If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon very old dishes at a garage sale, or possibly in your grandmother’s cupboard, it can be worth taking the time to determine if they are antiques. True antique dishes are valuable collectibles, however, mass-produced replicas are not. The key to the difference is in the markings on the bottom of the plate; distinct identifiable signatures and logos can let you know if your dishes are actual antiques or not.
Inspect the bottom of your porcelain, ceramic and china dishes for an artist’s signature, initials or logo. The marking should be from the actual artist and not a manufacturer or distributor.
Hold china in your hands and feel the weight of the dishes. Antique china is usually very lightweight, fragile and may even contain hairline cracks. Mass produced china replicas are generally heavier in weight to add durability.
Look for the name of the manufacturer, which is commonly marked by a stamp on the bottom of the dish. Knowing the manufacturer can help you to determine when the dishes were made and in exactly what country.
Examine the paint that creates the pattern; unless the dishes were well preserved and stored the paint may likely be fading. The paint on replicated dishes are made to withstand repeated washings and therefore may be more vibrant and visible.
Notice the pattern itself; antique dishes usually contain very intricate pictures and patterns painted on them, which may be of flowers, landscapes or fruit, among other images.
Research the actual picture that has been painted on the dish. Some antique dishes are famous for the specific picture, such as the Royal Crown Derby collection.
Seek the assistance of an antique specialist or dealer to help you identify the markings on your dishes, which they can likely discern from the artist, country of origin and the pattern.