Discontinued Collectibles Guide

Buying Discontinued Tableware and China

So you have broken a china plate, a stoneware cup or a porcelain bowl? Or perhaps your family has outgrown your existing tableware service and you are seeking some additional place settings and/or serving ware? But alas, a trip to your local department or china store has revealed that the pottery concerned no longer makes your design. Your beloved tableware pattern has joined the ranks of thousands of other discntinued china patterns and has become obsolete!

How easy it will be to source your replacement china, and how long it will take to find, will depend on a number of factors:

  • How long the design was in production for.
  • How much was produced during its production life.
  • How long ago it was discontinued.
  • The nature of the pieces themselves that you are seeking, e.g. dinner plates are usually harder to find than tea plates, salt pots harder than pepper pots, spare lids harder than complete pieces of serving and pouring ware.
  • How many other people are looking for the same design and pieces.
  • Whether you know the name of the pottery that made it, along with the name of the design.
  • Your budget.

So where do you begin? I'll start with the basics or locating discontinued china and then briefly run through each of the areas to search in, pointing out the pros and cons of each.

The Basics to Sourcing Your Replacement Tableware

First of all, you need to find out and WRITE DOWN some information about the pieces you are seeking. This is the point where many of you will say to yourselves, "Oh, I don't need to look anything up, or write it down. I've been using that plate for 30 years, I'd know it anywhere." Yeah, yeah...whatever. Trust me CHECK the details. WRITE THEM DOWN.

Let me explain why. It might be that if the pattern has been in production for a long time, the pottery may have changed some of the design, either the shape or the pattern, during the production life. Examples of this include, some of the Poole Pottery compact ranges like Parkstone and Broadstone, where they changed the width of the plate rims, or the Thomas "Platinum" and "Silver" ranges, where they produced several different versions with different gilding widths and locations, or Johnson Bros "Summer Chintz" where Johnson Brothers changed the density of the pattern. You may think you know your pattern, but if you don't have a piece with you, a photograph or a note, and you go to a stall at a fair with two or more versions of your pattern, would you know which was yours? Or worse if they only had one version, would you know it wasn't yours?

Another common mistake to make is to do with measurements. Take the dinner plate for example. Most potteries produce dinner plates that measure approx. 10 inches in diameter, a few 9 inches and one or two up to 12 inches. Now, say for example, that when you first purchased your service, you selected 6 of the largest plates on display believing them to be dinner plates, measuring 9.5 inches and 6 tea plates measuring 6.5". Unknown to you, the pottery actually made 4 plate sizes 6.5" tea plates, 8.5" dessert plates, 9.5" salad plates and 10.5" dinner plates. Years later you order a replacement dinner plate and you get one...1" wider than your other five.

So what information do you need? Write down the following:

  • Name of the pottery (if known) - will usually be found on the the back of pieces, failing which check any original paperwork or catalogues you have.
  • Name of the design (if known) - again check the back of the piece and any original paperwork or catalogues you have. If you are unable to find a name there maybe a pattern code appearing as some printed or handpainted digits and/or letters.
  • A list of the pieces you are missing, including the number of each you are missing, and measurements for each piece including diameters, heights, lengths and widths where appropriate.
  • Ideally take photographs of the pieces you are seeking, but if that is not possible a photograph of another piece which clearly shows the pattern. If you do not have a camera, a sketch with design notes can be very helpful.

Now you are ready to begin your search.

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Direct From Other Owners

This is by far and away the cheapest method of sourcing discontinued tableware, and hence it is the preferred method for many of the china matching services. It does present two challenges however. The first being, how to find the other owners of your pattern, and the second being that you might have to buy a whole set just to get a dinner plate. At least you'll have some spares!

One tried and tested way of sourcing your replacement china in this way, is to place a classified advert in a local paper. Something like "WANTED - Royal Doulton "White Nile". Particularly seeking dinner plates but would consider all. Telephone V Clumsy on 01234 567 8910." Be prepared to get calls from dealers as well as private people. Don't get the hump with the dealers though! If they have the pieces you are looking for and you draw a blank with the private owners you may have to buy from them later, so take a note of their number and what they have in stock in your pattern.

Another approach is to look for private people selling their china at car boot sales or on , but I'll cover these in more detail in later sections.

If you are successful in finding someone selling your pattern, see if they are willing to break the set up to sell you the pieces you need. Most private people won't be, so you need to be prepared to buy the whole set if need be. This may seem an expensive option. However, to give an example, you might be able to buy the whole set for £150 to £200. From this you will replace your broken dinner plate and keep some spares for the future. You will then have over half a set which you can break up and sell on eBay for a profit or store to sell when you sell your service. If you replace your dinner plate through a replacement service you may pay as much as £30 plus postage and packaging for one plate, and you'll have to pay extra for spares.

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Car Boot Sales

Car boot sales. Love 'em! It's amazing what turns up at car boot sales and discontinued tableware can still be picked up at bargain prices. Unfortunately, over the last decade dealers have caught on to the growth market of replacement tableware and the prices have gradually crept up, but boot sales still provide a cheaper alternative to other sources of discontinued china. Again, look for the private individuals selling their sets by the box, rather than the dealers who will break sets up and sell at a considerable mark up (shocking!).

Of course the disadvantage of carboot sales, apart from the early morning starts, cold, wet, muddy fields and more dvd sellers than you can wave a large stick at, is that you may have to attend quite a lot before you find what you are looking for. This is fine, if you are not in any hurry and you happen to like bargain hunting around the boots, but it might not be for you if there is a sense of urgency and/or you prefer doing your shopping in more traditional heated and carpeted surroundings.

To find a local car boot sale near you, click here.

Auction Houses (Proper ones...with buildings and a little man with a hammer who talks fast!)

I hesitate to add this one as personally I have never had a great deal of success with them, and find most of them to be dusty, smelly and intensely boring. That said, I have come across many replacement china dealers and buyers who attend every sale of their local auction houses, and clearly with some success. I know this because they then offer to sell their 'finds' to me and I kick myself for not going myself!

Like car boots you will likely have to attend a lot of auctions before you find what you are seeking. But you may be able to save yourself some wasted trips by getting on the mailing list for the auction house. They will then post you a catalogue each time they have a sale. You can then look at the listings and decide if it is worth turning up. More and more auction houses are posting their listings online as well. These are not to be confused with online auctions like eBay, which is the subject of the next section.

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Online Auctions

There are a number of online auction services on the web now, but by far and away the best known is . eBay is without question the number one online auction and marketplace for the buying and selling of discontinued tableware, collectibles and antiques. In fact it's the number one place for buying and selling anything! We have sold thousands of items ourselves through our user id accumulationsuk and do not hesitate to recommend eBay to anyone looking to buy or sell in this field.

Due to the sheer volume of china and tableware listed on eBay, there is a much better chance of you finding what you are looking for, and more swiftly, than at any of the previous sources mentioned. Also, eBay have a fantastic search facility which can be linked to your email, so that if no one is selling your missing coffee pot at the moment, you can get eBay to email you when someone does offer one for sale! It kind of takes the fun out of looking but it doesn't get easier than that!

There are some guidelines we recommend following however.

  • You will need an eBay account, so if you haven't already got one, click on one of the eBay links on this page and get yourself one. You won't regret it. It's free to sign up.
  • Most eBay sellers accept varying forms of payment, but far and away the safest method is Paypal. So we recommend getting a Paypal account as well, although it is now possible to pay by Paypal without having a Paypal account. It's free to sign up.
  • Before you buy any replacement tableware on eBay ring around some china matching/replacement services (see next section) for quotes. This way you can work out your top bid price for any eBay purchases. This is important, as while most items on eBay will sell for less than they can be purchased for from a discontinued china matching service, it is not uncommon for bidding wars (where more than one individual is desperate for the same piece) to push the price up well beyond market value.
  • Only buy from people who offer a secure payment facility such as Paypal.
  • Only buy from eBay sellers with an established and positive feedback rating. Have a look at the previous items that have sold to see if they are used to selling tableware and therefore likely to be describing it accurately.
  • Don't be afraid to email the seller and ask specific questions about the condition and description of a piece. Reputable sellers will have no objection to answering your questions and should reply swiftly.

Of course, isn't the only online auction service. We give them top billing and recommend them as we use them ourselves and being the largest you have the best chance of successfully finding your replacement dishes. However, it is definitely worth browsing some of the alternatives out there. If they happen to have what you are looking for you may well pick up a bargain as there will be less bidding competition than you tend to get on eBay.

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Discontinued China Replacement and China Matching Services

Discontinued china replacement and china matching services have been around since the early to mid 80's, although it is only in the last decade that they have really started to be noticed by the second-hand, antiques and collectibles industry, not to mention the public. In fact the biggest challenge china replacement services have is making the public aware that a service such as their's actually exists. - China Matching Service

Essentially, the job of a china matching service is to find your missing pieces for you. Different services work in different ways, with some charging a "finders fee" but most buying the item themselves and selling it on to you for a mark up. Some replacement services carry huge stocks of discontinued china including many of the best selling potteries and their obsolete designs. If your pattern falls into this category you may be lucky enough to have a replacement arrive through your door within a matter of days. Some replacement services only work to order, and do not stock items unless they have an order for it and are confident of selling it quickly. Which ever way they work, they ALL keep "wanted lists" of what their customers are looking for.

There are quite a few general replacement services throughout the UK, such as, dealing with all makes such as Adams, Colclough, Copeland Spode, Denby, Duchess, Hornsea, Marks & Spencer, Masons, Minton, Poole Pottery, Royal Albert, Royal Doulton and Wedgwood to name but a few. There are also a growing number of specialists who deal with only one or two potteries, such as The Poole Pottery & Hornsea Replacement Service.

If you require their help, simply give them a call. You will need the name of the manufacturer and the design of your discontinued pottery and a list of the pieces you are seeking. If you do not know the name of either you may well be asked to send a photograph.

Replacement services are definitely the swiftest way of tracking down replacement tableware, particularly for the more sought after, and harder to find designs. However, as they at the top of the replacement tableware food chain, expect to pay a little more than you would through the other sources.

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Happy hunting!

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