There’s something so more-ish about the little porcelain discs from antique taps and bathroom fittings. There’s a plethora of stray, unloved inserts that have either been removed, dropped off – or were never used in the first place. Coin-like, fragile and decorated with utilitarian fonts, I find them strangely appealing.
Tap inserts are usually labelled with the name of the bathroom manufacturer or the plumber, the town they were based in and a single word such as: ‘HOT’, ‘COLD’, ‘PRESS’, ‘SPRAY’, ‘SHUT’, ‘PUSH’, or ‘SHOWER’. They’re only around £1 each at a fair but can fetch up to £15 per pair on eBay, so it’s better to buy them in person. Thanks to their tiny size, they’re very easy to smuggle past The Husband, too – always a bonus.
Some are flat, others concave. Some have the names of hotels and dates (‘GROSVENOR, 1924’) and they look beautiful displayed in a group. I super-glue little magnets to their backs and collect them in a cluster on the fridge to hold photos and notes.
Of course, like so many things in life, they’re sexier if they’re French. I spend hours sifting through dusty boxes and bags to seek out ‘FROID’ and ‘CHAUD’ discs – preferably with the word ‘PARIS’, too – c’est fou, mais je les aime. Welsh ones are rarer but just as tempting; Once you know that ‘POETH’ means hot and ‘OER’ means cold, you’re in business.
While we’re in the lavatory, so to speak, I’m also on the hunt for a ceramic Victorian toilet cistern pull and chain at the moment to use as a light pull in the bathroom, much to The Husband’s chagrin. But that’s another story…
Do you want to start collecting? You can visit any upcoming iacf antiques fair to discuss what you want to start collecting and the best focal points with our professional antiques dealers.