The boxes in your storage area labeled “FRAGILE” have been sitting there for so long you almost forget what the old dishes and fine china tea set looks like. Perhaps you had fond memories of sipping tea from the dainty teacups with a beloved relative, but chances are, you’ll never use these in own home. You’re not a huge fan of the china pattern and contemplating having to wash holiday dinner plates by hands is the last thing you intend to add to your to-do list.
Despite your efforts to “share” the set with family (read: bribe relatives to take it), everyone always has a good “excuse” not to take them (e.g., young kids, small apartment, etc.) You wouldn’t feel good about just giving the collection away, so you keep putting off the decision.
If any of this sound familiar to you—not knowing what to do with the sentimental family china that you don’t know want yourself, you're in good company. Our small business, The Brooklyn Teacup, receives daily emails and calls inquiring whether we will buy or even just accept donations of their family dinnerware.
Upcycling: A solution for the old plates and fine china tea sets sitting in storage
The Brooklyn Teacup, is a passion project-turned woman-owned, small business dedicated to bringing new life to old family treasures. In a nutshell, our business transforms pre-loved plates and teacups into elegant and practical serving trays, everyday décor and gifts that can be easily shared and enjoyed.
Whether the pieces once belonged to a cherished relative or came from a previous marriage (where, let’s say, the guy ended up being a jerk, but you still love the china pattern!) our custom upcycle service helps you keep a piece of your story and gives you the freedom to part ways with the extra stuff, free from regret or guilt.
What we create from vintage fine china, porcelain, transferware & more:
Here are just four examples of the kinds of versatile, unexpected and eco-friendly products we can create using your own antique and vintage serving pieces.
1. Adorable & Versatile Tiered Servers
A sweet Two Tier Server for displaying everything from chocolates and desserts to savory snacks.
2. Stylish Pendant Necklaces
3. Snack Stands and Teacup Trinket Stands
4. Scented Teacup Candles
A scented candle made using a vintage blue and white teacup. Hand poured in Brooklyn with our local partners at Glow to Grow.
Instead of collecting dust in your basement, a storage unit, cupboard, or winding up in a thrift store bin without proper care, or worse—your old family heirlooms can be transformed into beautiful, meaningful, and functional future heirlooms.
Learn more & book an upcycle appointment today to design and create future heirlooms and holiday gifts for your loved ones.
Curious about Selling or Donating Your China?
As someone who has purchased and sold a lot of vintage dinnerware, the unpleasant truth is this: selling your china is probably going to be more trouble than it's worth. Yes, even if your beautiful, luxury, brand-name pieces are in excellent condition, and whoever purchased them originally paid a fortune for them, there's a lot more that goes into selling delicate china online than you might expect. I'm not saying to throw in the towel, I am just strongly advising you to consider the following questions so you can go into this endeavor with your eyes open:
Deciding whether to sell or donate your vintage china? Ask yourself these questions:
1. How much time/energy are you willing to invest in selling your family china? What dollar amount would make selling your china "worth it?"
Once you have that number in mind, do a few Google searches to estimate the value of your collection using the brand information on the back stamp, located on the back of most pieces of china in your collection (a.k.a. the backstamp). You may want to start off at Replacements.com for an estimate but keep in mind that the prices on replacements.com often vary dramatically from the prices that the pieces will sell for on the other platforms. You should not assume that you’ll be able to command a similar price selling on your own.
- What is the condition of your vintage set, overall and individually?
I’ve seen expensive, fine bone china sets sell for next to nothing because of barely noticeable flaws. Tea stains, scratch marks, "flea bites" and crazing are issues that many buyers and collectors do care about, so you’ll want to disclose this in your listing or face negative reviews. Sadly, there is limited appetite for imperfections in the china resale market.
- Are you prepared to pack and ship your china?
Packing dainty dishware for safe transit isn't rocket science, but if you don't have experience sending delicate objects in the mail, you could wind up having to pick up the (broken) pieces, including refunding the buyer and covering the shipping fees.
And if you’re thinking that you'd just want to have the pieces wrapped by UPS/Fedex/USPS, keep in mind that these “white glove” packing fees are almost always more expensive than the shipping itself. If turning a profit on your tucked-away treasures is a priority, you should plan to pack and ship the items yourself.
- Are you prepared to handle the logistics involved in selling your set?
Whether you sell your entire set at once or in smaller pieces, just keep in mind that you will be responsible for a lot of logistics: product photos, creating accounts and product listings, negotiating prices, coordinating and scheduling delivery & pick up, or creating labels, packing orders and bringing packages to the post office, etc.
The Best Websites for Selling Vintage China
These are the sites we recommend:
- The marketplace to buy and sell vintage, handcrafted, and one-of-a-kind items.
- Stiff competition for well-known vintage china brands.
- Be prepared to ship your china and separate larger sets into place settings.
- When you make a sale, you will be charged a nominal listing fee + a transaction fee of 6.5% of the price you display for each listing (plus the amount you charge for shipping and gift wrapping).
- An online shopping site for everything under the sun. Best known for its auctions and consumer-to-consumer sales.
- When sellers allow potential customers to make an offer & also offer a Buy Now price (versus just having it up for auction), sellers can entertain offers for their china and sell their pieces more quickly.
- When you make a sale, you will be charged a nominal insertion fee + a transaction fee of 6.5% of the price you display for each listing (plus the amount you charge for shipping and gift wrapping).
- A user-friendly social marketplace for new and secondhand styles for women, men, kids, pets, home, and more.
- Its focus is primarily fashion and shopping other peoples' "closets," but has become increasingly popular for home decor, like vintage china.
- For all sales under $15, Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95. For sales of $15 or more, they take 20%.
- An intuitive platform that lets you buy and sell a wide variety of items online.
- You set a price and customers make an offer. Everything is bought and sold online so you must be comfortable with shipping your delicate dishes! It's free to list items on Mercari but it costs 12.9%+.30 cents for each transaction.
- An online marketplace linked to your Facebook account that allows you to buy and sell basically anything.
- Most sellers offer local pick up and nationwide shipping options.
- If the item involves local pick up, potential buyers message you directly through Facebook chat to discuss logistics.
- If you choose to make your listing available for local pick up, Facebook doesn't charge a fee. If you sell the item through Marketplace and buy postage through the platform (which you should do to protect your purchase and allow the customer to easily track their order) Facebook takes 5% of the total sale.
- A person-to-person marketplace that encourages in-person transactions.
- Posting a listing is free but when items you intend to ship are sold, you pay a service fee, a minimum of $1.99, or 12.9% of the sale price.
- As a buyer, Replacements.com is great. They have an enormous inventory and incredible warehouse/retail facility in McLeansville, North Carolina that houses many football fields worth of discontinued and vintage china, crystal, and silver products!
- They can also help you identify china patterns and provide an estimate of what your china might be worth.
- We've never sold china to Replacements.com, however, their reputation with sellers online is quite mixed. While they don’t charge a commission to resell your china, they also don’t make any guarantees about how much they’ll pay before they receive and inspect your pieces and do not cover shipping for you to get you pieces to their facility. We recommend reading reviews from other sellers before attempting to sell to replacements.com.
The Bottom Line
If you're persistent, willing to negotiate and aren't in a hurry, then you might be able to offload the family china and turn a profit too. If you have any sentimental attachment to the pieces or appreciate the design, consider upcycling your old family china into functional future heirlooms, like jewelry trays, tiered servers or bird feeders. Alternately, donate them to one of many worthy nonprofit or charitable organizations below.
A question we get asked a lot: Can I sell or donate my china to The Brooklyn Teacup?
No. We do not purchase china from individual sellers. If you're local and looking to gift your china to our small business, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with pictures, information about the china and your zip code. If the pattern is a good fit, we will reply and be happy to coordinate pick up (and thank you with an upcycled piece of your choosing).
Our workshop and studio space is located in a Brooklyn apartment. Even if we adore your china, our small team still has to be highly selective about the inventory we accept... Otherwise, we'd wind up sleeping with the dishes! (Godfather movie reference, anyone?) Thank you in advance for your understanding.
Where to Donate or Give Away your Vintage Fine China Sets
If you just want to part ways with your family china, there are several worthy organizations and online platforms worth checking out. Most offer local pickups and others only allow items to be dropped off or shipped.
Nextdoor.com: A local neighborhood networking app that allows you to buy and sell items from others in your area.
Freecycle: A nonprofit-run site that allows you to post basically anything you want to give away (for free) to someone in your local community.
Facebook "Buy Nothing" Group Does your neighborhood have a "Buy Nothing" Facebook group? If so, that's definitely a good resource for getting local visitors to pick up the china you want to get rid of (or anything else for that matter)! Also, if you feel it’s important that your family heirlooms stay together and, let’s say, go to a family who would be likely to appreciate the pieces (versus being sold for parts, this can be a nice way to make a local connection).
Habitat for Humanity: A nonprofit with home improvement “ReStore” locations around the U.S. The ReStore accepts and resells donated items such as usable building materials, gently used furniture, working appliances, tools, lighting and other household goods, with proceeds used to fund Habitat for Humanity building projects.
Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, Vietnam Veterans of America: Nonprofit organizations that operate thrift store locations around the U.S.
There are many local reputable spots for donating your gently used home goods around Brooklyn and the five boroughs. We personally donate to Big Reuse, Housing Works & Out of the Closet. Depending on the size of your donation, they may be able to pick up from you.
Big Reuse: An environmental nonprofit operating several green initiatives in the city, from salvaging usable construction materials from demolition and remodel projects to food scrap composting on behalf of the city. Operates a large secondhand warehouse/store based in Gowanus, Brooklyn where they will gladly accept your vintage china, and use the sales to fund job training opportunities and fuel for their green initiatives.
Housing Works: A New York City based non-profit fighting AIDS and homelessness that funds a large portion of its work through a chain of well-curated thrift shops. Housing works regularly accepts donations of gently used second-hand clothing, furnishings and home decor.
Out of the Closet: Helps fund HIV care and services in the community and around the world. They have several locations across the US.