I have been collecting and selling vintage china for years. The most important tip on buying is buy what you like. If you are investing in china, make sure you know your marks, patterns and makers. Make sure you know if what you are purchasing is what you think it is......Looks can and are deceiving. There are knock off'f of some of the most popular companies, Hull, Roseville, McCoy, Franciscan......
BUY the book....yes, there is a book on every pattern ever made in the world that is semi important. I am not saying that the stuff made in Taiwan is going to have a book but, very rarely is it important like the chinas made in Europe and USA.....you get the point. The Book is important. It gives you exact marks, pieces, value, expectations of what you should be looking for in condition and what to look for in the knock off.......The color is extremely different in Franciscan knock off's. It is a grayer tone than the creamy tone of the originals.
Know the cost of shipping. Check what they are going to charge your for shipping and will they combine shipping to save you money, not just them. Look up the weight on UPS and USPS websites. A dinner plate with packing and a box is going to weigh about 4 pounds. With each plate adding a pound or two to the weight. You can get an estimate from that. Also, allow some vendors the recouping of the cost of bubble wrap.......it isn't free and isn't cheap. Runs around 6 - 12 cents a foot. Depending on where they can get it from. Peanuts are also expensive.
The other most important tip is the status of the piece. I personally don't mind a tiny flick off of the bottom of a platter, But there are those who want flawless. If you have a piece that is flawless TELL them it is, if it has issues, tell them now before they bid and save yourself the heartache of customer dissatisfaction.
If the seller has represented it correctly make sure you leave a positive feedback. If it is not, contact them BEFORE you contact PAYPAL or Ebay, you will get a better response out of them before a complaint is filed and before they have their money seized.....It takes you two seconds to seize it and 30 days for them to get their money back........Of course if they don't respond at all, then complain . However give time, don't expect an answer over the holiday period, shoot most people do not tend to their sales after the 19 or 20th of December and return after New years. You have 45 days, don't jump to conclusions. The seller may have another item or will help you file an insurance claim.
Make sure you read the description carefully. If it doesn't state condition ask. Also make sure the marks are correct. Expect to see the stamp on the bottom of piece or the main piece in the set. Some companies only mark their dinner plate. Taylor Smith & Taylor is a prime example of them marking only a few of their dinner plates. Not everything is marked and not everything was supposed to be. That is why you need to have reference guides telling you which company has what marks and where. A reference guide may cost you $20 - 50 dollars but one mistake can cost you more than that.
You will have people who try to pass something off as Hull or McCoy or Roseville.......All of which are being reproduced today....know your marks. Look at other Ebay auctions to get more info. They also have alot of reference points. It is very rare that a peice is exclusive or so rare that it doesn't have something to compete with it on Ebay or on other sites. Google a piece. Google can give you some information as well.
Before you buy it now or bid, know what you are getting and how much it is going to cost to get it delivered. Then again before you bid or buy, check out a few of the replacement china markets online. Make sure you are getting a good price. Most of the time Ebay is your better deal but sometimes there is an anxious bidder and they get the price a little higher than you would expect.
Purchase insurance. This goes without saying for anything breakable. Next, pay with Paypal, it protects you and the seller equally. If the pieces gets broken or is not as described you have a recourse (I learned this the hardway!!) It gives both parties a tracking number to know where and when the package is.
Look for reliable sellers. Someone with good feedback. I know everyone has to get started but, if someone has 3 feedbacks and is selling a higher dollar item, it makes me nervous. Look at the negatives for why the party left it and what the seller did to resolve the problem. Also see what the seller says for the reply. If someone has 10 negative feedbacks and the reply just screams at the customer (They are liars, they are theives... etc.) take another look, they should respond politely with a solution. Of course you can't see what their emails were saying back and forth, I have had one customer who went nuts before she even paid for the auction.....she hadn't even gotten the item and was already causing problems. I should have known before completing that deal, but, no, I thought the best and well, ate that negative feedback.
If you are the customer You should try to work with the seller first. Most sellers would rather you contact them before you leave a negative. They will work with you so that the transaction finishes smoothly. They most likely won't once they get the negative because it just can't be retracted and there is no incentive for the seller to help you. And be patient, some seller's only work during the week, take holidays off, get to take vacations, are hospitalized...etc. Wait more than a day or two for an answer. You have 45 days to file a complaint with PAYPAL and Ebay. And remember to leave a feedback when you are satisfied with the transaction. It helps everyone.
If you need more info or just have a specific question needing to be answered, I am very happy to answer all those I know the answer to . If you find this guide helpful please check yes when Ebay asks. Thank you very much.