My Recent Buy: What Do You Mean You Don’t Own An Ironstone Blancmange Food Mold?

“My Recent Buy” will be a regular feature in the WorthPoint Insider newsletter. What did you buy recently? Share the object and your story with our readers. Send the story of your buy and two to four images to Your story might be appear in a future issue.

This week we have a recent buy from Harry Rinker.

My recent buy: a white ceramic rectangular food mold.  The mold measured 6 5/8” x 5 1/4” x 3 1/2” high.   The tapered interior walls had an ornate pattern.  The bottom featured a pair of crossed tennis racks with a tennis ball in each of the four corners.

I am a bottom feeder.  I admit it.  One of my favorite antiquing excursions is to show up in the last 10 to 15 minutes of a yard sale or an estate sale and find the bargain that everyone has missed.  Buying it at a greatly reduced price is an added bonus.

On Saturday afternoon November 18, 2017, Linda and I traveled to Lansing, Michigan, to a Wonder Woman Estate Sale, conducted by my good friend Barb Jersey.   The purpose of our trip was to pick up a large collection of Spode Christmas Tree dinnerware that we had purchased at an earlier sale.

That morning, I served as a parade marshal for the Grand Rapids Jayvees Annual Santa Claus parade, an annual volunteer activity that remains high on my annual “to do” list.   The parade ended at 11:15 AM.   After a leisurely lunch, Linda and I arrived in Lansing about a half hour prior to the close of the estate sale.   Not wishing to impede the rush of the last-minute bargain hunters, Linda and I found an unsold table and chairs and sat down.

In my case, such good intentions last about five minutes.   I arose and walked the sale to see what remained that interest me.  At this point, everything in the estate sale was half price.  Although I find plenty of bargains at half price, half price still often is more than I am willing to pay.

Now comes the bottom feeding aspect.  The sale ended at 4:00 PM.  The few lingering customers made their final selections.   What remained would go to a liquidator, who typically pays between twenty-five cents and a dollar for what’s left, no matter what the object.  If there is a high-ticket item, the liquidator might pay a little more.

Knowledge is power in the antiques and collectibles trade.  Knowing that an estate sale professional is facing a “low ball” sell out price from a liquidator is a bottom feeder’s advantage.  As Barb was doing the final checkout, I walked the sale and put together a group seven items.  When Barb joined Linda and me at the table, I made Barb, as the Godfather said, “an offer she could not refuse.”  The offer was considerably above what the liquidator would pay but well below the 50 percent off threshold.

I like to purchase group lots because the seller is never certain what piece or pieces are hold more interest for me than other examples.   When I get home, I assign values to the pieces in the lot based on their worth relationship to me.

One of the items in the lot was a white ceramic rectangular food mold.  The mold measured 6 5/8” x 5 1/4” x 3 1/2” high.   The tapered interior walls had an ornate pattern.  The bottom featured a pair of crossed tennis racks with a tennis ball in each of the four corners. The base had an incised “COPELAND” mark.  A quick guess suggested the mold was at least 100 years old.  I assigned it a value of $5.00.

The base of the mold had an incised “COPELAND” mark.  A quick guess suggested the mold was at least 100 years old.

I assumed it was a cake mold.  Since I did not pay much, my initial intent was to send it to a Texas cousin who is a tennis professional.  She would own it today had not my curiosity gotten the better of me.  An oft heard voice in the back of my head started repeating: “Check it out, Harry.”  “Check it out, Harry.”  When the voice speaks, I listen.

Every object I buy presents me with the opportunity for an adventure or, better yet, adventures.  Research often leads down uncharted paths to new knowledge and discoveries.  On occasion, it is the start of a new collection.  The Copeland food mold met all three criteria.

When putting “Copeland cake mold” into several search engines produced little information, I started changing my key search words.   A search under “Copeland food mold” produced a listing from, an English website, for a “Scarce Copeland and White China Ironstone Tennis Jelly Mould, c1900 – the inside decorated with crossed tennis rackets, tennis balls, diamond shaped tennis nets and post….”  It was identical to the one I had just purchased.

Knowing what I owned was a jelly rather than a cake mold allowed me to expand my search.  Within minutes, I was learning about Victorian dining habits, especially what “jelly” meant in that era.  It most certain was not Jello.

Jelly was a generic term used to describe a large number of jellied concoctions.  One example is Blancmange, a sweet desert often made with milk or cream and sugar that is thickened by corn starch, gelatin, or Irish moss and flavored, most often with almonds.  Blancmange was known as a desert “whitedish,” although is could be flavored with food coloring for different occasions.

The website Chatelain’s Antiques contains an article entitled “Collecting Jelly Moulds.”  The article notes: “Jellies have been around a long, long time, from the 14th century at least.  Originally, they were savoury [sic.] rather than sweet and were made by boiling up such unpromising bits and pieces as sheep’s heads, cows’ or pigs’ feet or in the case of hartshorn jelly, shavings taken from the antlers of a deer.”   While I discovered many additional details about Victorian jelly, I have decided to move on with the story.

I discovered that my “jelly” mold was chilled until the jelly set.  When it was ready to be served, the exterior of the mold was warmed and the mold turned upside down.  All of a sudden, I had a new appreciation for the food on the table as seen in Masterpiece Theater’s elaborate Victorian era set drama.

This beautiful 19th century English Ironstone ceramic aspic mold made by Copeland sold for $48.00 in November 2015.

Copeland was not the only English manufacturer who made ironstone jelly molds.  Wedgwood was another.  WorthPoint’s Worthopedia has a listing for an example made in Germany. The Worthopedia had over 200 jelly mold listings, more than half of which were from the Victorian era.   Reviewing the key words, I added pudding and aspic to my key word list.

The Worthepedia also provided me with a great understanding of sell through values.  These values are half or less of current eBay “Buy It Now Prices.”  Patience clearly is a key to assembling an affordable collection.

A second Copeland example that I bought from an English seller.

One food mold was not enough. I checked out I bought a second Copeland example from an English seller, paying more for the shipping than I did for the piece.  However, when I added the two prices I paid and divided by half, I still felt I bought at bottom prices.

My unmarked English early 20th century ironstone jelly food mold.

As fate would have it, a recent Michigan auction features a lot of three jelly food molds – one ironstone and two made of tin.  I paid $30.00, which includes the buyer’s penalty, for the lot.  The ironstone mold was not marked but clearly late Victorian.  I priced at $12.50 in my records.

Three is not a collection. “Rinker Rule of Ten” is that ten is the minimum number needed to have a collection. I need to acquire seven more. A trip to England with attendance at numerous boot sales is in the not too distant future.

One final note: I estimate the secondary market retail value of my Copeland, tennis theme, jelly food mold between $80.00 and $100.00. Since I have no plans to part with it, it is just one more of the many “no value” items I own.

Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site.  You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.  “Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

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