About ten years ago, DPaul and I were perusing vintage store The Other Shop, back when they were still in Hayes Valley. Back then it was a bit more ramshackle than its current incarnation on Divisadero, a strange collection of mostly mid-century goods smattered about in a random fashion. The prices were always good, and there were some serious gems to be had. In fact, we once purchased a vintage pedestal hair dryer for ten bucks which DPaul subsequently converted into a lamp.
But on this particular day, we were derailed by a set of plates. Brunch plates, specifically, with a divot in the upper right upon which sat a matching tea cup. In the center, a stylized black rooster strutted, well, cockily. The plates were stamped with the pattern name, Black Cockerel, and the maker, Mancioli.
It was a mismatched set, with something like seven plates and five cups. But they were charming, and they were only about twelve dollars. So we bought them.
Flash forward a few years: eBay happens. Suddenly, nothing is too obscure, too random for purchase. No longer do stray dishes sit on a dusty shelf in a thrift store in Dubuque. No matter what it is, someone wants to buy it, somewhere. In the case of Mancioli Black Cockerel, that someone is us. And only us.
Every time a piece came up on eBay, we would be the sole bidder. The one exception was a case where a single salad plate was being offered as part of a random set of three unrelated plates. When we were outbid, I contacted the buyer and learned he was only interested in one of the others, so I bought our desired plate off him for half the auction price. Win-win.
Over the years we’ve acquired pieces mostly one or two at a time — a few quirky modern serving pieces, some dinner plates, several cockerel-less versions produced for Raymor ceramics and even a few pieces with a modified version of the pattern made “specifically for the Walter Hatches.” They’re adorable. But lately, it had been so long since we had seen anything come up on auction, I actually began to wonder whether we owned everything that remained.
Two weeks ago we hit the motherlode. A 42-piece set came up, with the option to Buy It Now. A full set: Eight each of dinner plates, salad plates, bread and butter plates, cups and saucers. Creamer! Sugar dish with the lid! You better believe we Bought It Now.
The dishes arrived and exceeded our every expectation. Clearly, these had sat in someone’s basement, boxed up and untouched for fully 40 years. They were pristine. We were dizzy with glee.
However. It’s not as if they’re our only dishes. In fact, they’re not even our primary dishes. Suddenly we were faced with a storage problem — a rarity in our oversized kitchen.
This brings us to The Container Store. A couple of inexpensive purchases and a fair bit of dish Tetris later, we have three more-than complete sets of dishes compacted into one hyper-efficient cabinet.
We’ll continue to buy the stuff as it comes available, though. It is, after all, our only collection, and we appear to be the only collectors of it. It’s a moral imperative that we continue to amass and expand our collection beyond the 80-some pieces we currently have. And if you ever come across any, I will happily reimburse you for the dishes and shipping. Conversely, if you ever try to outbid me on eBay for any of them, I will hunt you down and, once I have you in my grip, pluck you like a rooster.