Presidential dinnerware since the time of George Washington reflects the taste and culture of its day. Shapes, sizes, and decoration of the pieces vary considerably – dramatically in some cases – and every casual viewer and collector has their aesthetic favorites. But when it comes to identifying the rarest White House China, beauty has no bearing. Rarity is strictly a matter of numbers. The fewer pieces still in existence, the rarer they are.
Several Official White House China patterns were so popular with later Presidents, they were reordered instead of being replaced with a new design. The Abraham Lincoln Official White House China is a prominent example. Because so many pieces with this pattern were produced, there are more available to be collected, even today. Comparatively speaking, they are not rare, but Lincoln is Lincoln, thus in high demand.
We asked world renowned White House China collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx which Presidential China collections are most rare. Here's how he ranked them:
LOVELY 1870 STATE DINNER PLATE FROM THE ULYSSES S. GRANT OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION - HAVILAND AND COMPANY - PART OF THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
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#9. Ulysses Grant
This 1879 Official White House China order consisted of more pieces – 587 – but no 1879 pieces were ever re-ordered, that bear a distinctive verso marking. There is a special marking on the 1879 order that does not appear on any of the following china order pieces, by any other subsequent Presidents.
#8. Rutherford Hayes
President Hayes’ original 562-piece White House China service is marked “1879” on the back. However, Haviland & Co. lost so much money producing this stunning china that they reissued it repeatedly for public sale, minus the 1879 date. Even a subsequent Presidential order to replenish White House supplies arrived without the 1879 mark. For this reason, pieces remaining from the original, dated order are deemed to be about five times as valuable as matching, undated 1879 pieces.
#7. James K. Polk
The 1846 James K. Polk White House China was never re-ordered and bears no specfic markings that help identify it as Official White House China.
There were just 120 pieces in Theodore Roosevelt’s original White House China order, and this pattern was never re-ordered. Not only are there no verso markings to indicate the pieces were Official White House China, the seal on the front rim is the seal of the United States, not the Presidential seal. This makes it even more likely subsequent owners would not have realized what they had. Mr. Amyx says, “pieces rarely appear on the market, perhaps every 5 or 10 years.” One 9” fish plate from the Theodore Roosevelt Official White House China collection is part of the Raleigh DeGeer Amyx Collection.
None of the John Quincy Adams White House China was ever re-ordered. Most of the original order was lost or broken. During the 1800s, most Presidential china orders were not marked as such, so they were often inherited by individuals who had no idea of their true provenance or value.
ELEGANT PLATE FROM THE 1853 FRANKLIN PIERCE OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION - PART OF THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
#4. Franklin Pierce
There were only 287 pieces in Franklin Pierce’s 1853 White House China order, and they had no helpful verso markings. The pattern was never re-ordered. Mr. Amyx owns one pristine piece from of Pierce White House China, and says “he has seen only one other piece offered for sale in the last 30 years.”
#3. James Madison
Prior to becoming President, James and Dolley Madison ordered a set of china that consisted of about 300 pieces. Following the War of 1812, the Madisons brought to The White House the china that they had used as Secretary of State. They used this service for dinners with foreign dignitaries, so it became Official White House China. Today, only 30 pieces remain, thanks to the fact that the British burned down the executive mansion and much of its contents during the Madison administration. Thirty pieces are accounted for – among them, 8 are in the White House collection, 4 are housed at the historic Madison home in Montpelier, and 5 Madison pieces are in the Raleigh DeGeer Amyx Collection.
PRISTINE DESSERT PLATE FROM THE 1820 JAMES MONROE OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION - MANUFACTURED BY DAGOYT AND HONORE - PART OF THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION
#2. James Monroe
Similar to the John Quincy Adams White House China, no President after James Monroe ordered this same pattern, so only the pieces in Monroe’s original order ever existed. James Monroe White House China is sought after in a major way.
Very few pieces of our first President’s china still exist today. The dinnerware Washington used for official state occasions while President was his own personal china, used by him both before and after his Presidential service. Although there was no White House during the Washington Administration, this extraordinarily rare porcelain is still considered to be Official White House China. After the passing of both George and Martha Washington, the remaining china was moved several times – and not always gently. Not much survived. Specifically, a pristine George Washington White House China dinner plate has a value exceeding $80,000.
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired a remarkable number of scarce or rare pieces of official White House China. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical artifacts has been his sole focus for more than 35 years. Mr. Amyx's collection is the largest privately-owned collection of extremely high-quality, as well as the rarest, Official White House China and Presidential 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.