By Susie Prendergast
I grew up near Disneyland, but it was still a once-a-year trip, maybe twice if we got lucky. So, at the beginning, my collecting was very limited. A stuffed Mickey, a giant swirly lollipop, a plastic wallet, those giant pencils that you could never figure out how to sharpen, a Donald Duck hat with a squeaker in the brim, all random and impulsive kid purchases. I went through a phase in middle and high school where my friends and I would all get matching hats and wear them for the day, our nicknames embroidered on the back. The problem with that collection was that there was not much use for a pirate hat after the day was done and we went back to school, so I ended up with a dusty hat rack and nothing more to show for my money.
When I went to college, I started working, and a new thing happened: the Disney Store opened! Now I had some real money to spend, so I ordered every new movie on VHS in order to collect the lithographs that came with them, and at some point I started collecting Disney watches. Someone gave me a Winnie the Pooh charm bracelet, so I had to go collect each of the charms as they were released too. Then I started to narrow my focus to just Alice in Wonderland stuff. And then suddenly, I had to become a responsible, home-owning adult and parent, and the days of buying whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted came to a screeching halt. I needed a better plan.
I decided on some rules:
- Whatever I bought had to be useful. It had to serve a purpose. My house is really small and I don’t have room to display a lot of stuff.
- It had to be unique.
- It had to be from the park, because that’s what I love the most, the place itself, but not souvenir stuff.
- It couldn't be part of a series where I was going to have to make myself crazy trying to get all of the pieces.
I stumbled upon some old Disneyland restaurant plates in a stack of some other stuff and I bought them immediately. These aren't super old, but they are pretty neat because they aren't made to be collected, and you kind of have to just find them out in the wild by chance. They are white, with two gold bands and a gold Disneyland “D” in a shield at the top. Most of the plates are back-stamped to show they were made by Homer Laughlin China, the maker of Fiesta Ware. The manufacturing code shows that they were made in 1994, which is a later date than I would have expected. Two were made by Mayer China in 1975. One is marked Syralite and that one is a slightly different shape and size, with a date of 1970. I have several dinner plates, a handful of smaller bread/dessert plates, and an oval platter that is currently listed on eBay for $74.50. So, not too shabby, though I won’t be parting with mine any time soon!
I love these plates because they are practical and not precious. They are meant to be sturdy and hold up in an industrial dishwasher, so I can actually use the plates everyday and not have to worry about babying them. It’s fun to cruise eBay every so often and see what pops up, but I don’t have to be obsessive about finding every last piece to complete a set. I do still covet those miniature Olszewski pieces, but that kind of collecting just isn't my style. That said, now that I've gotten down all of my plates and inspected them, I’m sure I’ll be spending a few days hunting around the Internet to see if I can find anything new. I like that I can be a casual armchair collector because this item is very specific and yet kind of obscure at the same time. The pieces aren't incredibly rare or amazing, but the market isn't exactly flooded with them either, so that alone keeps me from having developed an expensive collecting habit. That’s a win-win for me!