Is That Tea Set Worth Anything?

You might have inherited a tea set from a distant relative and it’s just gathering dust in the back of a cupboard. You don’t want to throw it away, but you don’t want to use it either. Let’s take a look at figuring out if your tea set is worth anything.

A 21-piece Enid Seeney Homemaker tea set

Homemaker tea set

We recently put a ‘Homemaker’ tea set by little-known ceramics designer Enid Seeney up for auction at our November 2019 sale.  Although Homemaker was a design that was ubiquitous in the 1950s and is not a pattern that is particularly rare or valuable, this 21 piece tea set had been personally hand painted and dedicated to a family member of Enid’s and was being sold by her niece.  This directly traceable provenance and the fact that it was inscribed ‘best wishes for Christmas 1952’, and signed with the monogram ES, on the reverse of the cake plate made this set truly unique and a special find.  The tea set sold for £70. So if you have something like this in the back of your cupboard, get busy sorting out proving the provenance of your collection!

On a less personalised note, at Potteries Auctions we have seen an increased demand for Stoke on Trent made tea sets and cups and saucers, with many amazing prices achieved over the past 5 years through our saleroom.

Royal Albert China seems to be a magic name currently in the auctioneering world, and certain designs can go for huge amounts. There are so many designs that sell well but some to look out for are Old Country Roses, Lady Hamilton, Midnight Rose, American Beauty, Alhambra, Old cottage garden... The list is endless!

A Royal Albert China Midnight Roses tea set

Royal Albert China Midnight Roses tea set, £320

A Royal Albert China Old Country Roses tea set

Royal Albert China, Old Country Roses tea set, £220

We find that Shelley Pottery is also very collectable and some designs sell for high prices. Shelley tea sets normally sell for anything from £100 to £1,500 all depending on which design comes through for auction, where some of the Art Deco designs such as the design called Vogue proving very popular with the UK market and sells for huge prices.

Tea and dinner ware in the Orchard Gold design by the pottery Aynsley China is very popular, so is a pattern to take a look at if you have a complete set, or even part sets for people looking to complete theirs. In one of our recent auctions, this harlequin set of 6 cups and saucers sold for a stunning £1300 to a Korean buyer. With a buyer’s premium added to the sale price that works out at approximately £270 per cup and saucer – this tea set might not get brought out of the kitchen cupboards to serve tea too often we think!

An Aynsley China teaset in the Orchard Gold design, painted by J Bailey

Aynsley China Orchard Gold tea set, £1300

An ever-present theme is the popularity of Wedgwood and is a brand of pottery that our Asian customers collect avidly, often driving prices up way beyond what a European auction market might otherwise bring. If you possess designs such as Florentine, Astbury, Wild Strawberry or Queensware and are thinking of auctioning them, then with the current market trends, now would be a great time to bring these to our saleroom.  Meanwhile, Wedgwood Jasperware sells very well to the worldwide market including buyers from Canada, USA and Australia.

Most of the high prices for teaware we see through our auction house are being paid by an ever expanding Asian market, who are seeking out a wide range of fine china tea cups and saucers. We find ourselves shipping out lots to buyers from Japan, Thailand, Korea and China. While some buyers are paying high prices for collecting and displaying in cabinets, other buyers are actually using their teasets for tea drinking!

If you have heirloom tea sets that you would like to sell at auction, or a dinner service gathering dust in the back of the cupboard, then talk to our team of experts who will be able to give you an accurate auction estimate. You can join us at one of our free valuation days, or you can email us for an appointment [email protected] or call us on +44 (0)1782 638100 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm to arrange. 

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