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Souvenirs from Copenhagen – Vintage Danish blue plates

When we first moved to Copenhagen, I noticed many of our Danish friends had cool, eclectic crockery collections that were mixed and matched. There were handmade one-offs from stores like Stilleben mixed with simple white dishes from chains like Søstrene Grene, and there were vintage plates from loppemarkeder (flea markets). I noticed that in among the latter, were always these sweet antique blue side plate-sized dishes featuring beautiful scenes, a year and the words ‘Julen’ (Christmas)’/’Jule Aften’ (Christmas Eve) or ‘Mors Dag’ (Mother’s Day).

Most of my friends had grown up with these blue Danish plates in their homes, given them to their mothers or received them at Christmas. Traditionally in Denmark they’re collected, and hung on the wall as an ever-expanding group. But in modern families like those we know, those that show the birth year of every person in the family are picked up at flea markets and vintage stores for the family table. They’re a hint of their own childhoods, but have been stripped of their ‘collectible’ status in favour of active use. Teamed on a table with a candle, a pot of hot coffee and a shared cake for the very Danish ‘kaffe og kage’, they’re so charming and make for a special inclusion in your homeward-bound suitcase.

They were created by an old Danish company called Bing & Grøndahl Porcelænsfabrik for the first time in 1895. Den Kongelige Porcelænsfabrik followed suit with their own issue from 1908, and in 1987 the two joined forces to become Royal Copenhagen. Every year since 1895, a new Christmas plate has arrived, and each year they’re made in limited editions, the mould destroyed just after Christmas Eve. They depict very Danish Christmas scenes – cotton-tailed deer looking into snowy woods, the silhouette of a huddling family approaching a warmly lit house across a frosty garden, or a distant lighthouse keeping boats offshore safe as they navigate icy seas. They’re also quiet indicators of history: the Den Kongelige Porcelænsfabrik plate for 1945 showed a kneeling angel symbolising the giving of thanks by those who had survived the war.

The Mother’s Day plates are absolutely darling, always showing scenes of affection, warmth and the special bond between mothers and their children. When we’ve passed shops with piles of them outside, we’ve let the children choose a couple of Mother’s Day ones for our table, and they’ve gone for the sweetest motifs: a polar bear nursing her cubs and a more folky-style lady with flowing hair and a curling pattern across her dress, her five children perched across her outstretched arms.

The blue plates aren’t expensive, usually around three to five euros apiece from antique shops; at flea markets they’re likely cheaper and if you’re buying a few, always haggle.

Harsted Antik on Store Kongensgade always has neat stacks of them outside its basement storefront, as well as a huge display on its wall inside. Located in Indre By, where a lot of the tourist must-dos are (think Amalienborg Palace, the Nyboder District, Nyhavn and Design Museum Danmark), it’s an easy side trip to make.

Ravnsborggade in Nørrebro also has several independent antique and vintage shops in among its bars and restaurants, which are likely to stock the plates at any given time.

Loppermarkeder happen at weekends, and as well as the organised ones listed in the link below, there are usually small ones in residential apartment building courtyards that pop up and are troves of bargains. Look out for signs as you wander the city.

Where to buy

Harsted Antik

Open
Tue-Fri, 11am-5.30pm; Sat, 11am-3pm; Sun + Mon, closed.

Store Kongensgade 94
1264 København K

+45 40 35 54 85
[email protected]
harstedantik.dk

Loppermarkeder

For flea markets happening in and near the city, check markedskalenderen.dk/marked/kategori/loppemarked

 

 


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