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How to Sell Antique China

If selling a bulky item such as a tea set, consider inviting the dealer to your home where he can see it displayed.
tea time image by Kathy Burns from Fotolia.com

Although individual styles and makes of ceramics may go up and down in value according to fashion, china is one of the most important sectors of the antiques market. If you are planning to sell some china, most antiques stores at least will be interested in taking a look. In addition, there are auctions, whether online or of the traditional kind. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks.

Type “antiques store” and the name of your area into your search engine. This should bring up a list of local dealers. Unless they happen to be specialists in a particular area, such as paintings or furniture, you can assume they trade in ceramics. Telephone ahead for an appointment; if you're selling a bulky item he might be willing to come to see you. The benefit of selling directly to a dealer in this way is that you get your money there and then. The disadvantage is that, while most dealers are very fair in the offers they make, you could get a better price at auction.

Use your search engine to locate a nearby auction house. Most general sales will regularly include a range of china, so you can be reasonably sure that there will be plenty of potential buyers in the room on auction day. By submitting your item for sale through an auction house, you will benefit from the auctioneer's expertise – she will be able to give an accurate description of the item to the bidders and pitch it at an attractive guide price. The downside of selling your china in this way is that the auction house will take a 20 percent cut of the final hammer price, and there might then be a delay of several weeks while you await your payment. If you're selling your antique china because you want money urgently, then this is not the way to go. Step 3 offers a potentially quicker option.

Sell your item through an online auction site. This is a very good route for those who know at least a little bit about ceramics. To draw bidders to your lot, you'll need to give it an accurate title and description and place it in the correct subcategory. For instance, if you know for a fact that your piece of china dates to the 18th century, then make sure it is grouped with other early pieces where collectors will find it. The downside of selling via online auction is that even slight inaccuracies in the description can lead to disputes and refund requests.


When following any of these steps, but especially Step 3, taking a little time to learn a few facts about the item you're selling will be a great advantage. If the piece is marked at the base, researching it in the library should be relatively easy. For unmarked pieces, you may need to flick through reference books until you spot something similar. Another option is to take the piece of antique china to a dealer or auction house for an initial identification and valuation.


  • Just because a piece of china is old doesn't necessarily make it valuable. Value also depends on factors such as fashion and how comfortably an item blends into a modern home.
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