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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Shopping for Vintage Dishes

I think that I've mentioned my obsession with dishes before. Yesterday was Value Village's Memorial Day 50% off sale. One of my daughters needed a ride to their store. So, I went, found myself some new stretchy, black casual pants, an ice cream scoop, and this platter.

The pattern is Wood & Sons "Summer Spray." It's ironstone, excellent condition, and I paid $4.99.

When I shop for dishes, I keep 4 things in mind:

  • no chips, cracks, or crazing (if I really, really like a dish, I'll accept a little crazing, but no chips/cracks); also I check the surface for knife scratches. Knife scratches will give a good indication of previous use.
  • they don't have to be the exact pattern that I already have, but similar in feel 
  • the label on the back can give indications as to how old a dish might be, which is important for things like whether or not it's microwaveable
  • I make guesstimates about resale value for items -- I like to pay about half of what I think it might currently sell for, on ebay or at a garage sale
I gave those considerations thought when shopping yesterday. No cracks or chips. I even turned down one bowl that I really liked because it had a chipped edge. For the most part, a chip would hinder my ability to resell a dish.

The platter has no crazing whatsoever, a good sign; and few knife scratches. Platters generally don't receive a lot of use, in comparison to plates, bowls, cups or mugs. 

It's not a match for any of my patterns but it carries some of the feel of the patterns I use, such as the color palette is brown and burgundy on ivory. In addition, it's a transferware pattern, which means that a print has been transferred from an engraved copperplate onto a sheet of paper, then onto the unfired clay dish. The clay absorbs the design from the paper, and the dish is glazed and fired. This process gives transferware dishes a distinct look, like an engraved ink print. My Rose Chintz, Friendly Village, and Liberty Blue (the dinner plates that I use for 4th of July) patterns are all transferware. I find myself drawn to their look. This platter picks up both the browns of Friendly Village and burgundy of Rose Chintz, so I'll use it with either pattern.

The labels are always amusing to me. This one says that it is "detergent proof." I would hope so!! I checked the label, online, once I got home. This plate is likely from the 1960s. Yes, folks were using detergents before that decade, as early as the 30s in the US and the 40s in the UK. What I believe this label refers to is automatic dishwashers, and their detergent. Electric, home dishwashers really weren't common before the 1950s. Most folks were using dishwashing soap, not detergent, until about the mid-20th century. Initial detergents may not have been uniformly produced. Some may have been more caustic than others. Subsequently, there may have been fears that detergent could harm the finish or the inks under the glaze on the plates. Some china patterns were hand-painted, and definitely could not take detergent or any harsh washing conditions. But this dish manufacturer wanted the buyer to know that the platter would be safe washed with detergents, and probably in electric dishwashers. Anyway, the label on this plate indicates that it is from the 1960s. Why does that matter to me? If I want to resell it, having more info on the platter will improve the likelihood of a quick sale at a good price. Also, knowing its age, I won't allow this to go into the microwave.

For resale value, in the store I had guessed that I might be able to sell it for as much as $20 on ebay. I wasn't too far off. I think I could get $15 on ebay, which would still get me three times what I paid for it. If I were to sell it at a garage sale, in my neighborhood I'm sure I could $15 for it, if I set up my sale to look like one of my neighbors does. She sets up her garage sales to look like nice shops -- no junk, just nice vintage items.

I know that I buy a lot of dishes. I'm okay with that for two reasons: 1) it's one of very few passions (that cost money) that I have, 2) by keeping my frivolous spending to one category of items, I am creating a stockpile of a collection with which I could set up a shop, online. A collection of similar items gives me a genre, which in turn attracts a specialized customer base. It's something that I keep in mind when I'm shopping for dishes.

Anyway, that was my fun for the morning yesterday. And it didn't break the bank! 


  1. Do you plan to sell the plates some day? Or knowing that you could sell them someday helps justify spending money on something you consider frivolous because you are so practical?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I may sell them. It's a maybe plan. How's that for an inconclusive answer. It's not out of the question, and it's not a last resort sort of thing. It's something I've considered often. We live near a vintage/antique district and I think about possibilities, often.

  2. I love dishes too, Lili. I wish I had shelves all around my kitchen to keep them. I have to declutter often because I can get them dirt cheap at yard sales. lol It is one of my guilty pleasures.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      They are a fun thing to buy, aren't they? Especially if you can find them for very little. My favorite spot in the thrift store is the dishes area. Have a great day, Belinda!

  3. I like dishes also but have such limited room for them. Our daily is Corelle and I like it because it is so light. I also have some unique pieces like a rim bowl that we use every single day. When I got married it was normal to go to a store and pick a set of dishes and then wedding gifts would be buying sets of the dishes. Unfortunately, these are heavy pieces that sit in my glass cupboard. I don't think they are microwave or dishwasher safe. I kind of recall microwaves only just becoming popular in the 80's and not everyone even had dishwashers. But that would come very quickly. So my stuff often wasn't safe for either of those appliances.

    My parents had a set of dishes in the basement I thought were my grandmothers but later found out they weren't. It is a setting for 12 but they all are "crackled" throughout and browned. When I rub my finger over them, I don't feel cracks and washing won't get off the brown. I have used them and nobody commented on the crackly brown. I'm not sure what to do with them. They are dishwasher safe. It has a big meat platter and serving bowl so the set is fairly complete, just not super pretty. Right now I store them in plastic bins in my screened in porch.

    I think my hubby would have a fit if I came home from Goodwill with another set of dishes. I would like a Christmas set and I saw one there once but left it there. It was Corelle.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I think some brides and grooms still register for things like dishes. It does make shopping for wedding gift simpler, and is something they could use often.

      The crackling on the older dishes is called crazing. You might be able to remove the brown stains with hydrogen peroxide. I believe the brown is moisture staining beneath the glaze. If you do try to remove it, try one small item, with minimal staining. You soak the piece in a basin of hydrogen peroxide and water. There are instructions online for how to do this. However, if it were me, I think I might just use the set, as is, as heirloom pieces in a shabby chic sort of way. I think there's charm in having something that's been in the family for a while, and just using it as is, or mixed with other patterns. Have a good day, Alice!

  4. Excuse my ignorance, but I have never heard the term "crazing". What does that mean, exactly?

    I have Corelle for every day but inherited my grandmother's wedding china. It's not expensive stuff. I believe her mother bought it for her wedding with stamps (early 50's). But there are some beautiful pieces of Haviland serving ware. I value it all for the memories more than the china itself. I have many times considered getting rid of it just for the space (it is stored in my Grandma's old cedar chest at the foot of my bed)--our home is under 1300 square feet with five kids and multiple pets and foster animals. But, it is one of the few things in the house with history.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Crazing is that fine crackling in the glaze of dishes. It sometimes happens right away after firing, and sometimes not for many years, but as a result of temperature extremes.

      What a trip down memory lane, Cat! First you mention receiving a wedding gift using stamps. You may be too young for this, I don't know, but my mom used to collect blue chip and green chip stamps. My sister and I would paste them into he books, then the three of us would go to the blue chip or green chip store and redeem them. The geography globe that my family still has (very outdated) was the last blue chip stamp thing my mom bought. But for a wedding to both my dad and her, my mother's aunts collected Betty Crocker box tops and "bought" silver-plated flatware. The other thing you mentioned that I'm not sure many still have or use is the cedar chest. I have my parent's cedar chest. We use it as a seat in the family room. My mom used it to store some of our baby things, like a bunch of tiny dresses that my sister and I wore.

      If I were you, I'd hang onto the china, as it doesn't take much room to store, and use it for a special dinner every now and then. Even if it wasn't in the cedar chest, you could store it under the bed. It's nice to have something from your family's history.
      Have a great day, Cat!

  5. I love your rationale that allowed yourself to make this purchase. I do a similar "check the boxes" when I spend frivolously too. I limit my spending to one category (craft supplies), the amount I spend has to be a fraction of what it can sell at retail or on ebay, the supplies hopefully will increase in value over time (semi precious beads/vintage beads, yarns, and fabric). I like building a collection too. Because I would never sell it, I am hoping one day my granddaughter will inherit my collection or pass it on. When I showed her my totes of fabric she was so floored and giddy. If not, someone can open an etsy or eBay store with my collection. I value having all the random pieces in my arsenal so as not to part with any, yet funny, I still am cognizant of the value of each item. I like to know I am not being too irresponsible and indulgent. Also, as I craft, I do not willy nilly use my supplies. If I am practicing, I find substitutes to use or make it with disposables. I don't know when I will feel I have learned enough to use the good stuff, but until then the collection grows.

    Have a nice day!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      Yes, our approaches are quite similar. I would think that some of your semi-precious or vintage beads would be a great item for resale, if you ever thought you needed a bit of cash. They would be inexpensive to ship, being so small. That's so awesome that your granddaughter is interested in your supplies, and may someday want your collection. It's nice to share something like that with a child or grandchild.
      Have a wonderful day, YHF!

  6. Man, Lili, you have a lot more generous garage sale shoppers there! LOL Here, you couldn't get $15 at a garage sale if you had the entire 12-serving SET of that china.

    Lovely find! I like that transferware look, too. Enjoy! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      I've always thought our garage sales and thrift shops were highly priced, here. Thanks for confirming that. We don't have the great deals that I read about in other areas. And my favorite thrift shop that had 99cent clothing Sundays left the area, a couple of months ago. Market is everything.
      Have a great day, Sara!

    2. Lili--

      I hate garage sales. I feel like I'm giving everything away for practically nothing (even things that are new or nearly new), and I actually often pay a little more than is asked if it's something nice. People are always so appreciative when they see that you realize their item has value, not just to them, and aren't just trying to cheat them out of every penny. I'd feel embarrassed, frankly, to pay the sort of prices a lot of local shoppers expect you to sell for. I'm very thrifty, but I'm not a thief.

      You have a great day, too! :) Sara

  7. You widened my vocabulary today. I had not heard of the term "crazing" before, but your answers above confirmed what I thought it must mean to be true.

    Such a pretty plate! I'm sure it will make you smile when you use it.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Doesn't the word crazing sound so descriptive? And yes, I think it will make me smile when we use it. Have a great day, Kris!


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