Arcopal Mobil

Mobil Arcopal glass items.
Story of a highly collectable French object.

Author: Jean-Charles Meunier

Author: Jean-Charles Meunier

In the 1970s, Mobil gas stations in France offered its customers a loyalty card, and everytime you bought some petrol, you won some points on this loyalty card.

After a certain number of points, you were rewarded with a free kitchenalia object made of Arcopal glass, usually a mug*, but you could also receive a cup and saucer, a bowl, a water jug, oil and vinegar jugs, salt and pepper sets, mustard pots… 

You needed ten points to get a mug, which was the best known item in the collection. One day, I saw an online seller who had nine different colours of Mobil mugs for sale! I do not know the exact number of colours there was.

I haven’t found any information about the number of points you needed to get the other items.

With their very typical 1970s design on it, these Arcopal objects have become highly collectable nowadays. You can find them for sale on French websites, but there are also a few for sale on British websites, including Retrofanattic**. Of course, these objects also have the Mobil logo on it (designed by Thomas Geismar, born in 1931 in the USA), in different sizes according to the year of manufacture.

You must not confuse the design of the Mobil logo, and the design of the decoration of the mugs (and other objects). The design of these objects has been attributed by mistake to a certain number of people. This is why you can see all sorts of names on the internet. I have found four different names myself, and I am sure there are more than that! Some people even think that the designer is unknown, or has been forgotten. This is a mistake.

The real designer is a French photographer and designer named Jean-Charles Meunier, who was born in 1948 in a small village called Gouzeaucourt, situated in the North of France. He attended an Art school in Tournai in Belgium. 

Nowadays, Meunier lives between the North and a more central region of France, and drives his London taxi
So forget about all other names, the creator of the Mobil Arcopal objects (I mean the creator of the design on the objects) is definitely Jean-Charles Meunier.

In 1972, Jean-Charles Meunier was working as a draughtsman for a company called “Atelier 24”, situated in Alesia street in Paris, when Mobil ordered in emergency a design for their range of Arcopal rewards. Several drawings were proposed but none were satisfactory. As the deadline was approaching, Claude Maurel from Atelier 24 decided to propose a unactractive draft which Jean-Charles Meunier had quickly designed from a model originally created by artist J.Roudil (from the company Jroudil if I have understood well). Nobody really believed in this design, but the company had nothing else to propose. Not only his design was accepted, but it became immensely popular! Some collectors in France now have more than a hundred of these items!

There were two versions of the Mobil mugs: the 1972 version, and the 1979 versions. The differences are in the size of the object and the design, and the position and size of the Mobil logo.

In 2010, Jean-Charles Meunier created a blog to talk about his design (and remind people that he is the creator) and also talk about his London taxi.

In December 2010, a French antique magazine dedicated four pages to the Mobil objects:
·         Pages 58 and 59
·         Pages 60 and 61

* In those days, the French did not call them “mug” but “cup” (“tasse”, in French). However, it seems that the English word “mug” is more and more used in France nowadays.

** Retrofanattic is currently proposing a set of four mugs, and will soon have for sale a complete cruet set composed of oil and vinegar jugs, salt and pepper pots, and mustard pot.