Paying your bill with charge plates
  • Bouillon cup – too big for tea, too small for hearty soup
  • Diner plates and 1950s glasses
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    Auction Finds

    On the lookout for small dinner plates

    I was on the hunt for a few small plates for meals. Not the dinner plates that I tend to pile high with food just to make sure I fill them to the rim.

    I wanted small sandwich or dessert plates to help me to curb my eating. I figured a smaller plate meant a smaller portion (what I’d have to remember was to not pile it high). I could’ve gone to Walmart or Target and paid $5 to $8 for the plates, but that’s not the way I play it anymore.

    Why pay more for something I can get for a pittance at auction?

    Small lots of single plates kept eluding me at the auction houses. Sure, there were always plenty of 24-piece or 40-piece dinner servings in wonderful patterns. But I already had a set that was working most of the time. Unfortunately, I had broken each of the sandwich plates and was down to my last one, which I had begun to use quite too often.

    So I scoured the auction tables in my search for loose plates. But nothing turned up until a few weeks ago when I found four stacks of single plates on a table at one of my favorite auction houses. And they were in the right place: in the box-lot section where items sell for cheap – if nobody else wants them but you.

    These didn’t appear to be fancy plates; they were closer to the “Made in China” type. In fact, when I turned one over, it had actually been made in China. It was a heavy plate, dishwasher safe, hand-painted. The pattern was “Tropical Leaves,” and it had a lovely large green leaf in the center. I decided to bid on that set of four plates.

    The other set that caught my eye was thinner and lighter in weight, and had muted tones of orange, brown, yellow and blue painted on an Aranzo Silvestre orange (those words were printed across the top) on a branch. On the bottom was the maker: Bareuther Waldsassen. Bavaria Germany. 243.

    In Googling, I found lots of different types of plates by the company selling on retail websites and on eBay, along with its history. I even found the orange itself on a Villeroy and Boch plate and on an early botanical print.

    Both sets of plates at auction looked to be new and never used. They were about 8″ wide. One or two had a tiny chip under the outer rim but most were in very good condition. All I’d have to do at home was to soak them in hot water and detergent to clean them. I’d gotten plates at auction before, some lovely green and white diner plates and beautiful Atomic Fish glasses.

    So, I waited for the stacks to come up for auction. The auctioneer asked us to bid on all four sets and to take as many sets as we wanted at the final-bid price. As usual, he started at $20, dropped to $10 and then to $5. I waited until he got to $1 a stack, and I won the bid. I only wanted one stack of four – that’s all I needed.

    Greedily, I swiped up two stacks for $2. Did I need two? No, but at $1 a stack (or 25 cents each), I could afford to break one and not worry about it.

    Aren’t auctions grand? They’re a great place to buy any type of dinnerware – or maybe replace missing pieces – at prices that won’t leave you screaming.

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    1. Dear Sherry,
      Your blog is so interesting! I learn so much in it. Very well done!
      I have recently inherited one of those 40 piece fine china sets from my mother and her mother. I had recently noticed just how small the dinner plates are!!! And the desert bowls would hold about a half cup only! The center of the dinner plate without measuring the rim is 6.5 inches and a set of depression wear plates I have…the center of them is only 5.2 inches. Yes…our appetites have become huge!

      I loved your book discovery and reading about the investigation you did to discover the authories. I am so glad there were some decent people who helped the blacks of the slave days! My heart can not even express the sadness behind those evil men/women that held slaves. I am glad Brown was able to write about it, and leave it behind. He had another 40 years after escaping to write so well.

      • Thank you. I love discovering the history behind all the fascinating things I come across at auction. And it warms my heart to know that you and others are enjoying my finds just as much as I am.


        • Hi Sherry,

          A friend in Philadelphia sent me your auction finds of photos of well-to-do Blacks. Where are the auctions you frequent (states) and do you bid online. I enjoy reading about your auction experiences – keep up the good work, and thank you
          very much for sharing.

          • Hi Mazie. I’m happy you’re enjoying the blog. I go to auctions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York City (for Swann’s African American art sale). I always bid on-site. I’ve never bidded online before but I know some people who do. I like to see and touch what I’m bidding on. I also like to be there in the building to look for items to write about in the blog. Sometimes I have to plow through boxes of stuff to find those little gems. I want to make sure I don’t miss any item that has a wonderful story to tell.


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