Most Americans have no idea what a “coddler” is, how to identify one, or its functionality. Coddlers are small containers made of porcelain or pottery with a decorative, cup-shaped base typically sitting on a pedestal and featuring a screw-on lid with a lifting ring used to prepare – wait for it – coddled eggs.
Coddlers have been used in England since the early 1800s and were also known as “pipkins” or early medieval cooking containers. Using a coddler begins with breaking an egg into a buttered coddler, adding seasoning, then closing and partially immersing in boiling water and cooking the egg until the desired firmness is reached.
Coddlers come in a wide variety of styles and sizes. They are often painted and glazed with various patterns and designs. With so many from which to choose, the collector searching for something unique can become addicted
to these kitchen and breakfast containers.
There are more than 160 patterns available, such as butterflies, flowers, birds and vines. Coddlers are made by 13 porcelain factories including Spode, Wedgwood, Adams and Porcelaine de Paris. There are coddlers made for multiple eggs and others with unusual designs that make for a collector’s delight. Values range from as little as $5 to as much as $75.
As appraisers, we thought we had seen everything until one couple shared their special collection with us, comprised of coddlers (hers) and chamber pots (his).
Chamber pots – or pot de chamber – are also off-beat collectibles. If you are 60+ years old, you know that this container normally came with a lid and a handle and was kept in the bedroom to relieve oneself at night. Such pots were in use until the middle of the 20th century and are still used in developing countries.
Much can be written about chamber pots, especially since they date back to the 13th century B.C. They have been made of tin, lead, earthenware, stoneware, ceramic, pewter, copper, silver and gold. However, the most popular were constructed of earthenware, porcelain and metal.
Numerous designs were created, from elegant to political – with cartoon statements added to the inside of the bottom of the pot. Values can range from as little as $5 well into the thousands. The adage “I don’t have a pot or a window” comes from the early Victorian era when bedroom windows were sealed to avoid the “window tax” and no money was left to even buy a “thunder pot” – another common name for the piece.
Uses of chamber pots and coddlers today are as varied and as interesting as the collector. Coddlers are still used for the proverbial egg, kitchen décor, or in one case, a family with six brothers and sisters who used their coddlers to hold their mother’s cremains so each family member could keep a “little bit of mother” with them.
And today, we’ve seen chamber pots used as plant containers and used to store dry foods such as rice, beans and pasta.
We delight in people sharing their treasures with us. The depth and variety of people’s collections and their uses never ceases to amaze.
— Contact Tom with a question or an appraisal issue: firstname.lastname@example.org or send your letter to 5525 N. 12th St., Phoenix, 85014.