Collectors Corner: Butter Pat Plates
By Michele Alice
School's out, summer's in full swing, and people are busy trolling the yard, garage, estate and rummage sales that are popping up all over. Some are simply looking for an odd lamp or table to complement their decor. Others are looking for games, books, or CDs for their own or their children's amusement. But an unknown number are on the hunt for collectibles - either to add to their own collections or to sell to others (at a profit, of course!).
High on everyone's list are things like art-pottery vases, 1950s Japanese tin toys, and first-edition books - items that unschooled sellers might part with for a song. But even veteran pickers sometimes fail to recognize some collectibles. Such is the case with butter pat plates.
Also known as butter chips, butter pats, butter pads and butters, the generally three-inch diameter plates are often mistaken for mere decorative items or for pieces from children's toy sets.
Made for holding individual servings of butter, the butter pat reached its zenith during the Victorian era when ornate elegance dictated that every place setting at the dining table consist of several dishes for different foods. As a necessary part of a complete set of fine china, butter pats were crafted with the same attention to detail, and by the turn of the century, they were being made in an array of designs and patterns. They were round, square, fan-shaped, shell-shaped. They were decorated with fish, fowl, and floral motifs. They were miniature works of art.
But as Victorian formality faded, so, too, did the butter pat dish. By the 1950s, its place at the family table had begun to be filled by the six-inch bread-and-butter plate. (An interesting note: the bread-and-butter is, today, itself disappearing as informality continues its march.)
Butter pats continued to be made throughout the late 20th century, primarily for restaurant and transportation venues, but are not often seen today outside of state dinners or the most exclusive restaurants.
Collectors love butter pats, not only for the aesthetic pleasures they afford, but also because:
- Their small size makes them easy to store and display;
- Their great variety permits specialization by shape, pattern, maker, etc; and,
- Though exceptional pieces can sell for up to $1000+, most are quite affordable at $10 or less.
Specimens currently in demand include advertising pieces, dishes made by certain art potteries, and transportation ware. These can go from $56.00 for a Ford stoneware dish, to $124.20 for a Tepco (California) blue fish butter pat, to $264.00 for a piece bearing the US Lighthouse Service logo. (Prices from recent online auctions.)
Would you like to learn more about this interesting collectible? Check out the resources listed below, and
Butter Pat World: An In-Depth Study of Ceramic Butter Pats Used by Transportation Companies Throughout the World, by Richard W. Luckin (Out of print)
The Joy of Collecting: Butter Pats & Miniature Plates, by Alice Black (Out of print)
Antique Porcelain Butter Pats Guide: All Buttered Up for Collecting! - Highly informative article by Butter Pat Patter Association founder Mary Dessoie.
Dukes & Duchesses: Mini Monogrammed Butter Pats - Instructions for making you own decorative pats of butter to place on butter pat plates.
Introduction to Butter Pats (Video) - Concise (1 minute 14 seconds) intro.
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
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