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"A Beginner's Guide to Crypt Plates," by Poola Thackery. Poola has been a crypt plate collector for many years and currently owns the finest collection of these funerary relics in all Antonica.
You may be asking yourself why bother collecting crypt plates since I, Poola Thackery, have already got the largest collection in Norrath. First of all, it's an excellent way to learn about history and genealogy. Second, if you find a rare plate, I might trade you several of mine for a single rarity! That's a great incentive, I think.
What is crypt plate collecting? It is the collecting of the plates used to identify the tombs, coffins or sarcophagi of the deceased. These plates are made of metal, usually something soft like tin or brass, and provided some basic information, such as name and lineage of that person. In the most ancient of times, these plates were only used by the wealthy. With so many modern conveniences in Norrath, however, many folks are making and using them.
The most valuable of all crypt plates dates back to the Age of Turmoil. In those days, only the titled and the wealthy could afford ornate plates. Normal folk (like you and I) would have thin wooden tablets which, of course, disintegrate over time. The oldest plate in my collection is for Amalia Keinaira Bayle, who married Melton Bayle who was a cousin of Antonius Bayle the Third. Amalia did not have a coffin; her plate was hung from a copper chain off one of the urns in the Crypt of Betrayal. Second shelf, third from the right IF you must know.
This is not grave-robbing, the removal of the crypt plate. I want that to be plain and clear. In the old days, the families of the deceased were offered the plate before the interment. If they chose not to take the plate, then it falls into the "finders keepers" category of collecting. I am a staunch advocate of such.
The walls of urns in the Crypt of Betrayal are quite beautifully arranged. This is in contrast to the way most of this level of the catacombs is maintained. In some parts, I've seen coffins broken and bits scattered across the ground. There's one place, I have no idea who it belongs to (the plate was already gone), but the doors were nearly completely destroyed. While I do not pay for the crypt plates I obtain myself, I deplore the use of force to wrest a plate from a crypt.
I arrange my collection by family name although many collectors use other methods such as in order of the deceased's rank, or by a date on the plates, or even by the plate's material. Since my collection is so extensive, I have found that keeping them by family name allows me to quickly locate any single plate quickly. My current collection is well over two thousand individual plates.
You can display your crypt plates any number of ways. In my house, I recreated the funerary urn walls of the Crypt of Betrayal, then placed a plate into each niche. Obviously, as I have so many more plates than there are urns in the real Crypt, my display case is scaled down some. I keep all the Bayle family plates on their own wall.
Cleaning your crypt plates will obviously depend upon their material. If it is a metal plate, be careful not to scratch the surface or you might rub off the very words that give the plate its value. Plates carved from marble or granite are somewhat sturdier, but you would not want to drop them. I dropped the plate from the tomb of Linnea Feilanna Bayle (sixth urn from the left, two rows from the bottom) and it split in half. Luckily for me, the front remained mostly intact.
You will only want to sell your crypt plates with other reputable folk. In the past couple of seasons there has been an increase in the vile practice of pretending to give the seller a bag of coin in exchange for the plate, but the seller finds she has a bag of stone chips only instead! I have noticed that this wicked behavior is much more pronounced when trading or selling relics of the Bayle family, particularly the Bayles who lived during the War of Plagues.
I truly hope this guide interests you in the fascinating practice of collecting crypt plates. There are still some out there, and as I mentioned before, I would be interested in trading for some of the rarer old pieces. Good luck on your new hobby!