An Old Dish Obsession


Post by community member:

I have a confession — I love old dishes. Well, I love old vintage things period, but I especially love old dishes.

Its an obsession really. I scrounge thrift stores and yard sales looking for the old and obscure. I do not want a set. Just a piece or two. Maybe three if there is a teacup, saucer, and plate. Serving platters make me swoon and I get stupid silly over creamer and sugar sets. My inner Joann (my grandmother who buys and hoards everything) insists on buying them. I bring them home and sometimes they end up on the walls to adorn my kitchen. Sadly, more often than not, they end up packed away or stacked up in the top of a cabinet. Not quite the best way to utilize something I just went nuts over.

But Joann is screaming in my ears — “This is very old, very expensive, its worth SOMETHING!!!” Well, how in the heck am I supposed to know what it’s worth??? I’ve listened to this voice for years, diligently packing away my finds and wistfully looking at them in boxes on occasion. One day I decided this was stupid and started doing some research. I combed over articles online. I bought a couple of books to help identify the stamps on the bottom of the china.

I eventually learned a thing or two. One cup and saucer set is about 110 years old. Eureka! My favorite cup is at least 90 years old and what I thought was silver is actually platinum. Neither are in perfect condition and therefore aren’t worth squat. In fact, nothing that I have bought is in perfect condition. Many of the dishes are chipped, some are cracked, others have the most dazzling display of crazing going on. Oh, how I love the crazing! In other words, they are only valuable to me and here I am, boxing them up and putting them away for nothing. What a waste!

Not that long ago, someone grabbed a serving dish and actually SERVED something we made for dinner in it. The audacity of them! I don’t remember if this was intentional or accidental. My first thought was to let Joann speak through me and scream at whoever did it that they were crazy ruining such a treasure like that. But, then I remembered, the entire thing is crazed. There is not a single spot on the dish where the glaze has not cracked. The gold has been worn away in many places, and it is the most beautiful thing on my table, especially when its filled with the food I cooked for my family.

Over the years I have been on the quest for the perfect dishes. When my kids were little we had nothing but plastic. Eventually I moved up in the world and bought breakable dishes for the adults to use. I can’t tell you how many sets of dishes I have gone through, never really being in love with any of them for very long. On the other hand, I have mismatched stuff – coffee cups, bowls, etc – that were given to me for one reason or another, as a single piece. Those are my favorites and stay in use constantly.

I was making myself breakfast this morning and saw a stack of china that I had recently pulled down from the top of the cupboard. I’d come to the point where I was ready to give up my obsession with old china altogether and donate my treasures back to the shops where I’d rescued them from. It’s wasteful to spend the money, no matter how little, on the dishes that never get used and aren’t worth anything, so why keep them? Just after I pulled the biscuits out of the oven I turned and reached for one of my plain black stoneware plates, and that’s when I saw my stack of apple blossomed, gold detailed, square saucers. I didn’t even give the black plates a second thought. I grabbed the prettier plate instead, carefully washed and dried it, and promptly served my breakfast on it, then ate very well.

And this made me very, VERY happy!

I think the old dishes are going to stay — does anyone need some plain black stoneware?

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  1. roseh says:

    Yes, I understand perfectly! I have cupboards and walls full of blue and white, rarely used but loved. My everyday plates are ‘willow pattern’, some were my Aunts, some have been ‘rescued’. You are NOT alone!

  2. Darlene says:

    I also love old dishes and have several that are really old. Like my Mother’s mother’s gravy boat and meat platter. This woman died in 1925 and Mom kept these all those years and gave them to me for my china cabinet. I also have a compote dish that was my DH’s grandmother’s. It is just a cheap thing in it’s day but I love it. I also have a spoon holder that was my Aunt Sally’s..

  3. Dede ~ wvhomecanner says:

    Beautiful pieces! There’s something about the vintage pieces that almost talk to us, I think. I love them too. I need to mention something, though – be cautious using vintage and antique pieces for serving acidic foods. Many contain lead and crazed pieces are the most likely to be a danger. I read somewhere that old Fiesta pieces contain uranium too. Biscuits on a beautiful plate aren’t a danger though and I am glad you use some of these beauties.


  4. kellyb says:

    Great piece about great pieces!! Why do we box our treasures away? Good for you for using the things you cherish. I use my mom’s old Pyrex mixing bowls all the time. Someone told me I shouldn’t because they were worth something. Using them and thinking of her as I do is worth far more than a few dollars.

  5. Teresa says:

    I love your old dishes they are beautiful. I too have a set of blue Currey and Ives that belonged to my Great grandma. I have added to it over the years at yard sales and flea markets till I have a service for 12+. Every holiday we pull them out and use them. It is a pleasant reminder of Nanny and if we break one I can just head out the sales again for more. Some are hers, some are not, that’s not the important part. It’s the memories they stir that are important!

  6. Miss Judy says:

    Oh my word, Tammy! I had to check to see who contributed this post…I thought maybe I had written it and forgot about it! However, I have been using some of my old dishes for several years now.Some of them have a family history, some have a garage sale history. I decided if I liked them so much why wasn’t I using them. At Thanksgiving I try to use something that belonged to family members that have passed on.I like to see who recognizes the old dishes. Thanks for a neat post!

  7. Tow Lady says:

    Oh my…I have an “old dishes addiction”, too, and I don’t intend on ever stopping. There’s something about them, especially the ones that have come from relatives who have passed, that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Keep on collecting, and know that when you’re scouring the stores for more, you’ve got a new friend in Oklahoma doing the same!!!

  8. typnslow says:

    Wow you have been reading my mail. This past year i replaced my everyday dishes with Hull Pottery-Brown Drip circa 1940’s bought off E-bay. My 15 year old 6’1″ 220 lb high school football playing son asked me to put the other dishes away for him. (He said in a few years he would need to set up house and would rather have my old stuff than any cheap thing we could buy at the time)

    I love love love my brown drip. Even better my family has found out about my new hobby and has started searching estates and cupboards. I now have a serving platter, a teapot an cookie jar a bowl and a few coffee cups in my collection that used to belong to various family members.

    My other passion is searching thrift shops for old and unusual glass containers with wire bail lids.

    I am glad to know that I am not the only one who has more of this stuff than they have room for and cant seem to stop.

    I keep looking for things to store in my finds to justify them. The old food safe canning jars replace tupperware for food storage – Nuts in the freezer, onions and refrigerator pickles in the fridge

    Gotta scoot – have a thrift store trip planned for later today….wish me luck 🙂

  9. Tammy Merrill says:

    Ha! I love that there are so many others that think like me 🙂 I also am a nut for the wire bale jars & old crocks. I’m anxious to unpack my boxed treasures and fill the cupboards with dishes we are going to enjoy and likely have many conversations about. Maybe the kids will want to take a few with them when they fly the coop in the not too far off future. That would be wonderful!

  10. Granma2girls says:

    I love pretty,old china too! My sister gave me a pretty tree mug and I filled it with all my pretty china mugs (plus 2 regular ones for hubby on the bottom). It looks pretty on my counter. Then several years ago, I bought 2 pretty china dessert plates for .50 at a lawn sale. I put them in among my everyday dishes. Whenever I have toast, a biscuit,a piece of pie,I pull one out and enjoy looking at the pink baby roses and gold rim as I have my treat and my coffee in one of those china mugs. It’s such a simple pleasure every day. I even bought my daughter a little stack of old,mismatched,but pretty gold rimmed dessert plates.

  11. whaledancer says:

    Good for you! You’re an inspiration. I have some lovely old dishes that have been in the family for 3 generations, but I’m usually afraid to use them because I don’t want them to get broken. Yet I know it isn’t fulfilling its destiny packed away in a closet. It needs to be used!

  12. Jessica Tibbetts says:

    We have decided to keep using our mass-market stuff, but as one breaks (trust me, they do) to replace it with a new piece we love. For us, it isn’t china, it’s pottery. There are lots of great potters in the area; I guess it must have something to do with all that Georgia red clay! We get a new piece with character that we will cherish and support a local artist. What could be better?
    You rock Tammy. I know I’ve told you that before, but you just keep on rocking…

  13. Jennifer says:

    Tammy & Tow Lady – are you long lost sisters I didnt know about? LOL

    Tammy what books do you have? I have a china pattern from my grandmother that I can not find a name for – Its HINODE but anything I find that is close is either a different color in the flowers or the flowers are the right color and the border has urns which hers dont have….It was actually easier to get the missing dishes for my great grandmothers set than it is to find these! I’d love to figure out which ones they are so I can search by name/pattern.

  14. Tammy Merrill says:

    The books honestly weren’t that helpful. I have one on milk glass, another on US marks for pottery, porcelain, & clay and there are a couple of others. The sheer volume of dish makers (china, pottery, or otherwise) can be overwhelming. I found a lot of information just on internet searches. Try to see if there is anything that looks like your set. I typed in “hinode” in their search box and several patterns came up. Wikipedia is also a good site most of the time but I did not find anything for “hinode” on Wiki this time. Nothing in my books either. Do a Google search for “hinode” backstamps. Its exhausting work. One night I spent close to 5 hours just trying to narrow down the manufacture date on a cup. I found the date, but the hand painted pattern that it is marked with shows something completely different online, so its still a mystery. Good Luck!

  15. Tammy Merrill says:

    OH! Don’t forget Ebay either! Believe it or not it can be a really good source of information, not just great deals.

  16. Tammy Merrill says:

    Well Jennifer, now you have my curiosity piqued. I found this website which lists a company by the name of Hinode as one of the predecessors of Noritake between 1876 & 1879. If this is the company you are looking for, you really are going to need a lot of luck finding replacements. also has a free pattern identification service which might be able to help.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Hi Tammy – thanks for getting back to me….
    I’ve tried all of those! i’ve gone line by line thru all the “hinodes” on replacements & check back every so often to see if they finally might have it – no luck! ebay too (thats where I found my great grandmothers pattern (noritake grasmere) I’ve ordered things on ebay but then the colors are different when I see them as opposed to online…have been working on this for about 4yrs now….there has to be someone out there that knows what it is….let me see if I can upload a pic…

  18. Pete says:

    Jennifer, Replacements Lyd will work with you to discover what you have. They are terrific in that way. If you are close to Greensboro, NC drop in. If not, give them a call. They will tell you what they need. You can also register a pattern with them on line.

    I became a fan of theirs when I was trying to find an obscure teapot a few years ago. They later let me know that they had found a very similar one (which worked just fine for my purpose) and I bought it, of course.

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