This VU heritage object is a sealing wax melter. So the story that tells the truth is story number 3.
1. Mulled wine warmer
Since its foundation in 1880, VU Amsterdam has had a student society that now goes by the name L.A.N.X. These letters stand for its proper name, ‘Leonum Arida NutriX’, meaning 'Where the parched lion drinks'. From its inception, society gatherings were paired with libations. During the holiday season, in conformity with a time-honoured Dutch tradition, the students would drink mulled wine. Naturally, this had to be drunk hot. For a long time, the society used a spirit burner to this end.
When LANX relocated to a 17th-century canal house at Herengracht 384a in 1973, with a bar on the third floor, their trusty burner was banned as a fire hazard. A student on the bar committee brought along this electric pan instead, so the wine could be poured at the proper temperature.
2. Candle melter
VU Amsterdam was established in 1880 as a private university and only became a fully publicly-funded institution in the 1950s. Until then, it had to depend on the contributions and benevolence of its constituency. Thus, a VU money box became a common sight in many a Dutch Reformed household. This encouraged a culture of thrift. On the one hand, this was because the university had to answer to its benefactors. On the other hand, there was barely enough to make ends meet.
Pennies were pinched and stretched wherever possible. For instance, the university continued to rely on candlelight even long after electrical lighting had become commonplace. The stubs were duly collected and melted down to make new candles. This was a fiddly business that the porter took care of during slow hours. When government funding eased its money troubles in the 1950s, VU Amsterdam decided to spring for an electric candle wax melter. This candle melter remained in service for many years, until the cost of electrical power was superseded by the cost of manpower.
3. Sealing wax melter
The beadle is the steward of the university's rituals and traditions, from the protocol governing doctoral ceremonies to the professorial procession at VU Amsterdam's Foundation Day and the opening of the academic year. This was actually the very first post to be created after the university had been founded and its professorial ranks had been filled. As its newly minted beadle, P.A. de Planque bore the mace of his office down the aisle of Westerkerk at VU's first Foundation Day on 20 October 1880.
Besides officiating, De Planque also took care of a substantial amount of administrative matters. In those early days, the beadle recorded the name of each matriculating student in the enrolment register by hand. Upon graduating, students received a splendidly calligraphed degree certificate bearing the VU seal. As the university grew, drafting degree certificates turned into full-time job, so this small electric pan and an electric embosser were purchased to speed up the process. These days, degree certificates are all printed, of course, but back then, this was a godsend.