Plates as souvenirs are not something new in the Western culture since the trend was set at the very beginning of the 19th century when collector plates displays became true shows to be admired by the English Victorian public. Great exhibitions of collector plates thus appeared in the United Kingdom first and foremost, and the plates on display were generally commemorative items of historic or cultural events. The most common designs featured blue and white as the dominant colors; they were available in many models and shapes and little by little the collecting trend was set and established as a hobby.
In the past, monarchs and royalty were particularly interested in collector plates, and they were the ones to organize exhibitions and entertain their guests with fine porcelain display shows. Before the 19th century, porcelain was definitely outside the reach of the common citizen who lacked the means to purchase such fine items only for the sake of making a collection. However, little by little, when the porcelain manufacturing technique came to be improved and mastered as an industrial process, factories were opened both in Europe and in America, which meant that the collector plates became a lot more accessible.
Collector plates are not rare birds and things never used to be otherwise since the items are pretty easy to find and rather cheap: we are talking about a hobby that is very much within everyone's reach. In 1910, Christmas plates started being produced and sold as collection items, particularly in Europe, but the craze soon spread across the Atlantic to the United States as well. More and more exquisite items and famous series were launched by the manufacturers, sometimes in limited editions that were rapidly sold for good sums of money. Presently, collector plates are available in any gift shop and department store, not to mention the many web pages where they are being sold.
The first collector plates that were not white and blue appeared as late as the mid 60s: they were not made of porcelain and they had nothing to do with Christmas. Ever since, collector plates have become so diverse in terms of design and manufacturing, we can easily talk about true artwork in the field. Many companies producing collector plates are actually collaborating with well-known artisans so that new products and lines be created and launched periodically, so as to meet the requirements of an ever extending market.