In 1976, when Ruth and Ed Robbins traveled to England to visit a friend, little did they know that Ruth would be bitten by a "collecting bug" that has led her to amass over 400 of the antique ribbon plates that now line the walls of their Bonners Ferry home.
Ruth Robbins has collected over 400 ribbon plates over the last 30 years.
Stopping at an auction at a castle in England, Ruth saw the distinctive, flowered plates decorated with colorful ribbons laced through the lattice-like edges, and bid on several of them. Unfortunately, she was out-bid on the plates at the time, but a coincidental meeting with the woman who had bought the plates at the auction allowed Ruth to start her collection. Several years after that, Ruth again bought 100 ribbon plates and bowls from the same woman. Since then, searching antique auctions and flea markets for the ribbon plates has become a passion for Ruth.
"It's like a treasure hunt," she said. "It's exciting, like when we go to the Portland Antique Show, looking and searching to find one. Often the sellers don't know what they are. They think that they are just little cookie dishes. Sometimes you can get them for $5 or $6."
Ruth said that the plates were all manufactured between 1870 and 1914. They pre-dated post cards, and supposedly, people would go on vacation and bring a plate back as a souvenir or gift from the little European towns they had vacationed in.
Currently, the Robbins have devoted four small walls and two long hallway walls to displaying the collection. Ruth enjoys choosing various colors of velvet ribbon to lace around the edges of the plates. She said that the hue of the ribbon brings out different colors in the flowered plates.
The Robbins have traveled all over the United States looking for the ribbon plates, dishes and bowls. Ruth has ribbon plates from many different manufacturers and many different countries. Her ribbon plate collection has been displayed in the Fallon, NV Museum as well as the Yuba City, CA Museum.
"I haven't gone out of my way to find them, but when I come across them, I like to pick them up. You just never know where you're going to find them.
Ed says I'm kind of "lazy" because I don't like to exercise, but when we get to a flea market or an antique show, the adrenalin kicks in and I'm off," she laughed.