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Why I love the Container Store

black-cockerel-1About 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.

black-cockerel-2Every 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.
black-cockerel-3However. 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.

  • Ah, perfect — now I have a photo to give Mom for her Goodwill runs. 🙂
    Truly, I am in awe of your storage-izing. And this from the girl with a small fortune in Click-Top Storers(tm).

  • Wow, I am amazed by your dedication in acquiring you impressive collection of dishes! Usurping the highest eBay bidder? Very nice!

  • I did notice the plate (and the matching table cloth) the other day when you posted about ravioli(I think), they are really beautiful! And about the storage, I have to say that it is EXACTLY what I need, I’m going to look out for it here! Thanks for enlightening me!

  • Anita: I am blessed to be married to a man with exceptional organization skills. I have learned much from him, and now it’s generally a collaborative process.
    PE: I’ll do whatever it takes. 🙂
    Ilva: Mancioli is based in Lucca (and of course the black cockerel is the symbol of the Chianti region), so you of all people MUST keep an eye out for these dishes! As for the organization stuff, I wonder whether COIN Casa carries similar stuff?

  • They are stunning!
    Lucky you.

  • Keep collecting — there are, it turns out, absolutely NO calories in plates, bowls and cups, as long as you don’t put anything in or on them! Enjoy.

  • Wow, I love that pattern. And your organization of the pieces is impeccable! Thom collects dishware, so we’re always keeping our eyes open for interesting storage solutions.

  • CC: Thank you. We heart them mightily.
    Lydia: Therein lies the problem. We can’t help covering our plates with delicious food!
    Jeff: Our entire kitchen is an experiment in storage solutions. As is our closet. And our laundry room. And the basement. It’s a sickness.

  • Seriously jealous here. This pattern rocks!

  • HI. My name is Natalie. I found two of your dishes, the brunch plate with the place for a tea cup. About two years ago I bought them in a thrift store in Los Angeles because they were so gorgeous. Only having two and not knowing what to do with them, I put a candle where the tea cup goes and set them out on end tables. Time has gone by and the dishes ended up in the back of the cabinet. This morning, I was cleaning out the cabinet and curiosity got the best of me. I googled the plates and found your entry. I really have no use for them so if you would like them I could mail them to you. Post a comment here and we will figure out how to get a hold of each other.
    P.S. oddly enough, I too have a vintage hair dryer that I turned into a lamp.
    Natalie!

  • Unbelievable! Clearly we are connected on some cosmic level. You’ll be hearing from me.

  • Carol

    Could you please contact me? I have a number of pieces from this set that were wedding gifts in 1954! I cannot find a way to contact you directly.
    Thanks.

  • birdy

    I have…6 Dinner Plates, 5 Salad Plates, 7 Saucers, and 5 cups.
    They are hand made in Italy for Walter Hatches..on the back of each piece there is a scribbly line…like a signature. They are very colorful, shaped like flowers, have large pink roses, green leaves, etc. I will gladly send pics upon request. I got them from my mother who is age 92.

  • Martha

    Mancioli Rocks!!!! I just received an entire set of Mancioli “Poppies” from my 90 year old Mother-in law, who, by the way, has inherited the “china-collecting gene”….Lucky Me!!! I love the cockerel pattern, tho, and will keep my eyes open for any peices for you…Martha

  • Walter Valentine

    We have a whole set of Watermellon” pattern plates in a box that was my grandmothers. On the back there is printed “HAND MADE IN ITALY EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE WALTER HATCHES”. Are these dishes worth anything and who are The Walter Hatches?
    Walt Valentine

  • This is very interesting. I’ve seen versions of the watermelon dishes come up before, but not custom for the Walter Hatches. I have many pieces of Walter hatches custom pieces, all variations on the Black Cockerel pattern, but I see the name come up a LOT on other ceramics, from Mancioli and others. I’m guessing he was a wealthy man who toured Italy in the midcentury and had a fascination with ceramics. But I don’t know anything concrete about him.
    As for value, I’ll put it this way: I appear to be the sole collector of my pattern, and so have bought nearly all my pieces for mere dollars. The most I’ve paid, quite recently in fact, was for a set of 12 Walter Hatches plates, for which I paid $150. It’s more than I normally would have (or have had to) paid for these pieces, but they were truly unique. You can put them out on eBay and see what happens, but if they are from your grandmother, I might suggest that their sentimental and aesthetic value is greater than what you’ll get in monetary returns.

  • Walter Valentine

    I am assuming that I have a one of a kind design? I have dinner plates, salad plates, a serving bowl and what ever else is in the box in the basement. The design on these pieces is a red center with watermelon seeds painted, a white rim, and then a green outer rim. I would appreciate any additional information that you may provide. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.
    My very best reagrs to you.

  • dar1@peoplepc.com

    I have 2 plates that are pheasants that are made in Italy for The Walter Hatches. They each have 52/1 no the back.I would like to know the value of these, if you have some idea.I have searched and cannot find info on these anywhere.I greatly appreciate any info you may have.
    Thanks, Darlene

  • Mimi

    I have a set and I use them every day!