Treasure: China sets often low demand these days

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

It’s a common question in the many letters and emails addressed to the column hoping for advice and an appraisal.

“I wonder if it has value other than sentimental,” wrote Peggy James about her grandmother’s dishes. “I have what is left of her set. It is not complete,” she wrote in her original email to the column. Dish sets – complete and otherwise – are among the most common items sent in for appraisal and often found in antique shops across the country.

James gave DuMouchelles’ appraiser Alex Diebel a little more detail at a recent session held at their downtown gallery and auction house. “I have six dinner plates, four dessert plates, a vegetable bowl and a sugar and creamer. It is not a full set, just what survived by the time she passed away. I can remember eating at my grandmothers and eating on these plates, especially during the holidays,” she reminisced.

Marked “Elite L France,” in green on the platter, and “Bawo & Dotter, Elite Works” and “Limoges, France,” on other pieces, the china is French but was probably not purchased there, said the appraiser. “My research shows that this came through New York City.”

The website offered more information. “Bawo & Dotter was established in New York City in the 1860s to import porcelain, especially from Limoges, into the USA. In the early 1870s they established The Elite Works in Limoges to decorate porcelain made by other factories. Their production included table china, decorative pieces and trinket boxes. Some of their marks incorporated St. Martial from the seal of the City of Limoges. Porcelain production was interrupted during WWI. Shortly after the war, they bought the William Guerin company, and the mark changed to “Guerin-Pouyat-Elite, apparently continuing use of all three company marks. The company closed in 1932. Bawo & Dotter also had large operations in Austria and Czechoslovakia, with completely different marks.”

James had one additional question. “Are they 24 karat?” she asked the appraiser. “It’s really hard to tell, but probably not.”

The appraiser said that disparate pieces bring better prices when there is a covered soup or tureen included, as they are difficult to find. Even full sets can be hard to sell, as china and silver is less popular than it used to be when people had more formal dinner parties. Nonetheless, there are people who collect Limoges and other fine china; she estimated Peggy’s pieces to be worth $150-$200 at auction if James were to sell.

James said she will probably pass the dishes down. “My son will have to decide what to do with them,” she said. “At this point, I’m not even using my own china anymore, much less my grandmother’s.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : Limoges china

Owned by : Peggy James

Appraised by : Alex Diebel, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $150-$200 at auction