How to Sell Antique Dishes

By Melissa Bajorek ; Updated April 12, 2017
Antique dishes can be very valuable to collectors.

When you acquire antique dishes and want to sell them, you can opt for the quickest sale, which requires simply rinsing them off, taking them to the nearest antique store, and accepting whatever offer is made. Or, you could spend some time researching the dishes to discover their real value. Then, you can sell them at the same antique store (or via an online auction) with the knowledge needed to haggle for a fair price. This article is intended for those interested in selling their antique dishes for a fair price to an antiques dealer, or possibly at an even higher price to a collector.

Sell Your Antique Dishes

Always wash antique dishes by hand.

Carefully unpack and wash your antique plates using mild dish detergent and water. Do not put them in the dishwasher, because this can deteriorate hand-painted details or manufacturer's marks. As you wash and dry the dishes, sort and count them based on style and use. Write down how many of each dish you have (10 dinner plates, six saucers, six tea cups, etc.) This information may come in handy later, if you're able to sell a complete "full set" of dishes, you can get a better price.

Research the dishes. Start by looking for the maker's label on the underside of each piece. Manufacturers of antique china usually left a mark imprinted or painted on almost every piece of china. In addition to manufacturer logo, look for serial numbers and pay attention to the color of the mark. According to Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, famous antique dish manufacturers, such as Wedgwood, used number and symbol codes on their dishes that will provide you the exact date of production.

Price your collection. Remember that online auction sites and retail prices are not accurate price indicators. Research your dishes using the Internet and reference books available at your library. Find out if you own a "full set" of dishes; these are worth more. (Each manufacturer varies on how many dishes constitutes a full set.) If you have found a very large collection, or you start discovering that many of your dishes are valuable, contact a professional appraiser. Appraiser fees can range from a few dollars to hundreds, depending on the size of the lot and the certification they provide. Also, appraisers' opinions on your dishes' value can vary tremendously, so if you have a highly valuable collection, consider getting a second appraisal.

Now that you know the value of the dishes, you can choose the best route to sell them. Collections worth only a few dollars can be sold quickly at swap meets, flea markets, antique stores, garage sales and possibly through online auctions. Set a low price for the entire lot, or sell individual pieces. Remember that resellers, such as antique stores, are looking to make money too. If your antique dishes are worth $1000, a price of $500 from a reseller is appropriate.

If your collection is worth several thousand (or even tens of thousands of dollars), start contacting antique dealers and auction houses. You can find them by searching online. Dealers will offer you a price based on their local market, their contacts and the markup they'll need to earn a profit. Auction houses will sell your dishes for you for a percentage of the sale price. Some auctions allow you to set a minimum price, others do not. Pay close attention to this detail, lest you sell your valuable collection for pennies.

Tip

During tough economic times, prices for antiques can be sluggish. Try not to let go of a valuable collection for too low of a price. If you can wait to sell them, you could make thousands of dollars more.

If you have a valuable collection and have difficulty finding a buyer, consider donating them to a local museum. Your antique dishes can become a valuable tax write-off.

About the Author

Melissa Bajorek began writing professionally in 2001. Her work has appeared online, in daily newspapers and on websites owned by Gatehouse Media, in monthly periodicals and for local and regional radio. She writes about a variety of topics, from new technology to animal husbandry. Bajorek has an Associate of Arts in business management from the University of Phoenix and holds certifications in marketing and advertising.