What To Look For
When shopping for antique dishes, condition is important. This consideration is perhaps the most vital part of antique dish shopping, as old dishes are used and abused regularly with fork scratches, chips, cracks, food stains and other imperfections marring the surface. When buying antique dishes online, you must always inspect high resolution pictures carefully for signs of damage; if the pictures are of such a low quality that you can't inspect the item, considering going elsewhere for your purchase. In addition to looking at the product condition, you'll also want to consider date stamps. Just because a dish looks old doesn't mean that it is; many contemporary manufacturers replicate antique designs to mimic older appearances. Always look on the bottom of a dish for the manufacturer's date stamping.
One of the major pitfalls in antique dish shopping is a misguided association between age and value. VintageAntiqueCollectable.com explains "just because a dish is 60 or 70 years old, it's not necessarily any more valuable than it was when it was new." If you're just looking for a vintage aesthetic and don't care about resale value, then feel free to get any dishes that strike your fancy; however, avid collectors looking to build up a valuable assortment of dishes must perform product research. Fine China generally becomes more valuable with age, as do antique dishes that were produced in limited quantities. Just remember: never assume an old dish is valuable, always do your homework on the web or at an appraiser's office.
Where To Buy
Locating the right antique dishes can be difficult. Don't expect to find the dishes you're looking for in just one shopping excursion. It's important to scour several antique stores until you find the dish style you're looking for. Antique dishes are also commonly found at estate sales and public auctions. Some auctions require a deposit or "buy in." If such upfront cash is required, always ask to see an itemized listing of the dishes available before committing to the auction venue. During any antique auction, make sure you decide on a maximum amount and do not go over this price; it can be easy to get caught up in the rush of an auction if you haven't set personal guidelines in advance.
Antique dishes vary greatly in cost. If you're just looking for any old dish with vintage charm, you can get a nice set of dishes for $20 or less at a garage sale; however, if you want something durable, with a rich history and high market value, you may need to spend upwards of $20 per item. In some rare cases, the most precious antique dishes even sell for thousands of dollars.