmother's kitchen. Eggcups have been around for thousands of years. As soon as people realized that an egg could be boiled and eaten, an eggcup was needed to hold it while that rich white-and-yellow was spooned out and devoured.
Eggcups are depicted in Turkish mosaics from 3 AD and even found at the ruins of Pompeii dating back to 79 AD. However, eggcups didn't come into true popularity until the Elizabethan Age. During the 18th and 19th centuries, eggcups were part of dinner sets and came in matching styles, colors and patterns.

     Eggcups were made from pottery or porcelain and, in the 19th century, produced as individual and unique pieces of china. Eggcups weren't just popular in England; they were and still are made in many different countries around the world.
     Eggcups became very common and were often made in sets of four, six or even twelve and came with a matching tray. They were very useful in large households with families of 10 or more. Their use wasn't only at the breakfast table; farmers and travelers carried portable eggcups made of wood or silver. Boiled eggs accompanied with bread and cheese proved to be excellent snacks for the road. Once hard-boiled eggs were placed in the eggcups they could be "beheaded" with a special set of scissors called an egg decapitator.
     Eggcups can be made of china, pottery, glass, papier mache, marble, majolica, wood, metal, plastic, Bakelite or practically anything else that can withstand heat. Eggcup collecting became popular in the early 1900s and even has a special term, pocillovy, that comes from the Latin word pocillum ovi, meaning a small cup for an egg.
     Art Deco styling waltzed onto the eggcup stage after World War I when designers like Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper introduced new, creative designs and patterns that struck many people's imaginations. Eggcups weren't just for adults, however.
     Various companies made eggcups with children's favorite book or television show characters to encourage them to eat more eggs. Cartoon characters such as Felix the Cat, Bonzo, Mickey Mouse and The Muppets became popular.
     Eggcup collecting can be an enjoyable and fun hobby but requires hunting and even a bit of money. And the cups can be very expensive, depending on their rarity.
One pocillovist or eggcup collector is Debbie Moore. The owner of Country Treasures in Hernando has collected eggcups for almost 30 years. Moore began collecting decorative and collectible eggs with a passion but soon realized she needed something to set them in. So, collecting eggcups became her second passion.
"I have mine displayed at my house. I love them," says Moore. The more whimsical and interesting the eggcup, the better.
Moore finds many of her eggcups when she travels and discovers the rarest ones at flea markets and antique stores. "Jadeite egg cups are some of my rarest, but my character cups are my favorite, just because they are so cute and unique," she says.
You, too, can start your own eggcup collection. For a beginner, reproductions of older eggcups may be best; many can be found at flea markets and antique stores.
Prices can range from $10 to $35 or more, depending on how rare the eggcup is. Many come from England and might even be part of a tea set or have matching salt and pepper shakers.
Eggcups are great for decorating kitchens or small spaces in your home. This Easter, hunt for eggcups instead of eggs!