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How to Identify and Evaluate Antique Dishes

Rucha Phatak Mar 19, 2020
Your passion for collecting antique dishes might be more valuable than you'd ever imagined! By assessing the worth of antique dishes from your collection, you can find out the value of your favorite hobby. This reveals how to identify and evaluate antique dishes.

Precise Definition

Merriam-Webster defines antique as belonging to an earlier period, style, or fashion: old and often valuable. Antique pieces like dishes are valuable due to their beauty and time of their production.
For some people, amassing collectibles goes beyond being a mere hobby. It becomes an obsession. Expanding the collection can become an enjoyable activity and a lucrative business if sold with a good price. Collecting antique dishes can be one such hobby.
However, it might be not easy to distinguish the antique plates from the mass-produced ones. Since 600 CE, dishes with different shapes and sizes are being produced. However, with the help of a few pointers outlined here, you can easily identify as well as evaluate antique plates.

Preparing Yourself


It is always a good idea to prepare yourself before venturing on an 'antique plate' shopping spree. It will be a mood spoiler if you end up purchasing a mass-produced plate instead of an antique piece. The easiest way is to arm yourself with a guide that will help you identify the antique plates.
Guides like Pictorial Guide To Pottery And Porcelain Marks by Chad Lage, Kovels' New Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain, 1850 to the Present by Terry and Ralph Kovel, and Kovels' Dictionary of Marks - Pottery And Porcelain: 1650 to 1850 by Terry and Ralph Kovel have pictures and descriptions that you can match with the antique dish.
Visit your local library where you can find more such books on this subject, which will help you to study the distinction of antique dishes.

Get an Expert's Help

If you have found yourself in a tricky spot while evaluating an antique dish, consult the experts. Collectors and sellers from auction houses and antique stores are experts to whom you can turn for help.
Visiting an appraiser will be definitely beneficial in finding the nuances of the antique.

Identifying and Evaluating Antique Dishes


One can buy antique plates either from flea markets and garage sales or antique stores and auction houses.
Antique plates are sold online as well. However, the buyer is advised to deal carefully as the plates might not be antique at all. Look into a dealer's sales history to check for his authentication. In addition, dealers usually try to attract the prospective customers with words like "rare" and "vintage."
It will be a good idea to ask the dealer the exact reason that makes an antique dish rare and vintage. Only an authentic dealer will point out the facts that set the antique dish apart from the others.
Caplan's Auction Company, Marika's Antiques, etc., are places where you can find antique pieces. One can find antique dishes on websites like eBay and Tias as well. Your local auction houses and antique stores are the best places to shop too.


The recurring question is how old do dishes have to be, to be called antiques. An antique dish has to be at least 100 years old. Less than 100, and the dishes can be termed as vintage or collectibles.


The price range for the antique dishes can start with a few dollars and go on to a few thousand dollars. The value of antique plates is decided on the rarity, authenticity, make, design, etc.

What to Look for in Antique Dishes


Inspect the bottom of the dish. The stamp at the bottom will help you identify the manufacturer, the design code, etc. Searching for this information will give you a general time period when the dish was manufactured.
The plates manufactured during 1850-1899 will have the stamps pressed into the back of the plates. However, since 1900, stamps are printed on the plates.

Country of origin

In 1891, the McKinley Tariff Act came into existence. Until then, the country names were not printed on the plates. After the act, it became mandatory to print the name of the country where the plates are produced. With or without the country name on the back stamp, it becomes easier for the buyer to determine the manufacturing period of time.

Signature of the artist

Antique or vintage plates will have the artist's signature or initials at the bottom. An artist may put his logo as well to identify the design as his own. This is a good indication of an antique plate.


Antique dishes are usually lightweight, and therefore, fragile. This makes them easy to identify amidst heavy and lasting mass-produced copies.


Older plates have imperfections like uneven painting. The older China dishes will have faded paint, which valuate it as an antique.


Each manufacturer has his own design styles. Refer to a catalog to find out the manufacturer based on the design of the plates. To confirm the design and the manufacturer, the buyer can use several resources like identification guides, catalogs, and the manufacturer's website.
The glaze on the vintage plates will have small line patterns, which are named as crazing or spider web-like lines. These lines or little cracks appear on the surface of the plates after sustaining for a long time.

Selling Tips

Another side of the antique dish trade is selling the collection. It needs the same preparation as done while buying them.
◆ Before putting a single or all your antique plates on sale, finding out their value is advised. It helps the seller in getting its complete return. To find out the exact value of your antique plates, contact a professional appraiser. An appraiser's certification may impact greatly on the plates' value.
◆ Find out more about the plates by gathering information about the manufacturer, the country of origin, design number, etc. It helps in adding worth to the antique collection.
◆ The question of where to sell them might arise after the appraisal. Antique dishes can be sold in flea markets, garage sales and in online auctions as well. However, if the plates are worth more than a few thousands, it is a better idea to take them to an antique store or an auction house. Here, you will get the complete return for your antique collection.
Following these guidelines and doing a little homework will help you add more exquisite antique plates to your collection!