Should I sell my china service by the set or by the piece?

Carmen asks:

Hi Wally! I was wondering if I should sell my antique china as a set, or by the piece? I have a complete service for 6, with lots of extras.

AW says: A few years ago, I would have said, a set will bring you more money, but now it may very well be that the opposite is true. You didn’t say how valuable or in demand your set is, and that is very important to this question.

While purists hate to break up a set, the practical auctioneer in me says, sell it by the piece if it is feasible.

If it is a good quality set that’s in demand,  the total sum of the pieces sold seperately will be more than if it were, but there are some caveats. Here are some rules of thumb.

  • If the china pattern is very valuable it will likely sell well by the piece as there will be other people looking to build or complet a set.
  • Shipping is easier for a single piece, but you’ll have pack more times.
  • If you’re auctioning, you spread the risk out if you sell items by the piece.
  • I would expect on an average of 2-4X more when you sell the items individually, but it will take longer.
  • If you list it by the piece, you still have a chance of selling it as a set, or at least have a good chance selling multiple items as collectors may make offers on “quantitiy”.
  • Lower end items should be sold as a set.

Thanks for your question, it’s one that comes up a lot lately with online sales.

If you have a question about antiques,  email it to ask@auctionwally dot com  Please include a .jpg photo or two of the item you’d like to know more about if you have one.