Top Tips to Find Vintage China at The Thrift Store

Everyone needs a beautiful set of vintage china, but how do you know which china to look for?! And how do you know if it’s really vintage? Thrifting vintage china can be challenging but in this post, I’ll break down exactly how to find the vintage china of your dreams.

**Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.**

thrifting vintage china

Creating a Vintage China Collection

The crown jewel collection of every vintage lover’s home is an elegant set of fine china from a simpler time. People used to treasure their fine china collection, saving it for the rare fancy dinner or for some special guest to stop by. I think we should bring this tradition back.

thrifting vintage china

One of the most frequent questions I get from my readers is how to thrift vintage items, specifically art and fine goods. Thrifting vintage china or any antique for that matter, does take some experience. So many people want to start a vintage collection but once they arrive in a crowded antique store, the overwhelm takes over and they aren’t sure where to start.

thrifting vintage china

If you are in the “totally overwhelmed” boat, this post will help you identify the best vintage brands the next time you are on the hunt!

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How to Source Vintage China

There are a variety of places vintage china can be found. Here are a few of my favorite places to look when I’m thrifting vintage china:

  • Local Antique Stores

My favorite spot to look. My local antique store usually has decent prices and I personally know the vendors. They are always happy to keep an eye out for specific products!

  • FB Marketplace

My top tip is: ALWAYS save any items you see that are the style you are searching for. The FB marketplace algorithm will start showing you more of what you are searching for!

  • Flea Markets

Flea markets are a great place to look if you want a deal. A lot of the time, they are simply trying to get rid of products and will discount!

  • Estate Sales

I’ve recently fully entered the estate sale market and I get what the hype is all about!! Check out the app… They list local estate sales in your zip code and are a great way to find estate sales that have vintage products. There are also a ton of estate sales that are online and will ship. Just keep in mind, it’s a bidding process. Kind of like eBay. So if that stresses you out, it may not be for you.

  • Thrift Stores

It never hurts to pop into the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity. Thrift shops are often the best way to get the cheapest price because usually, people don’t know these items are all that valuable. I like to pop in my local thrift shop and double-check to make sure they don’t have what I’m looking for before I move on to more pricey antique shops The most important factor here is that you KNOW what you’re looking for! This guide will help you understand which pieces are truly vintage and highly valuable.

  • Online Thrift Stores

Vintage Keepers is my fave online shop to browse! Elsie Green is another really awesome site with high-end vintage pieces.

Top Tips For Thrifting Vintage China

  • Flip it over! This is always my first step when examining China at a thrift store. Most china sets have their name or emblem on the back. Become familiar with these brand names and emblems so that you can be the lucky one to snag one of these coveted sets!
  • Think through finding a complete set. If you really want a full China set, do a quick Google search to see if there are a good number in circulation and if they go for an affordable price. You don’t want to have 1 cup or plate that you can’t match anything with if your goal is a full set.
  • Rock a mismatch set! I actually LOVE the look of mixing floral china patterns. It goes really well with spring parties, showers, and events.
  • Double-check pricing online. I do this with all antique shopping and thrifting. A quick Google search of the China brand and year can help you know if the item is overpriced OR if you’re getting a steal!

Bone China Vs. Porcelain Vs. Fine China

Ok, there are obviously a lot of terms when it comes to types of luxury diningware. All of these types of china are different and can be hard to tell apart. They also all vary in value with bone china tending to be on the pricier side.

Here are the differences between these types of China:

  • Bone China: Bone China literally has cow bone or bone ash in it. It is durable and beautiful. One way to assess if a piece is bone china is to look closely at the tones of the white. Bone china tends to have a creamier, off-white color compared to other china.
  • Porcelain: Porcelain is another unique form of “china”. The biggest differences from bone china is that it obviously doesn’t have bone in it, it will be a purer white shade and it is fired at very high temperatures in the kiln, making it a harder substance.
  • Fine china is china that doesn’t have bone in it but isn’t fired at as high a temperature as porcelain.

What is Transferware?

Around the 1780s, the ceramics industry changed due to the discovery of being able to imprint patterns on china without painstakingly hand-painting each piece.

thrifting vintage china

Transferware revolutionized the ceramics industry by allowing for mass production of decorative wares at a lower cost. Most ceramics produced after 1800 are transferware but many hand-painted items are still in circulation.

Vintage Brands To Look For When Thrifting Vintage China:

Here is a list of some very popular and beautiful china sets to keep an eye out for the next time you are at your favorite antique store or thrift store!

1. Haviland & Co.

Haviland & Co. is the first vintage china I ever heard of and began to associate with elegance and luxury.

NOTE: This china was originally produced in the Limoges region of France and is sometimes referred to as “Haviland Limoges” or just Limoges. If you come across some china listed as Limoges, you’ll need to check the seal on the back to see if it’s truly Haviland. The Limoges region of France has many fine porcelain factories.

Originating in France, Haviland & Co. is synonymous with delicate porcelain that graced the tables of royalty and aristocracy. Their intricate patterns, hand-painted details, and fine craftsmanship define the romantic aesthetic of the 19th century. Owning a Haviland & Co. China set would be a dream come true!

2. Wedgwood

Wedgwood is a stunning bone china with a very European flair. I have come across jasperware like the set above many times in my thrifting adventures, but I didn’t know what it was called! This iconic style of matte bone china with a delicate raised script is a fantastic place to start looking when beginning a vintage china collection!

Known for their iconic Jasperware and Queen’s Ware, Wedgwood dishes feature classical motifs and refined detailing. The timeless appeal of Wedgwood makes it a classic choice for those seeking sophistication that transcends time.

3. Royal Albert

Full disclosure, I have yet to spot any Royal Albert china at my local antique store. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t look for it every time! I also frequently scour FB marketplace and Etsy looking for a deal on this stunning dinnerware!

Founded in England, Royal Albert captures the essence of Victorian charm with its floral bone china patterns. The Old Country Roses pattern, introduced in the 1960s, became an instant classic, showcasing a profusion of red and gold blooms.

4. Fire King

As we transition into the mid-20th century, Fire King emerges as a beacon of Mid-Century Modern design. Known for their oven-proof glassware, Fire King dish sets often feature bold patterns and vibrant colors.

The charm lies in their functionality, with pieces that seamlessly transition from oven to table, embodying the practical yet stylish ethos of the era.

My personal favorite of Fire King style is this jade set!

5. Limoges

As I mentioned before, the Limousin region of France boasts many different porcelain brands. One of the most lovely is Limoges.

Hailing from the Limousin region of France, Limoges porcelain is synonymous with refinement and luxury. Dating back to the late 18th century, Limoges dishes are celebrated for their translucency, pristine white hue, and intricate hand-painted details. The intricate patterns and delicate craftsmanship make Limoges an enduring symbol of French elegance.

6. Gien

I’m partial to anything French… The wine, the clothes, the elegance… Gien porcelain is absolutely French to a tee.

Situated along the Loire River, Gien has been crafting exquisite faïence (tin-glazed earthenware) since the early 19th century. Renowned for its hand-painted motifs inspired by nature and history, Gien’s vintage dish sets are a testament to the art of faïence production. Each piece reflects a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation.

7. Spode

Taking a quick stroll back to England to gush over the beauty of Spode china…

A stalwart of the English pottery scene, Spode has been creating iconic dishware since the late 18th century. Known for its Blue Italian and Woodland patterns, Spode dishes evoke a sense of English heritage and craftsmanship. The intricate blue-and-white designs tell stories of pastoral landscapes and classical motifs, capturing the essence of timeless elegance.

8. Staffordshire

Staffordshire is an English fine china produced in the Staffordshire region which became a popular ceramics hub. This china is characterized by its delicate beauty, and intricate hand-painted designs, and often features elaborate patterns, floral motifs, and scenes inspired by nature.

Probably the most popular and well-known of the Staffordshire collectibles is the “Liberty Collection” which depicted famous scenes from colonial times. This is one of my personal favorites as I am obsessed with historical pieces, specifically early American.

I hope this thrift guide will be helpful to steer you towards some high-value china the next time you are at your local antique or thrift store. Keep in mind, these are just a few popular brands of dinnerware and there are SO many more amazing brands to be on the look-out for when thrifting vintage china.

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