Our best tip about buying old china, crystal, and silver at the flea market is to buy what you like. But if you’re paying a pretty penny, you might like to know you’re getting the real thing. So here are some of our best shopping tips.
Tip #1: Flip It Over
Flip each plate over and check out the backstamp. It often has the manufacturer’s name, the pattern name, and even the date. If it says “Fine China” or “Bone China,” your piece is the real thing for sure. And until you feel like an expert, seeing it in writing takes out all the guesswork.
Tip #2: Hold It Up
If you like the look of super-white bone china, simply hold it up to the light. Bone china is translucent, so if it’s real bone china, you should see your hand through it. (Yes, it really is made with bones!) And even though it looks thin and delicate, it’s the strongest china you can get.
Tip #3: Check It Out
No matter which patterns you fall in love with, be sure to inspect each plate closely for hairline factures, cracks, or chips. You may find a piece of 1930s Noritake for a buck, but it’s not a bargain if it’s broken.
Bread & Butter: To get to know the pieces of a place setting, get out your measuring tape. For a formal table, each setting will need a dinner plate (9 ½ to 11 inches in diameter), a rimmed soup bowl (7 to 9 inches in diameter), and a bread and butter plate (5 to 7 inches in diameter). You may also want a salad plate (6 to 8 inches in diameter).