Plates aren’t just plates… so it seems! 37



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I can see why some people collect plates. Walking around markets and stores one can see porcelain plates, antique plates, commemorative plates and collector plates. The range is never ending. Personally I see a plate as only for putting food on and I consider art is better seen on a canvas.

However, having said this, some weeks ago, I bought a plate at a market for the princely sum of $5. This plate I had seen in previous weeks on this particular market stall and nobody had bothered to buy it. One of the reasons being that the description on the reverse of the plate was in a foreign language. Another reason was that the design on the plate was a black and white sketch of an old building which was not very appealing.

The lady who sold me the plate thought the language was German. As it turned out it was Swedish. I can’t understand Swedish. However, I eventually gleaned the following:

The plate was designed by Sven Angborn. It was produced in 1982 and the porcelain factory that produced the plate was called Gustavsberg. The building was the Public Theatre Building built in 1873 in a town in Sweden called Borås. The Plate was numbered 5.


I was intrigued to know why would anyone put a sketch of an old building on a plate. So to the internet I went. Some quite few hours later I pieced together a bit of a history about the plate and its designer.

Sven Angborn born in 1925 and a resident of Borås is a cartoonist, book illustrator writer and sculptor (as far as I can tell he is still alive). Commencing in 1978 he sketched a series of designs on plates of some of the building and sights in his home town. In 1982 he designed the sketch of the building on the plate I purchased.

There were not many old buildings left in Borås in 1978. Primarily because the mainly wooden buildings in the town had been destroyed by fires in 1681, 1727, 1822 and 1827. Over the years, the old wooden theatre building pictured on the plate had started to deteriorate and the local authorities decided it should be demolished. There were demonstrations by the local inhabitants against the demolition who wanted the building restored and preserved. And why not; this was part of their history and one of the few remaining wooden structures.

The story then goes that demonstrators were removed from the site on the trumped up story that there was a bomb scare. On December 4th 1983, twelve months after the plate depicting the building was made, while the demonstrators were away as a result of the bomb scare, the demolishers moved in and demolished the theatre. Even now this demolition has not been forgotten by the residents of the town. It was mentioned only this year on a Facebook sight about the preservation of old buildings in Borås.


There is another little twist to this plate story. In 1994, the Gustavsberg Factory finally closed its doors having been in existence since 1826. On closure it donated 36,000 pieces of porcelain pottery to the Swedish National Museum. Well it might have been 35,999. Why? If you go to the museum website and search the name Sven Anghorn it shows a series of 6 plates with the sketches of Borås. Except number 5 is missing. It seems I have that plate. Should I send it to the National Museum of Sweden? Maybe plates are important after all as historical record?

Tell us, do you collect plates? Or have a special one?

Michael Whitehead

Michael Whitehead attended uni as a mature age student in his 50s, completing multiple postgraduate degrees in health science and psychology. He has a canoe, a pushbike, a bodyboard, a tennis racquet and a fishing rod. He uses them all. Michael is now enjoying retirement after a wide range of careers, most recently as Manager of a Family Support Service.

  1. I think I would have to donate it to complete the original set but could understand the reluctance. Isn’t it possible to “loan” the plate? That way it stays as a little piece of your own history whilst completing another.

  2. What a fascinating story, yes I would have to contact the museum to see if they are interested. Then … they display it with your name and you have to go over to see it on display!!

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  3. I would contact them first and see what they think.
    I would probably think long and hard about donating it as I would want to be sure it was never going to sold off for a profit.

    As for collecting pkates, I have a few which have been given to me or I have found at garage sales. Have never bothered to try and trace their origins. Although I do know that a red one I was given is around 200 years old.

  4. I love the stories behind the antiques, love the TV shows and about the only ones I would watch more than once, I can’t understand how a plate for instance over 400 hundred years old can survive without a chip or crack, what a nice find you had and good story too!

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  5. I would contact the museum and hear their reaction! Wonderful story and good researching! In Ireland my father had a friend who came to our house a lot. He would get a plain white plate and a candle, and would draw amazing scenes where he had blacked the plate, using a toothpick or a match! He also used this format each year to do our Christmas scene on the corner of our big living room mirror! Reading about your plate brought back the memory! Thank you!

  6. A nice plate and a lucky find, you will certainly get more than your money back if you part with it.

  7. You maybe able to contact that museum and let them know you gave the no5 plate and see what they gave to say!!!

  8. What an amazing story. I like kaleidoscopes … hsve collected a few from mkts .. but don’t think that they will have a story like that

  9. I would definitely donate the plate. It would mean much more to the museum people than you and what a story for them to tell.

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