In the current marketplace there is a significant supply of very high-quality porcelain, china and ceramics available on dozens of marketplaces and in thousands of resale stores. This abundance keeps prices low, and offers collectors their pick of the very best quality. Therefore, the condition of the items is very important in realizing the best possible price.
Condition issues can be chips, for sure, but other problems include crazing, stains, use marks such as micro-scratches on the surface or worn gilding or paint. Even table wear on the bottoms of plates or cups can impact the value of an item.
Chips, breaks and repairs are always going to reduce the appeal of items to the collector. Handles and relief ornamentation are especially susceptible to this kind of damage. Damaged items may still be suitable for use in home decor, if the damage is minor or not easily seen, but the collector will look for items that are intact. Expect to realize only a fraction of an item’s value if it is chipped, or has been glued.
Crazing is the fine spider web of cracks that can be seen on some antique and vintage pottery. Crazing occurs in glaze when the glaze is exposed to high amounts of weight pressure over time, or when the items are stored in a location that experiences significant temperature changes year after year. For some items, where the crazing has been brought about intentionally, it can enhance the value, but for fine china and most other collectible porcelain and pottery, it will reduce the desirability and sale price of the item.
Stains also indicate a misuse or improper storage of the item. Water or other liquids, like tea or coffee, left to dry on the glaze or items that were not clean when they were stored can become stained. Stains have a significant impact on the appearance of the items and collectors will avoid stained pieces.
Micro-scratches caused by ordinary use of the items can vary significantly in severity, as can wear on paint and gilding. The degree to which the value is affected will depend both on the significance of the damage and the rarity and desirability of the piece. Rare and in-demand items may still command a strong price if the supply of the same or similar items show relatively more wear.
Not every ‘flaw’ on an item is a condition problem though. For many pieces, the imperfections arising from human touch or the fabrication process are important to the identity of the item. If there is doubt about whether an imperfection is from the production process or not, see your local re-seller. They will have seen many examples and have studied pricing for hundreds more. They can help you understand the value of your item in today’s market, and the impact of any imperfections on your collection.