What is about chocolate that inflames the senses, caresses the palate and, when the craving strikes, no other food will do? Apparently, it’s all to do with ingredients such as tryptophan, anandamide and phenylethylamine, substances which act on our brain’s neurotransmitter network to promote a feel-good factor. Of course, the taste also has something to do with it! And the smell!
Chocolate is a substance which most people like, and, however fond of other foods they may be, such as pizza, avocados, bacon sarnies or rice pudding, dieters normally miss chocolate most of all. Naturally, because chocolate is one of our most favourite foods, it has inspired numerous associated collectable items over the years, making it possible to indulge without putting on any weight at all – in fact, scientific tests show that your wallet might even grow slimmer…..
When chocolate was first introduced into Britain in the 16th Century, it was sold as a drink, and ‘Chocolate Houses’ were in the in-thing, the place to meet and gossip over a warm, dark cup of liquid chocolate. Chocolate comes from crushed seeds of the Cacao tree, but although known to the Aztecs, it wasn’t until 1825 that it was sold as bars, while milk chocolate was not introduced until the late 1800s. In 1905, Cadbury’s launched Dairy Milk, which still remains the top-selling chocolate bar in Britain.
Practically every item in the collectable world can be found with a chocolate association in some shape or form, and so it is easy to build up a chocolate heaven of your own – posters, teddy bears, badges, clothes, ceramics, toys, handbags, books, dolls, tins, pens and model vehicles are just a few of the things a chocoholic might like to collect.
One of the classic chocolate collectables is the Bournvita Sweet Dreams mug. Some of the china versions are marked Wedgwood, but it’s probably the hard plastic versions which most people associate with the drink. The mugs featured the distinctive sleepy face and had a blue ‘nightcap’ lid which could double-up as a saucer to catch the drips. They were used by thousands of children in the days when malted chocolate was the standard ‘drink before bedtime’. China advertising mugs are easy to find, promoting anything from Wispa to Yorkie, and M&M’s to Smarties. Novelty versions are shaped like squares of chocolate or maybe a half-eaten cream egg. Usually inexpensive, a collection of mugs featuring chocolate brands is eye-catching, and it’s interesting to see how styles, logos and trade-names change over the decades.
Some earlier chocolate-related ceramics are more costly; in May an unusual ‘chocolate lady’, an 8 inch figurine made by Sitzendorf, sold for £150 on ebay. This long-skirted, apron-wearing, lady carried a tray containing cups of chocolate. A 1920s Carlton Ware orchid-decorated chocolate cup and lid sold for £67, while a rare chocolate pot and cover, made by Bow, with quite a bit of damage, went for £75.
Recently, I visited Cadbury World, near Birmingham. It’s a hands-on exhibition which not only shows you how chocolate is made, it gives out plenty of free chocolate bars. Amongst other delights, you get to ride in a Beanmobile through the chocolate wonderland home of the Chuckle Beans, walk through an Aztec jungle, view a packaging plant, and see demonstrations of hand-moulded choc making. And the little pots of warm, melted chocolate are scrummy!
I spoke to Colin Pitt, Curator of the Cadbury Museum, who told me that while some people concentrate on Cadbury memorabilia, others go for anything chocolaty. Amongst the diverse items on show are a glorious set of blue, decorated Wedgwood cups and saucers intended for hot chocolate, and which were obtained through an early token-collect scheme. Colin said that many people seek point of sale enamel signs, mirrors and items such as mini-milk churns, used in shops to draw attention to the products, adding that he is often asked to value chocolate-related items, but unfortunately, can’t provide that service.
Wade has produced several chocolate-related ceramic items over the years. At the moment, they make Chuckle Bean promotional figures which are sold as souvenirs at Cadbury World. Standing 1.5 inches high, they can be found with various coloured shoes. Also available are Chuckle Bean egg cups, money boxes in the shape of a train, car or van, and small raisin and cocoa bean mini-figures. Earlier items made by Wade include a Thornton’s Chocolate van, as well as figurines of Little Bo-Peep and a smiling rabbit. The last two were included with Sharp’s Easter Eggs in the 1970s.
Tins and boxes are interesting. Some are beautifully decorated – the 1950s were the time of the so called typical ‘chocolate-box’ scenes of kittens, puppies, children, flowers and beautiful women – but others are much plainer. Tins were issued to commemorate Royal events too, such as weddings and coronations. In 1900, Queen Victoria sent small tins of chocolate to soldiers fighting in South Africa, and these often turn up at collector’s fairs. Occasionally, they still contain the original chocolate because the soldier couldn’t bring himself to eat a present given to him by the Queen. According to Colin Pitt, though Cadbury made much of this chocolate, the company was owned at the time by staunch Quakers who could not condone warfare, which is why the manufacturer’s logo doesn’t appear on the tin.
Toys have long been associated with chocolate. In 1934, miniature metal animals, around 1.5 inches high, were given away with tins of cocoa. The wide variety of creatures included an elephant, turtle, penguin, owl, fox, duck, pig, squirrel and rabbit, and most of them had colourful moulded clothing. Today, these small animal figures sell from £10, and are very collectable, with a rare variation of a Dumpty Doo duck selling for £100 at Vectis. Children could join the highly popular Cococub Club, which had its own magazine and within 2 years boasted 300,000 members. After the war, Cadbury introduced the C. Cubs, a follow-up to the Cococubs which had been disbanded in 1939.
Also in the 1930s, Cadbury advertised a 10 inch high cloth doll which could be obtained in exchange for 28 coupons from Bournville cocoa. She wore a velvet dress – the child could choose from pink, blue, gold or red – trimmed with white fur, and a matching bonnet, and was filled with ‘pure kapok’. More recently, promotional toys include such items as plastic hens which lay chocolate eggs, bears with the names of various chocolate bars on their T-shirts, mini-chocolate bar dispensers, fluffy Cadbury’s Parrots, kites and die-cast models. Many of these models are aimed towards the adult collector’s market. Recently, Cadbury World was inundated with calls from enthusiasts asking about Lledo’s latest Cadbury models, just released. Other popular Lledo collectables include a bright yellow plane advertising Crunchie. The strangest vehicle is the Corgi Cream Egg car.
The most delicious toys must be those cuddlies scented with chocolate. Made by Russ, they include a bear and a rabbit, and the smell of chocolate wafting from their fur makes them the ultimate collectable – you can sniff to your heart’s content without putting on a bit of weight (unless you actually eat the bear, of course!). They can sometimes be found in gift or teddy shops. Did you know that you can now buy a chocolate-scented Barbie doll? ‘Chocolate Obsession’ Barbie wears a fabulous satin chocolate-coloured gown, teemed with a matching chiffon wrap and long chain earrings.
Milka cows, based on the distinctive purple and white cow logo used on German Happy Cow chocolate, are made in soft toy form by Steiff. Measuring around 9 inches long, they are made from woven acrylic fur with bells hanging from their necks. Milka fluffy cow keyrings and other collectables are worth looking out for, as are American bears bearing a Hershey chocolate slogan.
If money is no object, or you’re looking for an extra-special chocolate-inspired collectable, then you might like to consider one of the chocolate-themed clutch bags from Anya Hindmarch. The Cadbury’s bag is stunning; it creates a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate wrapper in purple sequins, and retails at £345. Anya Hindmarch bags are great favourites with stars such as Catherine Zeta Jones and Julia Roberts, so you will be in good company if you decide to invest.
Easier on the pocket are T-shirts bearing chocolate logos, or slogans such as ‘I Love Chocolate’, while baseball caps, jackets and aprons are all available, allowing you to wear your chocolate-inspired collection. Some people collect chocolate packaging, while strong-willed collectors save uneaten chocolate still in its wrappers, or chocolate sculptures such as bears and rabbits. My great grandfather owed a sweetshop in the early 1900s, next to a variety theatre, and sold boxes of chocolates to great names of the day such as the cheeky singer Marie Lloyd. I inherited mementos from his shop, including photos, account books and cheques made out to manufacturers of the day such as Rowntrees and Cadbury. This kind of ephemera can add interest to a chocolate-themed collection
The gift shop at Cadbury World is a treasure trove, packed with clothing, umbrellas, forks, coasters, mugs, books, playing cards, pens, badges, bags and tea-towels, as well, of course, as masses of chocolate. They even sell a nifty toothbrush in a smart Cadbury’s case to remind you how important it is to clean your teeth after indulging in all that choccie!
Thanks to Colin Pitt of Cadbury World Museum for proving such an informative guide.
1 In 1934 tokens from Cadbury’s cocoa could be redeemed for saucepans, bicycle lamps, kettles, pillow slips or a toy scooter.
2 A rare Cadburys Cococub board game sold recently for over £50 on ebay, even though most of the metal figures were missing.
3 Cadbury’s began their token-collect scheme in 1906
4 The 16th century Emperor Montezuma reputedly drunk 50 pots of chocolate a day.
5 In 1876, a Swiss manufacturer devised a way of adding milk to chocolate, to make the product we enjoy today.
6 Cadbury’s Milk Tray was launched in 1915 and is the most popular personal gift assortment on the market.
DID YOU KNOW?
Roald Dahl wrote ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ in 1964, which later became a movie hit. Now, the film has been remade and is due for release in July 2005. Look out for promotional tie-ins!
Cadbury World, Bournville, Birmingham, B30 2LU Phone 0121 451 41800 for opening times. www.cadburyworld.co.uk
Anya Hindmarch, 15-17 Pont Street, London, SW1 [email protected]
Wade Ceramics Ltd., Royal Victoria Pottery, Westport Road, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 4AG www.wade.co.uk
Lledo Collectables, P O Box 4000, Southampton, SO14 0ZW www.lledodirect.com