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A beginner’s guide to collecting antique ceramics

A beginner’s guide to collecting antique ceramics


People have been collecting antiques for hundreds of years and many blog posts have been written for the more experienced collector. But if you are starting out on your journey, this beginner’s guide to collecting antique ceramics will help.

Antique ceramics is a huge area of collectables, second probably only to antique jewellery, and at Hemswell Antique Centres we have dealers of every type of ceramic collectable. From vases and individual character jugs to oriental ceramic ware and complete dinner services, it’s unsurprising that this is a daunting subject for anyone starting out. So, if you have decided to start a collection of antique ceramics, where should you begin?

What antique ceramics should you collect?

This is a tough one! Antique ceramics encompass pieces made from a variety of mediums (porcelain, stoneware, earthenware) and include a wide-ranging choice of objects. Advice for a novice is always to start with something you love. That could be blue and white meat Victorian meat plates, or Wades Whimsies – if you love it, you will not tire of it.

How much should you pay for antique ceramics?

One of the most affordable areas of antiques for the novice collector, pieces of antique ceramic can be found for just a few pounds. Of course, this can rise quickly to tens of thousands of pounds for niche pieces such as 19th century Japanese vases. Novice collectors should set themselves a budget. Until you have the experience to recognise a financial investment that will bring you a profit at resale, only spend what you can afford as you may have to live with the piece for a while and your investment will be tied up.

Where to find antique ceramics

From charity shops and car boot sales, to auction houses, craft fairs and antique centres, antique ceramics can be found anywhere – even in your loft! A sign of the times too is online bidding on sales platforms like eBay, where collectors can pick up relative bargains.

Buying antique ceramics at auction

Rest assured, that responding to an itchy nose will not land you with an heirloom piece you will need to remortgage your house for! Auction houses will usually publish a catalogue of lots and, for the novice, these can be a mine of information. But beware the hidden costs – auction houses make their money by charging commission on both the sale and the purchase of an item, so bear this in mind when setting your budget.

Buying antique ceramics online

While online sales sites have brought antiques within reach for a lot more people, and are therefore a great way to start collecting, our advice would always be ‘buyer beware’. It is difficult to assess a piece that you cannot pick up and handle in person, and you need to be able to trust that any images provided are authentic and showing every detail, including flaws, damage, and makers marks.

Buying antique ceramics at charity shops and car boot sales

It has been known for sleepers (items that have been undervalued) to be found in a charity shop or at a car boot sale, but these occurrences are rare. Dealers are often the early birds who get the worms but that’s not to say a bargain can’t be had. These are probably the best stomping ground for those buying items they will love forever.

Should you ‘haggle’ over the price?

The proliferation of antiques programmes would have you believe that it’s perfectly acceptable to make a ridiculously low offer for an item. Of course, you can ask for the ‘best price’ a seller is prepared to offer but remember that dealers have a living to earn and, yes, a profit to return.  so don’t cause offence by insulting them with a silly offer. The more research you can do and the more places you can visit, the better your knowledge and understanding of values will become. For more information on what’s valuable and what’s not in the world of ceramics, visit our blog.

Antique ceramics from Hemswell Antique Centres

At Hemswell Antique Centres, many of our dealers are members of LAPADA (The Association for Professional Art and Antiques Dealers) and BADA (The British Antique Dealers’ Association). This gives the beginner collector the peace of mind that items will have been professionally vetted and authenticated, giving you the confidence that what you read on the ticket is what you will get. With almost a thousand items of antique ceramics online plus another 600 items of 20th century ceramics online, Hemswell has something for every collector, whether a beginner or an expert.

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