What I write below will never begin to compare to the wonderful eBooks that Lynn Dralle has written on this subject. The ones she has written are incredibly informative and extremely in depth. I highly recommend them if you’re serious about making dinnerware one of your main sources of income. However, if you’re just looking for a good overview in simple terms, please continue reading!
Dinnerware is a great investment. It can be bought in huge lots and then pieced out into individual listings for profit. We’ll have a post coming up shortly that details our own success with it.
A. Buy in bulk. This is a rule that we live by, so it’s worth mentioning again. Buying dinnerware in large lots is definitely the way to go. This is especially true if the lot has many specialty pieces – like the sugar and creamer set, the soup tureen, and the tea pot – as they definitely bring in more money. It’s also important to note if it is a complete set or not (as far as the regular pieces go, 8 and 12 piece place settings seem to be fairly common for us to run into).
B. Do your research. Not all dinnerware is created equal. Certain makers and certain patterns do better than others. If you’re going to an auction, do your research ahead of time. If you’re out buying from yard sales, make sure you have a list of pieces that you know will do well. It’s good to take chances, but just remember that there are a lot of duds out there. Unless you know it’s going to do well, try to avoid pieces that don’t have AT LEAST the manufacturer’s name on them. It’s even better if it has the pattern name, too. 😉
C. Decide the best way to list your items. This can be tricky, as there are a lot of options out there. You need to find what works best for you. Here are some choices. (We usually prefer option iii, though we sometimes go with option ii if they are good quality pieces. If neither of those work out, after a while we’ll list the remaining pieces as a set just to get rid of them.)
i. List as a set. Some people want a new dinnerware set and don’t want to track down individual pieces in order to build it. It can be to your benefit to list an entire dinnerware set together in one lot. Just note that this can be more expensive and more dangerous to ship.
ii. List regular pieces in twos or fours, but sell specialty pieces individually. This is especially helpful to people who are looking for replacement pieces or just need a few more pieces to finish their collection. It allows them to add to what they already have without having to buy more pieces than they need. Realize, though, that you can only list one set at a time on auction. You can always put the other pieces in your store. Selling specialty pieces individually will bring you the most money (note that the sugar and creamer set – and other similar sets – are usually kept together).
iii. List regular pieces in small sets, but sell specialty pieces individually. This is a mixture of the previous two options, and is probably the easiest one for the seller. If you have a full dinnerware set of 12, you can list all 12 plates as a lot, all 12 bowls as a lot, etc. You don’t have to worry about having some up for auction and some in your store. This is nice for people who need replacement pieces, but also for those who can’t find a full set and want to quickly build their own. Selling specialty pieces individually will bring you the most money (note that the sugar and creamer set – and other similar sets – are usually kept together).
D. Be willing to negotiate. Finding the exact pieces of a dinnerware set that you’re looking for can be extremely difficult. Imagine that you’re only looking for teacups in Noritake “Rothschild” pattern. That can be quite a quest. Sometimes buyers will message you and ask if you’d be willing to split up the lot and only sell a portion of it to them. Don’t be opposed to doing this! Dinnerware sells well, but sometimes it has to sit a while before it’s snatched up. Don’t miss out on an opportunity when one is presented to you. You can always relist the remaining set and keep trying.
E. Shipping. This is, in my opinion, the worst part about buying and selling dinnerware. Some sets are stronger than others (ironstone vs. bone china), but all of them are fragile and need to be handled with care (something the Post Office apparently doesn’t like doing). When shipping your dinnerware, consider putting it into several different boxes. Not only will this be kinder on the mail man’s back, but it’ll be safer for the dishes, too. Be sure to wrap them in foam if you can, layering the pieces together. Then wrap everything in LOTS of bubble wrap. You can go a little crazy here, for safety’s sake.
Dinnerware can be time consuming between research for patterns and makers, listing it, and finally selling it, but it can bring you a lot of money. People are always looking to add pieces to existing sets or make new ones, so these will always be in demand. If I must leave you with one piece of advice to never forget, it would be: Do your research! Dinnerware is a tricky field to navigate, so knowing what sells and what doesn’t is a valuable piece of knowledge to have.
P.S. If you need help tracking down the maker or pattern name of any of your pieces, you can find us on Fiverr where we will do your research for you – for just $5!