Among the most common items to find their way to the second-hand market are sets of china. While that’s not surprising considering that most folks own multiple sets of dishes, what might surprise you is just how few of these sets ever sell, at any price.
It’s the old story of supply and demand. Most of us not only have a set of china for daily use, but we also have the set we registered for before our wedding (aka: “the good china”), along with the likely incomplete sets that mom and grandma handed down to us. As entertaining styles continue to become more casual and the size of affordable homes keeps shrinking, the last thing anyone needs is more dishes. Thus, there are literally hundreds of times more dishes on the market than there will ever be demand for. Literally tens of thousands of sets are offered on eBay every month, yet only a tiny percentage of those offered ever sell. Is it any wonder that companies like Lenox are being forced to close their doors?
What’s in demand
Of course, there will always be some demand for vintage and antique dishes, but only the cream of the crop are sought after, and even then it’s a true buyer’s market so don’t expect to get rich off your dishes – even if you’ve got the very best and recall paying a fortune for them. Before going to the trouble of packing up and “schlepping” your dishes to your local antique shop only to be turned away, here are some tips on what the small market for china is interested in buying.
Full sets, mint condition are key
Collectors seek large, full sets of the finest brands, and only in mint condition. English makers like Spode, Doulton, Wedgwood, Minton’s and Staffordshire are the most sought after brands, though other European makers known for exceptional quality can spark interest. Look for names like Haviland Limoges (French) or Rosenthal (German). Very select Noritake sets from Japan can also sell, and Scandinavian china sets are seeing a spike in popularity. Lenox is the most popular U.S. brand of china.
While the quantity and condition of the set is important, the number of serving pieces and accessories is usually what seals the deal. A single soup tureen, large platter or coffee pot can sometimes be worth more than the sum total of all the more commonplace settings.
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