You probably remember those old collector plates your parents or grandparents might have proudly displayed back in the 70s and 80s. They're pretty, but only a few of them are worth anything today. Collector plate values can range from a few dollars to thousands, and we've got all the info you need to get a sense of what your plate might be worth.
In most instances, these plates fetch less than $10 apiece at auction sites, but there are a few examples from notable artists or desirable eras that can sell for way, way more. The key to investing wisely or selling your collector plates for what they're worth is in being able to identify the rare and valuable plates on the market.
Most Valuable Collector Plates at a Glance
Understanding the value range for these plates is really important if you want to assess your own collection or know what you're holding at the thrift store or antique shop. These are some of the most valuable collector plates, according to recent sales.
|Collector Plate||Approximate Value|
1930 Bing & Grondahl Christmas plate
|Royal Copenhagen Louis Vuitton collector plate||$2,500|
|1971 Spode "The Pahlavi" plate||$2,000|
|Royal Vienna Portrait Plate of Anna Hillmayer||$1,850|
|1908 Royal Copenhagen Christmas plate||$1,200|
1930 Bing & Grondahl Christmas Plate
A noted manufacturer can add a lot to the value of a plate, especially if the design is old and rare. One design from 1930 sold for about $3,500 in 2023, making it one of the most valuable collector plates sold that year. In addition to being rare, it was beautiful and in perfect condition.
Royal Copenhagen Louis Vuitton Collector Plate
If a collector plate is made in a limited edition, that can be a major asset to its value. A limited edition Louis Vuitton collector plate made by famous manufacturer Royal Copenhagen sold for about $2,500. In perfect condition, this rare plate was at the top end of the value spectrum.
1971 Spode "The Pahlavi" Plate
The idea behind a limited edition is that by making only a few of the plate, the company ensures that it will be rare. "The Pahlavi" by famed china company Spode is a perfect example. There were only 2,000 made, and one in perfect condition in the original box sold for about $2,000.
Antique Royal Vienna Portrait Plate of Anna Hillmayer
During the Victorian era, many collector plates featured hand-painted portraits based on famous paintings. These were made by companies like Royal Vienna, and those with especially good detail and in great condition can be super valuable. One example is a plate with a portrait of Anna Hillmayer, which sold for about $1,850.
1908 Royal Copenhagen Christmas Plate
Another example of a Christmas plate holding its value or even increasing in value is the 1908 Royal Copenhagen Christmas plate. These designs were released every year, and some years are rare and hard to find in good condition. 1908 is one of them. This plate sold for about $1,200.
The Collector Plate Market Downturn
Unfortunately, you shouldn't expect to see lots of super valuable plates in the thrift store or your china cabinet. Collector plates were a hot market several decades ago when many consumers purchased them as investments as well as decorative objects. However, instead of increasing in value, most plates turned out to be worth much less than their original price. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, many collector plates sold for $30 to $40 apiece, but today, most collector plates are worth around 25% of their original purchase price. The market went through a sudden downturn in the 1990s.
In 2012, Terry Kovel of Kovels.com identified the plates as one of 10 collectibles no longer worth collecting. However, there are a few plates out there that have turned out to be worth the investment.
A few collector plates are regaining their value, in part because baby boomers are purchasing these plates for sentimental reasons. The key is understanding what makes these the plates people really want.
Factors Affecting the Value of Plates
As you can see from the most valuable plates, there are certain characteristics to look for. Keep an eye out for these factors.
Older Date of Manufacture
When your plate was made can have a huge impact on its value. Collector plates from the 1920s are some of the most valuable, but only if they are in perfect condition. Unless they were made in a super limited edition, plates made after 1980 usually have almost no monetary value.
Most collector plates from major manufacturers feature very detailed back stamps. These usually include the year the plate was made.
Condition is another important factor to consider when assessing the value of a plate. You can grade vintage and antique china by examining it carefully.
- Mint condition - A plate that is in mint condition should have its original box. The plate and box will both be perfect, showing no signs of use or wear. This is rare, but plates in mint condition are most valuable.
- Excellent condition - This plate may come with its box, but the box may be worn. The plate itself will show no discoloration, cracking, staining, or other damage.
- Good condition - A plate in good condition may not have its original box. It may have some discoloration, minor signs of use, and some loss of gold sponging.
- Fair condition - If a plate is in fair condition, it may have cracks, chips, or crazing. Generally, this type of damage will negatively affect the value.
Keep in mind that there can be some variation in how dealers define terminology when it comes to condition, but these terms can help you communicate with dealers about the shape a plate is in.
Many companies have produced collector plates over the years, but there are a few that are famous for their plates.
- Bing & Grondahl - Bing & Grondahl produced the first collectible plate, known as "Behind the Frozen Window" in 1895, and a first edition of that plate sells for thousands. Other old, well-preserved plates from this manufacturer regularly fetch over $100 at auction, but many lovely examples from the 1970s sell for as little as two dollars each.
- Wedgewood - The beautiful iconic blue color of many Wedgewood plates makes them lovely and decorative, but the plates don't necessarily hold value as collectibles.
- Royal Doulton - A Royal Doulton collector plate in perfect condition from the 1920s or 1930s can sell for over $100, but examples from the 1970s often sell for about two dollars.
- Royal Copenhagen - Particularly noted for their annual Christmas plates, Royal Copenhagen is another major manufacturer with dramatic variation in value. As you saw in the most valuable plates listed above, really old ones can be worth a lot. Modern examples sell for $50 to $80.
- Bradford Exchange - An iconic name in collector plates, the Bradford Exchange made many series over the years featuring everything from Disney to Princess Diana. Most of these aren't worth much, but a few can be valuable. Complete sets of 12 plates in their original boxes can sell for over $100, but individual plates sell for as little as one dollar.
- Franklin Mint - Perhaps one of the most famous manufacturers, the Franklin Mint produced many collector plates by various artists. Some of these plates were made of sterling silver, giving them inherent value for the metal. In the case of china plates, complete sets can go for as much as $90, while individual plates routinely sell for around six dollars.
Artists have produced work featured on individual plates or series of plates. In some cases, plates by an artist of note can be extremely valuable, while in others, they have little or no value. Also, artists may license their work to multiple plate manufacturers, which can affect the value of those images.
Some artists, like Ted DeGrazia, can fetch top dollar. With their striking images of the American Southwest and limited production runs, some DeGrazia collector plates sell for as much as $1,000 each. On the other hand, plates featuring the work of famous American artist Norman Rockwell regularly sell for less than two dollars on eBay.
Many collector plates were produced in limited editions, meaning that the manufacturer made a set number to keep them rare. However, it is important to note that the term "limited" can be applied rather loosely and may apply to runs of thousands of identical plates. In part, the value of a plate can be affected by the number of them on the market. Some examples had runs of only 14 plates, making them difficult to find. To the right buyer, this can also make them more valuable.
Collector plates feature some common themes, and some of these are more appealing and valuable than others.
- Christmas - One of the most popular themes among collectors is Christmas. These holiday plates, especially those manufactured by Bing & Grondahl and Royal Copenhagen, can fetch very high prices at auction. For instance, Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates from the early 1940s sell for $350 to $720 at Replacements.com.
- NASCAR - As a subject that has less monetary value, NASCAR-themed plates are still fun collectibles for racing enthusiasts. They rarely sell for more than $20 on eBay.
- Birds and nature - Plates featuring images of birds and nature have universal appeal, although they can range in value from a few dollars a plate to much more. For example, plates in the Hummingbird Treasury Collection by Lena Liu sell for over $100 each at The Glass Menagerie.
- Easter - Although not as popular or valuable as Christmas-themed plates, Easter collector plates also retain their value a bit more than other themes. Look for these to be worth around $15 or more.
- Fairy tales - Images from favorite fairy tales look beautiful on collector plates, and many of these classics can be quite valuable. Plates from the 1980s featuring Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales from Royal Copenhagen sell for as much as $84 at Replacements.com.
How to Find the Value of Your Plate
If you're interested in buying or selling a collector plate or you're simply curious about its value, you can estimate it yourself by doing a bit of research. Here's how to get started:
- Assess the condition of your plate. Be honest about any flaws, but also note things like the presence of the original box.
- Identify your plate. Start by looking at the back stamp, which can tell you the manufacturer and series. You can also use the Bradex number to find out where many plates fall in a series. This number, which applies to many manufacturers and not just plates from the Bradford Exchange, starts with a country code (84 for plates made in the United States), followed by a dash and a Bradford Exchange indicator of a letter and number combo, and then another dash and the plate's number within a series.
- Look up your plate on sites like Replacements.com, Antique Cupboard, The Glass Menagerie, and eBay to find out what similar plates cost. You can expect to receive a lower price for your plate than the sales price at retailers due to overhead.
If you suspect that your plate is especially valuable, it's always wise to get it professionally appraised.
Don't Forget Sentimental Value
Although you probably won't be able to retire off the value of your collector plates, don't underestimate the sentimental value. If you hang onto them now and enjoy them for their beauty and artistic style, it's possible they will increase in value in years to come. At the very least, you'll have a pretty decoration and lots of great memories.