Collectors Corner: Chocolate Molds
By Michele Alice
Regarded by many as either one of the major food groups or on a par with fine wines, chocolate is never more impressive than when presented as an Easter bunny, Santa, or any one of the myriad shapes formed by hand or mold. And those molds - antique, vintage, and contemporary - are of special interest to collectors.
Throughout most of its history, chocolate was enjoyed (mostly by the well-to-do) as a liquid. It was not until 1830 that Joseph Fry and Sons, a British firm, developed a type of solid eating chocolate that enabled the product to be more easily and widely distributed, ensuring that its popularity would increase and spread around the globe.
Of course, the new product necessitated the utilization of new equipment in its creation, so it was not long before entrepreneurs took note of the commercial opportunities. The French were already renowned for their pastry and other molds when Jean-Baptiste Letang set up shop in Paris in 1832 to make and distribute metal molds that were specifically designed for chocolate. Already established companies like Matfer, founded in 1814, added chocolate molds to their product lines.
Early molds - small, shallow, and simply shaped - were often mounted together in frames referred to as "flats" able to produce multiple "flat-back" pieces of chocolate. By the 1840's, the French had developed the "double mold" method hinging or clipping the pieces of the mold together and then filling the cavity with melted chocolate to produce a three-dimensional figure.
In the latter half of the 19th century the French lost their dominance of the market to the Germans, who were manufacturing the most varied and detailed molds in the world. The Anton Reich company alone (Dresden, 1870-1960) created over 50,000(!) different molds that are among the most sought-after by collectors today.
It was not until late in the 19th and early 20th centuries that U.S. firms like Epplesheimer (1880-1947) and American Chocolate Mold (1910-present) entered the market. Epplesheimer may be even better known for its ice cream molds. How to tell the difference? Ice cream molds are usually made of pewter and the outsides of the molds especially lack detail.
Nineteenth-century molds were generally made of tin-lined copper, the tin preventing the chocolate from sticking. By the late 19th century, tin-lined steel was being used, and nickel-clad steel became the norm after World War II.
Metal molds continued to be manufactured until the 1960s, but steadily lost ground to the new thermoplastics entering the market. Today, few metal molds are produced, and those that are have most often been created from old molds.
Of course, this has resulted in demand for antique and vintage molds in the collector markets, and it is not unusual to find some molds selling for several hundred dollars and even several thousand dollars. As a general rule, the larger and more detailed the piece, the higher the price. So, a small egg-shaped mold might sell for $5 to $10 while a 12-inch bunny rabbit could fetch $100 to $150.
A number of factors, however, could cause prices to deviate from one specimen to another:
If the piece is tin-lined, does it need relining? Is the hinge broken or are the clips that hold the mold together missing? Are there any significant gaps when the mold is closed? Does the piece bear a manufacturer's mark? Is the design aesthetically pleasing/artfully rendered? And, of course, is it rare, like the circa-World War I, 20-inch Hermann Walter Santa that garnered a final online auction bid of $2245!
There are so many different molds that collectors usually find it necessary to confine themselves to one area. Some concentrate on a particular country or manufacturer, while others seek out a favorite subject (cats, clowns, Valentine hearts) no matter what the era (even contemporary) or material (even plastic).
Even if you're not a collector, you might find that a particular mold could act as an accent piece in your home's decor. And don't forget that chocolate molds can be used to make things like candles, chalkware, soaps, - and chocolates!
Interested in learning more about chocolate molds? Check out the resources listed below, and
The Chocolate Mould, by Henri Dorchy and Laure Dorchy
Chocolate Moulds: A History & Encyclopedia, by Judene Divone
Collector's Guide to Antique Chocolate Molds (Kindle Edition), by Wendy Lolar Mullen (This can be read on any computer with a free Kindle Reading App.)
History of Chocolate - The Culture of the Cocoa Bean - A timeline.
Dad's Follies - Large collection of chocolate and ice cream molds for sale. Site includes history, FAQs, Manufacturers' Trademarks, more.
Das Schokoladenformen Museum (The Chocolatemolds Museum) - The history section on this German/English site discusses the different kinds of molds and includes info on (primarily) German manufacturers.
How to Make a Chocolate Turkey with a Mold - This Martha Stewart video includes tips from famed Pastry Chef Jacques Torres.
Letang Fils Company History - Official site.
Old Molds - Collector Carolyn Burns' site has over 3000 items for sale from vintage and antique molds to original and reproduction copies of manufacturers' catalogues. Check out the Links and News pages, and download directions for Chocolate Making, Mold Cleaning, and more.
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
You may quote up to 50 words of any article on the condition that you attribute the article to EcommerceBytes.com and either link to the original article or to www.EcommerceBytes.com.
All other use is prohibited.