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Discontinued Collectibles Guide


Selling Replacement Tableware and China


Have you inherited a ghastly tea set from Aunt Lilly? Or perhaps the dishwasher (the husband, not the machine) has broken too many dishes from your existing service to warrant replacing it? Or maybe you are just bored of your current set and want to replace it with another? You may be thinking, "Well who would want to buy this old set? It's not made anymore and it's a bit dated."

That might be true, but if it's discontinued tableware, then chances are there is someone, somewhere who has the same set, has had a few breakages, and would love to get their hands on your surplus china. Therein lies the demand and so the replacement china market developed to meet it. So how do you go about selling it?

The Basics of Selling Your Replacement China

The first step is to take all the pieces of your service that you intend to sell and lay them out on the table or floor. If you have animals or small children the table is preferable to the floor. We don't want you to have a smashing time before you've sold it! Have a really good look at each piece, inspecting it for damage and significant wear. As a general rule nobody will want to buy pieces that are damaged or significantly worn, even though they know it is second hand and discontinued.

When you inspect it, inspect it carefully. This is in your interest as well as that of the purchaser of the replacement china. For example, if you sell it to a replacement service, they will quote you a price over the phone based on your description. If they travel to collect the china or pay for it to be posted to them, they will not pay you the full amount if any of the pieces are not as described. On a number of occasions I have driven literally hundreds of miles on the premise of a job lot of china being in "Perfect condition", "Barely used", "We only get it out for special occasions", etc, only to find when I get there that half the cups are chipped, the gilding has worn off the plates and the teapot handle has been glued back on with industrial wood glue! I'm unhappy and the seller is unhappy when I say I need to reduce the price or even walk away altogether. They get even more upset when I invoice them for my petrol and wasted time. So...be accurate and be honest.

When checking the condition make sure you check the following common areas for damage and wear and tear:

  • Try to look at your service with fresh eyes. You have likely lived with it and used it daily for a number of years and may have learnt not to notice the small nicks, chips and scratches, but a potential buyer will notice these things.
  • Run your fingertips around the rims of plates, cups, dishes and serving ware. Your fingers can feel flaws that your eyes may miss on first inspection. Check the backs of plates as well.
  • Have a close look at spouts of pouring ware.
  • Have a close look at handles on cups, pouring ware and serving ware for cracks.
  • Have a close look at lids including the underside for chips and the knobs for cracks.
  • Check the gilding. Is it still intact? Is it consistant?
  • Look for crazing (cracking in the glaze).
  • Are the plates badly scratched or do they have grey/silver cutlery marks that won't clean off.

As you find damaged or significantly worn pieces put them to one side, leaving just the items that you would be confident in describing as being in "Very Good", "Excellent" or "Perfect Condition". Make a list of these remaining items, making a note of the following:

  • Name of the manufacturer (if known) - will usually be found on 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.
  • A list of the pieces you are selling, including the number of each piece, and measurements for each piece including diameters, heights, lengths and widths where appropriate.
  • Also make a note if any of the pieces are seconds as potential buyers wil want to know this even if they are in excellent condition.

Carefully wash and clean these items, as even a little dust or a bit of newspaper print is off putting to purchasers. I once went to a lady's house to buy some Royal Albert "Old Country Roses" only to find that the cake plate still had bits of cake on it, and the gravy boat had some rather old gravy (if you could call it that) congealed in the bottom.

With regards to the damaged/worn china pieces that you put to one side, divide these into two piles. Items that are obviously broken, cracked, have large chips in, or no pattern left, can be thrown away. The only exception to this rule is if the items in question are genuine antiques and are extremely sought after. On these very rare occasions, restorative work may be cost effective. Items with tiny nicks, a little cutlery ware or minor firing flaws keep to show to the potential buyers but do not include on the sales list. When they see it they may want to offer you something for it, or you may give them to them as spares. As damage and extent of wear is somewhat subjective, if you sell privately you may find that their idea of excellent condition is different to yours. If you sell to a replacement service, they are unlikely to want pieces with any damage, unless the design is extremely rare or sought after.

Finally, if you do not know the name of either the pottery or the design, then take a photograph and take steps to identify it, as it will be difficult to sell without this information.

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Selling Discontinued Tableware as a Job Lot or Piecemeal

Having established what you have for sale, you need to decide whether you wish to sell the service as a complete set or on a piecemeal basis. There are pros and cons of each.

Without question, if your set is one which is in demand, then selling it on a piecemeal basis is likely to be the most profitable. After all, this is how china replacement/matching services make their money. However, it also requires the most work, restricts your market, as you can only really sell to the end user, and takes much longer than selling the service as a set. So if time is an issue and you are not too concerned about the financial side, but just want to get some money from a quick sale, the job lot option is probably best for you. If however, time is on your side, and you want to maximise your profit then piecemeal is definately the way to go.

But how do you know if there is a demand and even then, what to ask for it?

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Assessing Demand for Your Replacement Tableware

A good place to start is to have a look on . In case you are one of the few people left to discover eBay, it is quite simply the world's largest marketplace for just about anything, where items are bought and sold through an online auction system. It's great fun and brilliant for buying and selling. It is also an extremely useful tool for estimating the market value for many things, including...yep...replacement china/discontinued tableware.

Go to eBay and do a search for your make and pattern of tableware. If it is a reasonably well known design you will likely find pieces listed individually and as sets. Have a look for items which have either sold or have nearly sold for an idea of value, but do not accept the first value you see. Instead watch two or three auctions for the same piece and use the average as a guide.

Another method is to ring a replacement china or china matching service for a quote. They tend to price things up individually, but will only give you the total amount they are prepared to offer. You can use this as a minimum amount that you are prepared to accept for the whole set, with the knowledge that you can always go back and sell it to them.

Now you know, what you are selling and roughly how much for. How do you go about selling? Well you have a number of options, some of which we have touched on.

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Selling Discontinued China Privately

This method is best suited for people seeking to sell their dinner, tea or coffee service as a set or part set, rather than breaking it down and selling it piece by piece. The established method for doing so is to place an ad in a local paper, giving details of the make, pattern and the number of pieces offered for sale. There isn't usually the space to list all the different items but if you have room and the set includes serving ware and/or pouring ware, then it's worth mentioning this.

Something like "DENBY ARABESQUE for sale. 43 pieces including dinner plates and serving ware. £115 ono. Tel S Mashing on 10987 6543 210"

Assuming someone wants to come and have a look at your china, don't just leave it in a cardboard box. If you have it all stacked or boxed up it is difficult for potential buyers to cheeck the condition and they may think you have something to hide. Instead have the pieces that are in excellent condition set out on the dining table in place settings. Tableware always looks more appealing this way, and is more likely to give them the "feel good" factor than having it heaped in a carboard box. The pieces that you set aside with very minor damage or flaws can be left in the box. Be sure to mention these to the buyers though as this will a) give them the opportunity to have additional spares and b) emphasises the point that you have taken the time to have a really good look at the condition.

Finally, be prepared to come down a little on your advertised asking price. The nature of the private market is that people expect to knock you down a bit price wise.

Of course, another method of selling privately is at carboot sales which is the subject of the next heading.

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Carboot Sales

The great thing about car boot sales is that you can split a tableware service down any way you like to sell. For example, you may may choose to sell the cups, saucers and tea plates as trios. You may sell each piece individually until an hour before the end of the carboot sale and then sell the rest as a job lot, you may sell a large service as two or three smaller services. The down side if that you may be unlucky with the weather or your choice of car boot.

It's a good idea to give yourself as much room as possible for dispalying the tableware, Again, don't leave it crammed into a box, as some people are embarrassed about rummaging and this can lead to breakages anyway. Also, make sure that howeverm you have chosen to split the set for sale, that you clearly mark the prices. Some people are too shy to ask and will just walk away if a piece is not marked up with a price. Finally, make sure you have plenty of newspaper, boxes and/or carrier bags to wrap up any purchased peiecs for your customers. Don't lose a customer just because they have no safe way to get it home!

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Selling at Auction Houses (Real ones that you have to leave the comfort of your PC for)

Those of you who have read my page on buying discontinued tableware will know that I am not a big fan of the old style auction house. Sure they all vary, but regardless of whether I am attending an auction in a barn in the middle of nowhere, or one more stylish in the city, I always seem to end up sitting downwind of the scruffy bloke with things living in his beard. However, this is not my only reason for not recommending auction houses as a place to sell your tableware.

First of all, tableware rarely approaches the prices at auction houses that you can expect to get through other sale methods. In addition you need to deduct any auction house fees and commission from the final sale price. Furthermore, boxes are left unsupervised and are rummaged through by potential bidders on viewing days. It is not uncommon for breakages to occur, items to be returned to the wrong box and even for the nicer pieces to go astray.

The exception to the rule is if a) you have an antique tableware service or b) if your discontinued tableware is of a particular type and the auction house is running a special sale for collectors of that type.

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.

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Selling on Online Auctions e.g. eBay

If your intention is to split your discontinued tableware service, and sell pieces individually then this is definately the way to go. I would strongly recommend that you choose over other online auction web sites for the purpose of selling. While, from a buyer's point of view, great bargains can sometimes be obtained elsewhere on the less popular auction sites, from a seller's perspective you want to choose the venue with the most visitors. This is without question eBay.

The following are our guidelines for selling on eBay:

  • You will need an eBay account, so if you haven't already got one, click on one of the links on this page and get yourself one. You won't regret it. It's free to sign up.
  • Most eBay buyers prefer to buy from sellers who offer Paypal as a payment method. It is also a safer way to transact over the internet than traditional payment methods and affords addition protection for both the buyer and seller. So we recommend getting a Paypal account as well.
  • If you have not already done so, be sure to look at similar items for sale on eBay so that you have a reasonable idea what to set the minimum bid at.
  • Make sure that you include a clear photograph of each piece you are selling with your eBay listing. Listings without photographs don't sell as nearly as well as those with.
  • Include an accurate description of the pieces including measurements, condition and whether pieces are firsts or seconds.
  • If you are selling multiple pieces through different listings make sure you tell people in each listing and offer a discount on postage and packaging for multi purchases.
  • After you have sold the items be sure to package them very carefully for postage.

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China Replacement and China Matching Services for Discontinued Tableware

Regardless of how you choose to sell your tableware, it is always a good idea to get a quote from a replacement service for the purchase of tableware. First of all, it gives you a guide price for selling elsewhere, second it provides a fall back option should you be unsuccessful in selling elsewhere and finally, if your pattern is one that is particularly sought after by that replacement service they may well pay you more than you could reasonably expect to get through other means.

They will usually also pay to have the items collected, be it through a parcel company or by collecting it themselves. If they arrange to collect through a parcel company it will be your responsinilty to ensure that the items are sufficiently protected from damage. If they collect themselves, you may have to wait until they are next visiting your area, but this method is often preferable as the replacement service then assumes the responsibilty of both packaging and transport, you are paid at the time of collection, usually in cash, and the negotiations are all done in person.

Replacement China Matching Service

We recommend ReplaceYourChina.com who pay fair prices and nearly always collect in person.

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