Collector and historian Raleigh DeGeer Amyx says it pays to be a little boy or girl for a long time – collecting things you like – because they can increase in value the longer you own them. You have to be a good judge of what has real potential, though. Take White House China, for example. James Monroe was the first president for whom Congress provided money to furnish the White House. Prior to that, presidents had to supply their own furnishings and dishes.
A PRISTINE DINNER PLATE FROM ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S 1861 ORDER - THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
During Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, there were two varieties of White House china. One depicted broad wings on the front of the plate, the other was plain with a buff border. Monroe’s china had also featured a similar eagle, but the unusual shade of purple on the border, called solferino, was a special request from Mary Todd Lincoln, as it was her favorite color.
If a china pattern is very popular, like the Lincoln “wings” pattern, subsequent presidents want to order the same thing to replace chipped or broken pieces. The Lincoln china endured through several presidencies; however as it pertains to the marking on the verso. However, because some of the later orders were manufactured 5 or 10 years plus after the 1861 originals, there may be slight variations.
The back side of a china plate is referred to as the verso, and that’s where the difference lies. The original china ordered by the Lincolns in 1861 had a plain verso, with no markings. That continued with Andrew Johnson’s order. When Grant ordered more china, however, it came with a hand-painted maker’s mark on the verso. Chester Arthur’s order carried that same mark, so today collectors may not be able to tell which president ordered a particular Lincoln pattern.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN - AMERICA'S 16TH PRESIDENT
Twenty-three years later, William McKinley wanted more of the same pattern. He ordered 36 pieces exactly the same, but once again the verso is different. These pieces are not plain like Lincoln’s original order, nor is the marking the same as the mark on Grant’s order.
None of these alterations were meant to be confusing or deceptive, it simply didn’t matter at the time. No one could have predicted 150 years ago that White House China would become highly valued by collectors, and that details such as distinguishing marks would become significant. However all variations are rare, and their values remain similar.
How did Raleigh DeGeer Amyx come by all of these fascinating examples of White House china? As a lifelong collector – and former FBI employee and investigator – he has developed excellent detective skills that have helped him track down more than 100 individuals who worked for various presidents in behind-the-scenes capacities.
During their work tenure, these people often acquire mementos of their White House experience, but then discover long after they retire that their children or grandchildren don’t feel the same connection with those collectibles or the stories behind them. They are happy to part with these pieces when they find someone who will cherish them and fairly renumerate them accordingly.
A RARE SERVING PIECE FROM ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S MORE CONSERVATIVE BUFF CHINA SELECTION
This is how it was in the case of the Lincoln White House China. In speaking with a former White House maid, Mr. Amyx learned she had a Lincoln plate that had fractured into a dozen pieces, wrapped up in her underwear drawer at home. She sold him the pieces, and Mr. Amyx spent thousands of dollars to have an expert conservationist delicately restore the plate. Raleigh still has that plate and impressively, the fracture lines are almost indiscernible.
In his own collection, Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has multiple examples of the original Lincoln White House china in addition to one example of the Grant version and one of the McKinley era version. This White House china has special significance for Mr. Amyx, because he especially held Abraham Lincoln in high esteem. In addition to that, there is such history as well as such stunning artistry as it pertains to the Abraham Lincoln pattern.
HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR - RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired numerous pieces of official White House china. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical memorabilia has been his sole focus for more than three decades. Mr. Amyx's collection is the largest privately-owned collection of extremely high-quality, as well as the rarest, official White House China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.