Because of incidents like divorce and inheritances, many households end up with more sets of fine china dishes than they either need or want. Depending on what sort of china you have, an entire dinner service can include hundreds of pieces. All this extra china can occupy a lot of space in your home, especially since it is fragile and needs to be carefully packed. Unless you are an expert, however, it can be difficult to judge the value of china. It is important to arm yourself with as much information as possible before attempting to sell your dishes.
Get a professional to appraise your china. Most antique dealers will be able to refer you to an experienced appraiser. Find someone who will not be interested in buying your china, so this person has no interest in misleading you. This is particularly important if you suspect your china may be highly valuable. The appraiser will tell you approximately how much your china is worth, and give you the information you need to discover what each piece may fetch individually.
Carefully examine the condition of every single piece of your china. Tiny flaws such as faded spots or chips can drastically lower the value of your dishes. Collectors take the conditions of china very seriously, and may refuse dishes with cracks that barely can be seen by the naked eye. Also, of course, note whether your set is missing pieces.
Determine the maker's mark of your china. If you had your china professionally appraised, the appraiser has done this for you. The maker's marks can be found on the underside of every piece, and will tell you not only who made the china, but also when and where. You can check your mark against marks listed on the Internet or in china encyclopedias. Sometimes, if china has no mark, a professional appraiser can tell you the maker based upon the paste and glaze used.
Find out how rare your china is, and if there is a demand for it. Once you know the maker of your china, you can look online to discover whether your particular pattern is in high demand. Try looking on eBay to see if you can find your pattern at auction, and how much people are willing to pay for it. Sometimes, a maker will produce only a few sets of a particular pattern. If your china was produced in limited quantities, this will drive up its value. Also, many collectors who currently own an incomplete set will pay top dollar for replacement pieces of rare sets, if you are willing to split your own set.
Find out where there is a demand for your type of china. In all likelihood, your appraiser is aware of current trends in china collecting. Sometimes the demand for a particular pattern will wax and wane. In other cases, there may be a demand for your pattern in a particular region. If you have an especially valuable set of china, it may pay to send your china to an auction in a region in which it is in high demand.
Elizabeth Hannigan began writing freelance articles in 2005. Her work can be found in "Orientations" magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in art history from the University of Delaware.