After approximately two years of planning and production, the newest collection of White House china was unveiled in April at a state dinner for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Renowned White House China collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx says it’s not unusual for presidents to wait until their second term to choose their official china.
A SAMPLING OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA'S OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA
President Obama and the First Lady want to be represented in the White House China collection because, in part, it is historically important. However, ordering entirely new china is expensive – the 320 11-piece settings of Obama china reportedly cost more than $360,000 – so the cost is borne via private donations to the White House Historical Association’s White House Endowment Fund.
The china design was chosen in part for practicality – to blend harmoniously with existing patterns – but with a very personal twist. Michelle Obama told a reporter for Architectural Digest her goal was “to create a new modern, different, edgy kind of look.” White House curator William Allman, who worked with the First Lady on this project, said the design has a distinctly modern look “while continuing to draw on historic and traditional elements.”
MICHELLE OBAMA ADMIRES THE DETAIL IN THEIR OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA SELECTION
Some of the pieces feature a color that represents Hawaii’s bluish-green waters, in honor of President Obama’s birthplace. The Obamas named it “Kailua Blue.” The color isn’t traditional, Mr. Amyx notes, but it is beautiful. Dinner plates feature a bas-relief design that mimics the pattern on James and Dolley Madison’s 1806 French china service.
THE KAILUA BLUE IN PRESIDENT OBAMA'S WHITE HOUSE CHINA REPRESENTS HIS HAWAIIAN HERITAGE
The Obama china was made by Pickard China of Antioch, Illinois, the first time this firm has ever been selected to make Official White House China. While the collection is certainly historic, renowned White House China collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx says this china may not be so interesting to future collectors. The raised design on the dinner plates is unique, he says, yet the white-on-white presentation is lost, especially on a white tablecloth. Mr. Amyx believes that from a beauty point of view, the china could have been improved by using the Kailua Blue color for the raised border to provide contrast.
PRESIDENT OBAMA ADMIRES HIS OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA CUP AS HE HOLDS HIS STANDARD MORNING PAPER COFFEE CUP IN HIS OTHER HAND
In addition, only a minority of pieces carry the presidential emblem – an eagle motif that a majority of past presidents have always used as the main visual element on the face of each plate, in the center or on the side. So there is nothing that says “presidential” about this china unless one looks at the verso.
If the china is less interesting to collectors, it will be less valuable, Raleigh explains. The exception may be the minority of pieces that do carry the presidential emblem on the front. Typically, collectors want to acquire a service plate and the next size down. But in the case of the Obama china, the desirable emblem appears not on the very large dinner plate but on the second-largest plate, with the exception of the service plate (see below).
THE LUXURIOUS SERVICE PLATE IN THE BARACK OBAMA WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION
The Obama service plate is a bright matte-finish gold and does feature a Presidential Coat of Arms on the front. Raleigh says he would have added a circle of stars surrounding the emblem to make it “pop” more attractively, somewhat like the Harry S. Truman china. And he suggests the blue border could have been a bit wider. After all, he says, presidential china should be “elegant to all those who view it.” It should "really pop" and say “Hello, see me? I was selected by the President of the United States!”
HISTORIAN & COLLECTOR - RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired a remarkable number of pieces of official White House china. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical artifacts 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.