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What's It Worth?

What is it? A child's hand-painted china tea set made in Germany around 1900. It has six cups and saucers, a teapot and sugar and creamer. It would have originally sold for around $2.

May 09, 1998

What is its history?

In the late 17th and 18th centuries, miniature china dinnerware sets were made in England and China. Their purpose was to furnish the miniature rooms and cabinets that were popular with adults. In the 19th century, these small sets began to be used by children. In the 19th and 20th centuries, these tea sets were often made in the same patterns as "grown-up" china.

How did they get to the U.S.?

Every manufacturer of china made children's tea sets, so they were available worldwide.

Why were they popular?

These tea sets had two purposes: They could be played with and they could teach children table manners. Children could use them with other children or with stuffed animals and dolls. Famous illustrators such as Palmer Cox and Kate Greenaway designed for them also.

How were they made?

Children's tea sets were made the same way as adult ones. The very best were hand-painted on china.

Why have they appreciated in value?

Since they were used by children, many of them were broken. This make complete sets hard to find. They are very beautiful, since they have the same patterns and craftsmanship as fine china.

What's it value?

At Crofton Antiques in Costa Mesa, this German tea set sells for $295 because it isn't signed. If it were signed by a big-name such as R.S. Prussia it could be worth as much as $5,000.

Where can I find children's tea sets?

Many antique stores carry them. It's the luck of the hunt to find the pattern and colors you like. Check closely for chips and cracks.

How can I find out more?

There are many books on the topic. There is also a club, Toy Dish Collector, which can be reached at P.O. Box 159, Bethlehem, CT 06751.

To have an item considered for this column, send information, your phone number and a photo to What's It Worth, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

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