Buying China at Auction

Welcome to the 126th Tablescape Thursday!

Thanks so much for all your help yesterday with attempting to identify the large bird who stopped by my backyard for a visit.

Most folks thought he might be a Red-tailed Hawk, others thought he could be a Red-shouldered Hawk and another reader suggested he might be an immature Bald Eagle. I was surprised to see some of the images online for the immature Bald Eagles do look a lot like my backyard bird. Next time I catch him back for a visit, I’ll try to get some even better pics. Maybe I’ll catch him flying which would help further with identification.

Tablescape Thursday:
I’m excited tonight to share a fabulous guest post from Susan over at My Place to Yours. Susan is a seasoned bidder/buyer at auctions and this evening she is going to share all the secrets that the experts know about buying at auction. Have you ever attended an auction or thought about going to one? After this evening, you’ll have the inside scoop and will be able to hold your own with the seasoned experts.

So, Susan…take it away! Can’t wait to hear your strategy for buying at auction!

Guest Post by Susan from My Place to Yours:

Between Naps on the Porch readers are some of the most gracious and friendly people I’ve ever “met,” and it’s a pleasure to spend this Tablescape Thursday on the porch with you. Susan, thanks so much for the invitation!

Last week, I hope you read Susan’s excellent post about how to decide the number of place settings of dishes to buy.  In it, she mentioned several sources where she’s purchased her own dishes. Some were retail stores like T J Maxx, HomeGoods, and Big Lots. She also mentioned antique shops (where she found an entire set!), and of course, we can never forget thrift stores, eBay, and Etsy.

I’ve shopped — and bought! — at all of those places, too, and they are fantastic. But today, I’m sharing with you my very favorite source for tablescapes: AUCTIONS.

Buying and selling vintage linens and collectibles has been part of “me” for years. In fact, I sometimes feel like the American author, David Atwood Wasson (1823-1887) who said, “I am but a gatherer and disposer of other men’s stuff.” And it’s the gathering, especially at auction, that I especially enjoy! The tingle up my spine begins when I see a sign like this …

If we stopped by my favorite local auction house, we’d see boxes of dishes …

… and trays of glassware … just waiting to be sold.

There would be vintage linens — in boxes …

All those pretties … See anything you like? I should warn you. Before you get too excited and run out to your nearest auction, there are things you should know …

Auctions come in many forms (English, Dutch, sealed-bid, silent, etc.), but by far the most common is the English auction. You may be familiar with it. An item is put up for auction, and interested individuals raise their hands to place bids stating how much they are willing to pay for the item. They continue to bid, raising their price, until only one participant is left. That person has the “high bid” and is the winner of the item. While there are certainly online auctions that use this style, today let’s focus on the live, on-site auction experience. (Perhaps another day I’ll post stories of other kinds of auctions I love — like farm auctions and storage auctions and no-place-to-sit-down-all-day auctions. But today, we’ll stay a little more civilized and use the term “auction house” — although, quite honestly, the ones I attend regularly are very casual …)

Let’s say you know of an auction you wish to attend. Perhaps you saw it in the newspaper or found it using an online source like AuctionZip dot com. Most likely there will be times listed for a Preview. If you’ve never been to an auction before, you definitely want to preview the items for sale. There’s one thing you must understand before bidding at an auction: Caveat Emptor It’s a Latin phrase meaning “let the buyer beware.” It’s your responsibility to look closely at the item before you bid — because if you buy it and it’s broken — or not what you thought it was — that’s “tough luck” and you still get to pay for it. We call that a learning experience (and I’ve had my share through the years)!

So when previewing items, be sure to examine them closely — then write down the lot numbers of all items in which you are interested. During the actual auction, the auctioneer will call out the lot number of the item up for bid so you can cross reference your list and make sure it’s the one you want. Believe me. From a distance, two lots can easily look alike!

Cardinal Rule: if something catches your eye when it comes up for auction — but you didn’t look at it ahead of timedon’t bid!I’ve broken that rule more times than I care to admit, and invariably there’s a chip, a crack … something that renders it virtually worthless. So just keep your hand down and save yourself the disappointment.

VERY IMPORTANT: Besides asking questions about the items themselves, you need to read all posted signs — or ask questions if you don’t see any signs. Not all, but many auctions charge a buyer’s premium, often 10%, which means that an additional percentage is added to your winning bid. For example, if you have the high bid on a large set of dishes, and you said you were willing to pay $100, an additional 10% ($10) is added to your bid. You now owe $110 plus any sales tax due. Also, not all auctions accept credit/debit cards so you’ll want to be sure you know the accepted forms of payment. You should also know that some auctions that DO accept credit/debit cards also charge an additional percentage (3-5%) if you use a card. In that case, if you pay by cash or check, you’re a lot better off.

So now you’ve previewed the items, asked the auction house owner all of your questions, and have written down the lot numbers of everything in which you’re interested. (Depending on the auction house, you may have received a glossy catalog with pictures — think Sotheby’s or Christie’s — or a printout of lot numbers with item descriptions — or (very often) you may only receive something like this …

On the day of the auction, I suggest going early so you’ll have time to look around again. However, upon arriving, the first thing you need to do (if you didn’t do it at the Preview) is register and get your bidder number. Without a bidder number, you can’t purchase anything. If you’ve never registered at that auction house before, they’ll ask for your name, address, phone number and perhaps drivers license number. If you’re a business owner planning to resell whatever you purchase, you’ll also want to provide them with your tax number so that your purchases will be tax-exempt.

One little word of advice: If you get a chance to speak with the auctioneer ahead of time, don’t be shy about saying it’s your first auction. If he sees you bidding on something, he’s more likely to go a little slower — or at least make sure you know what the bid amount is before finally saying, “Sold” — in order to give you a chance to purchase it. After all, his goal is to get the highest bid possible.

Finally, it’s almost time for the auction to begin. The auctioneer will explain the rules of bidding. For example, will some items have a reserve price? That means, if the seller can’t get a particular amount for their item, they’re not willing to sell. So even if you have the high bid, if it’s not high enough to meet the reserve price, you won’t win the item

Or, perhaps you’re at an absolute auction where there are no reserve prices. In this style of auction, the auctioneer sets the opening bid and accepts whatever ending price he gets. (One hint: rarely ever does anyone bid the opening amount; let the auctioneer lower the amount before you jump in and start bidding!)

Before the sale begins, the auctioneer should also go over the accepted methods of payment and tell the crowd when their purchased items have to be picked up. (With the possible exception of large pieces of furniture or firearms, most items are expected to be removed from the premises at the end of the sale unless arrangements are made in advance.)

So settle into your seat. (It might be possible to reserve one ahead of time when you go to the Preview.) You may have a long day ahead of you, so you’d be wise to have a snack and something to drink with you (although sometimes concessions can be purchased onsite). Be sure your bidder number is handy, and have something to help you keep track of your purchases. I usually take a small notebook that ends up looking something like this …

And just when you thought it never would, the auction begins! Things move fast, and it’s a good idea — if you’ve never been to an auction before — to spend the first few minutes listening and observing. (Hopefully, the item you want isn’t the first one up for bids!) Watch how the lot numbers are called out just before the bidding begins. Let your ears get used to the fast-paced talk of the auctioneer. Feel your heart race and your palms sweat as “your item” gets closer to taking its turn in the spotlight

Now it’s time … your turn to bid. Everything is moving so quickly and you just want to shout, “Slow down!” Your heart is pounding in your ears so loudly that you can barely concentrate on what the auctioneer is saying … and he’s going so faaaasssst! But the bidding continues. (VERY IMPORTANT: If you are bidding, be absolutely certain that the auctioneer (or one of his staff) is making eye contact with you. It’s very easy to think you’re bidding when in reality they’re taking the bid of the person right behind you — or the person in front of you who’s barely raising their hand. If you’re uncertain, ask. Just say something like, “do you have me?”) Eventually, the auctioneer says, “SOLD for $__ to bidder number __.” Is that you? Did you win? Sometimes you do … sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you pay more than you intended (best to know in advance what your top amount is and stick with it!) … sometimes you wish you’d paid more … sometimes you buy something and then wonder, “what was I thinking?” But sometimes … oh, yeah, sometimes … there’s a big smile on your face and your insides are jumping with excitement (the nerves are now a thing of the past) and you realize YOU WON! That fantastic set of dishes, silver, antique desk — whatever — is going home with you!

So how will YOUR auction excursion play out? Will you return home empty-handed — and consider it a day of cheap entertainment? Or will you load up your car — and wash dishes ’til well after midnight? I’ve done both … many times! Why don’t I show you some real-life examples of things I’ve picked up at auction?

If you’ve visited my blog or have looked at My Place to Yours at Etsy, you may have seen some of these beauties before. Others are making their first appearance today. Most of them either have been, are, or will be listed in my shop, so if something catches your eye, just ask me!

Now … Let’s play in the dishes!

Everything in this photo came from an auction. Crystal, china, flatware, linens … This was my debut tablescape — celebrating the 100th week of tablescaping at Between Naps on the Porch. The china is Royal Sealy Garland.


Jeannette Glass Thumbprint goblets … Capodimonte-style footed shell centerpiece …

One-of-a-kind pieces are especially nice for tablescapes!


Cobalt salad plates and bowls … always a collectible favorite!
Did you notice them earlier when we “stopped by” my local auction house?



Haviland Limoges pink rose plates, pink Noritake Novus goblets (with original tags), Fostoria American sherbets, 19th-century pearl handle knives. These and more on this table … from auction.


Clear glass chargers, Noritake Bluedawn china, crystal napkin rings, vintage salt cellars, linens …


Large set of Lenox Stanford – unused.


Silver overlay plates … 50+ pieces of Franciscan Platina china — unused …


Noritake Toki Kaisha (unidentified pattern) — twelve 7-pc. place settings plus serving pieces (90 pcs. total) — unused …


Haviland & Co … 5 matching demitasse cup and saucer sets …


Silver and silverplate ladles …


1973 Holly Hobbie coffee set with 9 mugs …

So what do you think? Are you ready to try your luck at an auction? If you have a little extra time, storage space, and stamina — and some pocket change, of course — you just might want to give it a try! Sure wish I could go with you … but since I can’t, I hope you’ll stop by My Place to Yours and tell me how it goes!

Susan, thanks so much for all this fabulous info for bidding at auction. I definitely learned some great tips!

Looking forward to viewing your beautiful tablescapes for this Tablescape Thursday!

Please Read:
If you are participating in Tablescape Thursday, please be sure to add your permalink below, and not your general blog address. To get your permalink, click on your post name. Then just copy and paste the address that shows up in the address bar at the top, into the “url” box for the picture linky. You’ll also need to put your e-mail address in, but don’t worry, it will not be visible to anyone.

You may see a red X once you enter your link. No one else can see the red X, it’s just there in case you make a little mistake and need to delete your link and re-enter it.

If you’d like to use the Tablescape Thursday logo button in your post, just copy and paste it to your computer and upload it to your post as you would any photo. Or, just grab the html code you’ll find under the “Join a Party” heading at the top of this blog.

Please, link back to the host blog, Between Naps on the Porch. This is important because it helps those who are visiting your blog, find the other wonderful tablescapes posted for this Tablescape Thursday, thus increasing visits for all participants.

Please, don’t add your post name/blog name in ALL CAPS…it tends to create big spaces between the rows of links. Thanks!

*If a post is sponsored or a product was provided at no charge, it will be stated in post. Some links may be affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases. *

 Never miss a Between Naps on the Porch post! 

*Subscribe to have updates delivered to your Inbox. 


  1. Tricia@The Dull and the Dutiful says

    Wow, this was a very interesting and educational post! Thanks to both Susans! Auctions sound exciting, and Susan has certainly captured some treasures over the years. Great post!

  2. Jacqueline says

    Oh, I wish I had an auction house like that! Those silver overlay plates are incredible.

    My uncle was an auctioneer and I grew up going to auctions when he would tell my parents that there was something worthwhile to bid on. They collected violins and cut glass bowls.

    Thanks, that was a really fun and "mouthwatering" post (for a plate addict).

  3. O, gosh..I would love to have a car full of money and find auctions such as this.
    Loved this post…:)

  4. Pam - diy Design Fanatic says

    What an interesting post! I loved the Silver overlay plates and the Noritake Bluedawn. Oh so pretty!
    Thanks for hosting!

  5. Simply Bungalow says

    Great Post. I just recently started attending auctions so it was great to hear from an experienced attendee. Very helpful.

  6. This was a real treat! Not only am I (already) a fan of the tables at My Place to Yours, but now I fully realize where and how she gets such lovely things to play with.

    My parents were big auction attenders. For the FIRST time in my life, I now want to experience one myself.

    Wonderful guest post!

  7. Brenda Kula says

    Wow, this was so interesting and informative! I've actually never been to an auction. Just big online at eBay. Something I certainly yearn to try. I think cobalt and white is about as pretty as it gets myself! Headed over to visit this blog now.

  8. That was fabulous! Love auctions. Great guest post. Great china you won at the auction too.

  9. What a great post! Such wonderful tips and lessons! I truly enjoyed all this great information. Thank you so much.

    From Virginia

  10. Great guest post. Always love learning about auctions.

  11. Lots of great advise! I do love a good auction sale.

    Thank you for hosting such wonderful TT parties!


  12. On Crooked Creek says

    What an informative post on Auctions! I think I might be just a bit intimidated and will probably need to re~read this post again should I ever attend a true Auction. Thank you for hosting this meme. I enjoy visiting with others and draw inspiration from you and from them!

  13. Nellie's Cozy place says

    Hi Susan,
    That was a very different post, but very informative and beautiful.
    she has some lovely dinnerware and makes some awesome tablescapes as well. Thank you for hosting and for hosting another Susan to share about
    Auctions. I have never been to one but always wanted to, maybe someday.
    You are such a gracious hostess my dear and we all appreciate you so much.
    Blessings, Nellie

  14. Wow, I'm not brave enough to try an auction but I would be in Heaven with all that china, etc. Lovely!!

  15. Through My Red Door says

    Now I have a real reason to start saving my change. After seeing the beautiful dishes, silver and crystal you can get at auctions, I'll also start looking for them in my area!

    Thank you Susans for the wonderful post!

  16. Luncheons at the Junction says

    This weeks post was wonderful I have never been to an auction, but now I feel as though I am prepared! And all those beautiful goodies – I would need a truck to get it all home! I stopped by Susans blog to view all of the beautiful tablescapes she created with her finds – just breathtaking! Thanks again for sharing and for hosting.

  17. Handy Man, Crafty Woman says

    what a great post! We've been thinking about trying some auctions; this makes me really want to try it.

  18. marty (A Stroll Thru Life) says

    Great post and so educational. Love all of your finds and the pictures of all the china and crystal are just unreal. Love yours. Hugs, Marty

  19. I thought of all you GA bloggers when I saw that new show about an auction house there.
    I have never seen one here. I wonder why we don't have them.
    Very interesting post.

  20. A Perfect Setting says

    Hi Susan, I enjoyed reading the post by the other Susan about auctions. I've been visiting my local auction and I think I've gotten some good deals. I'm too scared to bid in person, so I usually have them call me for phone bids. Works pretty good, as they ask me each time if I want to go to the next price. It's pretty addictive! Looks like Susan got some great things! Also, I'm looking forward to seeing your new office. I'm sure it's bittersweet to take apart your son's room, especially that adorable mural you painted. Good luck!

  21. Lou Cinda @ Tattered Hydrangeas says

    Great post Susan! I go to an auction every two weeks and it is a BLAST! Three girlfriends and I go and it is truly like dinner and a movie! Sometimes we bid, sometimes we don't….mostly we all come home with something we love! The next one is 2/5 and we can't wait!

    Lou Cinda

  22. Ok, wow! Beautiful pieces!

  23. Hello there Susan,

    I invited my dear friend over for lunch today so that I could introduce her,( she's a lovely 61 year's young, fabulous lady); to introduce her to the wonderful world of blogs and memes; your blog, and Tablescape Thursday being formost in our, blog tour..,

    She used to own a lovely tea room an antique shop; ironically we discussed the joys of frequenting auctions.~ She was in awe and loved every detail and blog's tablescapes and blogs!..,

    Love your post this week; so informative and gorgeous!

    Thanks for hosting!

    Cheers and hugs from Wanda Lee

  24. ~ Lyndsay The Kitchen Witch says

    I once hauled three large cardboard boxes filled with China onto a Greyhound and over the border back into Canada after going a little insane at estate sales and auction in Seattle.

    LOL! Great memories – and thank you for a most informative post. I salivated with every picture 🙂

  25. What an informative post! I visisted her post and checked out her wonderful Etsy shop. I think I better stay away from auctions though 🙂 LOL

  26. Mel's Cabin says

    Oh Susan, I have a question for you. Where do you keep all those dishes you've shown on your blog, I bet everybody would be interested to know the storage solution you have…Your post is beautiful, I love auctions too.
    Visit me at Mel's Cabin

  27. My heart rate just hit a dangerous high!! What a FUN way to spend a day…and some money. I wanna go to an auction!
    So many lovely treasures to look & handle & imagine a tablescape. I'm running over to the other Susan's site right now.

    Thank you to OUR Susan for sharing all this great info.

  28. Beautiful post girl…loved it!!!! I wish I had room for some more treasures like that!!!! I hope all is well with you and yours and that you are having a great week my friend…again…fantastic post…Picket

  29. I caught the auction bug last spring. They are so much fun and I've bought really exceptional items for pennies.

    Great tutorial, Susan. La

  30. I nearly got the vapors over all those dishes Susan. Holy cow I can't imagine being at a dish auction, my heart be still.

    Thanks for posting these pictures, its got my heart going faster than Starbucks coffee can. Your words of wisdom regarding auctions are spot on.

  31. Hi Susan, we go to auctions a lot but I have never come home with a set of dishes. They always go higher than my max. We end up bring furniture or home accessories. I have been to one where they had a Wedgewood blur jasperware set of over 400 dishes and OMG! I have never seen so many matching jasperware in my whole life but they went for over $3000. Fun post! Love seeing your dishes and what you do with

  32. Ceekay- Thinkin of Home says

    I adore auctions. I love them even better if they are outside! You cannot beat the deals…especially if a million people are not there. Rainy day ones are my favorite!!

  33. Susan (My Place to Yours) says

    Susan, thanks again for inviting me to do a guest post. I'm happy to see that many of your readers are already familiar with the exciting world of auctions … and perhaps even more happy to learn that some are now considering getting their feet wet! I definitely suggest they check their local newspapers,, Google, etc. for nearby auctions.

    Mel's Cabin, I'm not sure to which Susan you are posing your question, but I think it's me since BNOTP has addressed it in previous posts, so I'll answer. For my personal collection, I'm fortunate to have two large built-in china cabinets in my old house. I also use the former pantry as a dish pantry. And I have a large piece of furniture that is full. For storage of the huge amount of Etsy-bound beauties, my husband has built shelves in every extra inch of closet space plus I have a couple of very large furniture pieces. I'm maxed out and must sell some before I can head back to auction! Some day I'll do a post about that …

  34. Swede Collection says

    Susan, loved the auction post. I used to attend farm auctions but now where I live there aren't any. I'm ready to move to Knoxville as I can't imagine so much china for sale so cheap. I'd be in hog heaven! Your advice is great for newbies and a refresher for us old people. I subscribed to your blog so I can see all your tablesettings. Beautiful job! Summer

  35. Christi @ A Southern Life says

    What a fun post. I've never been to an auction. Would love to go now that I know the tips you shared! Thanks!

  36. lulumusing says

    If you ever see Richlieu, the china posted in my link today, get it! Mother also gave one of my daughters the Noritake you show today.

  37. Amanda Dale says

    I LOVED this post! I had never considered looking for treasures at an auction! It just seemed overwhelming, but now and am totally intrigued!

  38. Sue (Someone's Mom) says

    I love auctions. I haven't been to one since I started tablescaping (which may be a good thing)! We don't seem to have that many around here. It can be so fun and so addictive.

    This was a great post!

  39. Awesome…WHAT I wouldn't give to live in an area where there were such auctions…thank you for sharing…

  40. Leigh of Bloggeritaville says

    Hi Susan!

    Interesating post! And back to the bird….I just was at a raptor siminar on Saturday and then I went and watched the bald eagles (see my post on Wed). I saw adults and immature adults. Your bird certainly looks like an immature adult. I dont have any pictures of immature adults on my blog, but if I was a betting girl, Id put all my money on that. I am a photographer and a birding enthusiast, I have often captured red tail hawks and am familiar with their markings. There is a dark variety of the hawk and it is similar, but the head and bill, again….eagle!
    Do you live close to any water? If so…its certain! (Unless of course it is on its way through)…

  41. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Leigh, thanks so much for the link! I think he looks more like an immature bald eagle than a Redtail, also. There is a large pond behind the house that is directly behind me…and the Chattahoochee river is just 3 or 4 miles away.

  42. Diann @ The Thrifty Groove says

    This was such a great post! Thanks for the auction lesson!

  43. lvroftiques says

    Susan thank you for sharing Susan's post! *winks* That is as good as good can get for information on attending an auction. I wish I could've read something similar all those many years ago when I attended my first. Could've saved be a good bit of change! But I've been addicted ever since! I only WISH we had 10% buyers premiunms here. 20% is doing good in my neck of the country!

    And how wonderful for you Susan to have such a beautiful (young eagle?) hanging out in your backyard! We have a coupld of bald eagles in my neighborhood. They're so beautiful to observe, but I'm always a little afraid to let my little pomeranian go outside for potty! She's 5 lbs….About the size of a tasty rabbit *gulps* Vanna

  44. oh my goodness … I have been to an auction house close by, looked around on preview day, but have never been to an auction! but I'm getting closer!! and your advice was so welcomed!! I would probably have jumped up and "cheerleaded" the place!
    I so enjoy your site and thanks for the info!
    Pink Hugs,

I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment!