This is probably the most common question we get on a daily basis. Many people are looking to sell china or dinnerware sets they own or have inherited and want to know how much it’s worth and how much they can get for it. What’s important to recognize is the difference between the two aforementioned things: what you may get for it is not necessarily what it is worth.
Say you have a beautiful set of Lenox Charleston China or the more expensive Spode Tradewinds China. You know you paid $3,000 for it so you think that’s how much it’s worth. Now you’re also aware that you will not get it’s full value, especially if it has been used. But you do entertain the hope of getting something close to it, say $2,000 or so.
And you can. You may very well get lucky and find a buyer who will agree to purchase it for a price in the neighborhood of what your asking. But that requires luck. Market forces work very differently.
Now to the crucial distinction mentioned above. The amount you paid for your stuff, indeed the amount it may even be professionally appraised for, is NOT the amount you can reasonably expect to get for it. Appraisal and purchase price numbers are good for insurance purposes and the like but do not accurately reflect the going rate for your pieces. What you can expect to be paid depends on the normal rules of supply and demand, which can vary dealer to dealer, along with other factors such as whether the pattern is active or discontinued, new or used, length of time it has been discontinued, etc. etc.
So the first step you need to do is to determine what information you are looking for. Are you interested in the value of your tableware for academic or insurance purposes (or just to feel good about what you have just inherited ;))? Then by all means, appraisal and the like is the way to go. But if you would like to sell the china you’ve got, then the old fashioned route works best. Get in touch with your most likely buyers (i.e. china dealers) and shop around for the best offer. This will be your best bet of making a good sale while not getting your hopes up too high and ending up deeply disappointed when they are not met.