Collecting Vintage Tea Cups and Saucers

Collecting Vintage Tea Cups and Saucers

My grandmother started us all on collecting vintage bone china teacups and saucers. She used to travel quite a bit and everywhere she went, she’d pick up a cup and saucer. or two, or three.
She had a large cabinet full of Belleek, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert, and Aynsley teacups and saucers.  My grandfather sometimes took partial payment for accounting work in Belleek cups.  This meant we all inherited some lovely, very old teacups and saucers.

Of course, my mom, my aunt, my brother, my cousins and I all quickly followed her example. Everywhere we go, we do the same thing. Oh, nice scenery, where are the teacups?

In fact, when my brother and I were in England long ago, he tried to best me by buying an entire tea set at Harrods! I think it was Royal Doulton Regatta.  It wasn’t vintage then, but it is now (over 20 years later)!

Not to mention drinking tea is much more fun in a pretty cup.

Vintage Tea Cup and Saucer Collecting Books

How much are your teacups worth?

Whether you are just starting out, or have been collecting for years, you’ll probably want to know what your collection is worth (or what you should pay to add to it).
These books will help you learn how to identify the hallmarks on your teacups and estimate their value. Some of these cover many manufacturers, other books focus on specific brands such as Shelley and Limoges.

collectible china book four  Collectible Cups & Saucers, Identification & Values, Book IV

This book is the fourth in a series covering antique tea cups and saucers from all over the world. Each chapter has short descriptions of each china company, lots of beautiful photos, and clear text explaining everything.


belleek neptune cup and saucer

Belleek Neptune tea cup and saucer (author’s personal collection)

kovels marks dictionary  Kovels’ New Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain, 1850 to the Present

The granddaddy of porcelain marks guides. You can check by name, or by shape, design or letters. Covers over 3,500 marks for European, American, and Asian porcelain manufactured after 1850.

English tea set from the Victoria and Albert , via wikimedia cc 2.5

English tea set from the Victoria and Albert , via wikimedia cc 2.5

pictorial porcelain mark guide Pictorial Guide To Pottery And Porcelain Marks

If you’ve got a teacup and you’re not sure what it is (or which year), this is the guide for you. It shows actual photographs of the marks (not just drawings), as well as photos of the porcelain pieces themselves.


limoge marks Living With Limoges 

The focus here is on all Limoge china, rather than teacups in particular, but the book has a special section just for tea. It’s also full of tips on how to identify your china, as well as decorating ideas to highlight a single piece or an entire collection.

wedgwood and royal doulton tea cups

Wedgwood and Royal Doulton vintage tea cups (author’s personal collection)

shelley patterns Shelley Tea Ware Patterns
Covers the many (thousands!) of patterns for tea cups and saucers produced by Shelley and its predecessors. There’s also a price guide, so you can check what your collection is worth.

1930s Vintage Tea Set Presented to President Roosevelt via wikimedia, public domain

1930s Vintage Tea Set Presented to President Roosevelt via wikimedia, public domain


Online Resources for Identifying and Valuing Your Tea Cup Collection

Here are some links to websites that can help you figure out exactly what you have and how much it’s worth (either for selling or insurance purposes).

  • Belleek marks – Belleek marks can be a bit confusing (they used black marks, then green, then gold, blue, and brown with several different variations).  Belleek itself has laid them all out at this link  (sadly, it seems they no longer manufacture many of the old patterns).
  • Kovels has an online identification guide, but you’ll need to register and create an account to get prices. Basic registration is free, but if you want more detailed information (and sales reports), you’ll have to pay for a subscription.
  • Artifact Collectibles – a forum full of friendly people who can help you identify the marks on cups, saucers, porcelain, and lots of other collectibles. They were extremely helpful when I couldn’t find the mark for my porcelain cocoa pot (another gift from grandma).
  • European China and Pottery Marks – a freely downloadable little booklet from Project Gutenberg with marks from Germany, Austria, Denmark, England, Poland, Russia, and France.
  • Chinese Porcelain Marks – Over 1,500 Japanese and Chinese marks, as well as how to identify and date them. Covers marks from the Ming dynasty (should you be lucky enough to get one!) through modern times.


Meisner porcelain tea set by Andys (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0

Meisner porcelain tea set by Andys (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0


duchess tea setRoyal Albert 100 Years, Duchess, 3-Piece
Since grandma inspired this page, I had to include this beautiful  Duchess set inspired by a 1910 pattern (that was the year she was born). I’m sure something called “Duchess” would have appealed to her too. The set includes a cup, saucer, and dessert plate and comes packaged in a presentation hatbox.

Your Turn

Do you collect vintage tea cups and saucers? What’s your favorite manufacturer? Or, do you have a single, favorite pattern?  I knew one person who stuck to a single Royal Albert pattern).


I love to cook (and eat). Luckily, I live in New York City, where there's lots of wonderful food. My cat, Paris, thinks it's all for him!

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