Quality control is important in every industry. Manufacturers want to make sure customers receive what they are promised and are happy enough with the quality of their products to keep coming back. Since there is no way to completely eliminate manufacturing flaws no mater how good the process or the machinery, there needs to be a process in place to weed out the products that don’t make the cut and cannot be called first quality merchandise.
Sometimes the flaws are so obvious that the pieces need to be destroyed. Others the flaw can be lived with, but not sold together with the better stuff and at premium prices. Out of this grew the second quality market. This market caters to people who don’t mind a nick, flaw, scratch or misprint as long as the mistake isn’t too big and the discount is :).
The process of making gorgeous china such as Lenox Hancock or Lenox Courtyard Platinum is pretty complex and happens under extreme conditions of heat and pressure. This makes the prevalence of flawed pieces pretty common. Considering how often it happens and how much there is of these second quality pieces there’s no reason not to make a buck off them. So most china companies sell their second quality goods, but use different retail outlets such as outlet stores and closeout buyers. You can see loads of second quality patterns such as Lenox Montclair and Royal Doulton Kingswood at Woodbury Commons and the like (although they mostly sell active patterns). Since they still want to make more money on their first quality pieces, they make sure to differentiate their second quality pieces from their first quality ones by distinct markings on the backstamp.
The most common marking is a one or more lines or scratches through the information printed in the backstamp. That’s supposed to indicate that this piece is not “perfect”. While this is the most common form of second quality markings, many brands use letters, numbers or even different logos to indicate second quality.
There is also a wide variance in what is considered second quality. What some consider seconds other consider first and vice versa. The safest course when buying second quality china is to take a look at every individual piece to see if it meets your standards or not.