Did you ever have that one collector’s toy as a kid that you weren’t allowed to take out of the packaging and play with?
That is kind of what eating off of fine china feels like. It seems like china is losing popularity. It used to be a feature on all wedding registries, and now most people don’t even bother. China may bring back memories of your grandmother’s old china hutch with plates and glasses collecting dust.
However, that is what makes it so special to use at your dinner party. Eating off of china is a similar feeling to getting to take that “special edition” Barbie out of the box and actually play with it.
Where to Find China
Used china is pretty easy to come around. You can even find it in good condition, because for many people it was just for display and not used often. Here are my top three best places to find china.
Friends and Family
Before ever going to buy something like this, I usually ask my family. You may be surprised when you ask your grandmother, aunt, family friend, etc. Sometimes they have something they don’t use and would love to see go to a good home. Maybe they even have something that was passed down to them that they are ready to part with.
This is how I saved money when I needed crystal glasses for a dinner party last year. I didn’t spend a dollar on them and they are more gorgeous than anything I otherwise would be able to afford. Plus they are special to me because they belonged to my great grandmother.
Almost every estate sale has a set (or more) of china. Depending on the pattern and brand, you can find some pretty cheap. Also know that with most estate sales, they start discounting items towards the end of the sale. So if you want a good deal, check estate sales on the last day and see if you can find something.
Another small tip: if you do plan to buy china at an estate sale, check the company’s policy for packing. Some estate sales have supplies to pack the items you buy, but some require you to bring your own. You don’t want to break the china you just bought on the way home!
Facebook marketplace is a great place to be able to search for more specific types of china. You can check daily from the comfort of your home. People tend to over value their belongings, so do research on the brand and pattern to make sure you are getting a good deal. This is how I bought nine place settings of Noritake Christmas china for $50.
If you do think it is overpriced, the good news is you can always talk to them and negotiate. If they still don’t budge, don’t worry, there are plenty of other gently used china sets out there to be bought.
What to Look For
If you are new to buying china, you might not know what to look for when shopping. Here are a few things I like to consider:
What really matters is that you like the way it looks and the price is right. However, if you are still having a hard time deciding you can distinguish different china sets by the brand and pattern. Some of my favorite brands are Noritake, Lenox, Wedgwood, Mikasa, Spode, and Johnson Brothers. Once again, these are just my favorites, and after more research and shopping you will start develop your own tastes and preferences.
Number of Pieces and Rarity
If you are considering buying a vintage set, carefully consider the number of pieces it has and if buying more in the future is an option. Many sets are missing a few pieces because perhaps they went missing or they were broken.
This doesn’t mean you can’t still get it and use it. If you turn the china to the bottom you can find the brand and pattern name. A google search will reveal whether or not you can find a replacement at a reasonable cost. Many people sell single pieces on eBay or Etsy. Replacements.com is another place with a great selection, but is usually more expensive than other places. Replacements is also a great way to get more information on a china pattern, like when it was in production and what it is worth.
At the end of the day, if you like the china set and the price fits your budget, then go for it.
There is no need to spend an agonizing amount of time picking out the “perfect set” when there are so many great, cheap options out there. Just get something you like. Maybe you will be in the position to later collect multiple sets or swap sets out over time.