Your Guide to Nostalgic Dinnerware: Where to Buy the Beautiful Vintage China Just Like Your Grandmother's
There's a reason why vintage and antique dinnerware never goes out of style. It was made well, so it has a durability that stands the test of time, and there's an aesthetic quality to these old-school pieces that somehow works well with more contemporary household goods. The best part, though, are the memories these types of dinnerware conjure up; they almost always have a certain level nostalgia connected to them, says Reyne Hirsch, a fine art and antiques expert. "You remember eating out of a specific cereal bowl at your grandmother's house or looking at the dinnerware behind glass doors that was only used on special occasions," she explains.
It's understandable, then, that you'd want to stock up on these classics. Good news: There are so vintage sets available on the market right now, but there are a few standout styles that collectors are always keeping an eye out for. "Some of the more popular types of dinnerware buyers covet today are Depression Glass, Fire King, Franciscan, Pyrex, and fine porcelain by an assortment of manufacturers," explains Hirsch. Of these sets, Pyrex is the one that's more recognizable; after all, it's just as popular today as it was when your grandmother first started shopping for dinnerware. The highly collectable bowls and plates are still manufactured—however the production of colorful Pyrex ended in 1986. These new pieces are all clear, which makes the rainbow ones that much more exciting to find.
Vintage Depression glass—this clear or translucent glassware was often a "bonus" dish given away to shoppers during the Great Depression—offers the same pop of color, though some shades are more popular than others. "Amber would be the least desirable color," says Hirsch, adding that clear is the most common. The colorways that are most desirable, and are therefore the ones to keep your eyes peeled for, include pink, blue, and red, she says.
As for where you can buy these products today? You'll often score the best deals—and scavenge the best finds—at garage and estate sales and flea markets, according to Hirsch, but you can still find them online. "eBay has a never-ending array of single pieces all the way to complete sets," she explains. "You can also shop on Craigstlist and Facebook Marketplace and find great deals."
When shopping online, Hirsch advises taking a varied approach ("Don't buy the first item you see—shop around for a deal," she says) and "asking a lot of questions," not only to guarantee authenticity, but also to ensure your pieces aren't defective. "The number-one question to ask is, 'What is the condition of this item?' If the listing doesn't say it has a chip, don't assume it's mint," she says. "Also ask, 'Should the item arrive not in the condition as described, do you offer a full refund?' If they don't accept these kinds of returns, buy from someone else."
And if you want to purchase something truly precious, you need to know what to look for—and this involves educating yourself on these types of antiques, notes Hirsch, who advises scooping up books on collecting and visiting brick-and-mortar stores to get a better sense of colors and patterns. "After handling pieces, you will begin to recognize when you see something online that doesn't quite look right," she says. "Knowing what is common and what is rare takes time."