4 Tips for Identifying Vintage China and Antique Dishes

Pretty vintage dishes are one of the things I always look for at antique shops and thrift stores! Ironstone, Jadeite, Pyrex, china… I love it all! And I think I will forever be collecting vintage china and antique dishes. But identifying these vintage and antique kitchen finds can be hard if you don’t know where to look! Recently I did some research on my great grandmother’s china collection. I learned a lot, and I can’t wait to share it all with you in today’s post! Be sure to read through to the end of the post because I’ll be sharing 4 of my best tips and tricks for identifying vintage china and antique dishes! Maybe you have some family heirloom dishes that you’d like to learn more about? Or maybe you enjoy thrifting and antiquing for these items but you’re not sure how to identify your finds? The tips in this post should help you know exactly where to start.

vintage homer laughlin cunningham & pickett stratford china collection

How I got started collecting vintage china and antique dishes…

I have been obsessed with collecting vintage china and antique dishes for years! When I got married, my mother lovingly hit up every thrift store and antique shop within driving distance. We snatched up all the dinner plates and saucers we could find for my wedding, and we set the tables with the prettiest mis-matched china! After the wedding was over, we kept a few of my favorite china plates and patterns. And now whenever we use the plates we kept, it always brings back fond memories of my wedding day and hitting up the thrift stores with my mom!

vintage homer laughlin cunningham & pickett stratford china place setting
vintage homer laughlin cunningham & pickett stratford china collection

Y’all, it turns out I’m not the only one in the family who was into collecting china! This collection of vintage, floral patterned china plates originally belonged to my great grandmother. My grandmother gave a few of these pieces to my mother as a wedding gift when she married my dad. We found the rest of the pieces in the old house before we re-built it! They were pretty grimy when I brought them back into the farmhouse. But we gave them a good scrubbing, and I became pretty fascinated by the backstamps!! And I knew there was more to this story…

vintage homer laughlin cunningham & pickett stratford backstamps and floral design
homer laughlin cunningham & pickett stratford china collection

S&H Green Stamps

Have you ever heard of S&H green stamps? My great grandmother collected them. The A&P grocery store gave them out based on the amount you spent on your groceries. People would collect the green stamps and then cash them in for various items, like Pyrex, china, and other housewares! Can you imagine being able to cash in your grocery receipts for milk glass and Pyrex?!

homer laughlin cunningham & pickett stratford china collection from the 1950's

My mother has told me stories about this many times! But I never quite put two and two together until I started doing a little more research to try to identify and date my great grandmother’s china collection. I’ll explain how I came to this conclusion… but basically the short version is that I think my great grandmother acquired her china collection by saving up her green stamps!

Vintage Homer Laughlin and Cunningham & Pickett Stratford

The markings, or the backstamp, is the most important detail to look at when identifying vintage china and antique dishes! The backstamp on my grandmother’s china reads “Cunningham & Pickett, Inc. Warranted 22K Gold. Hand Decorated Stratford. Alliance, Ohio”. Well, that’s what one of the stamps says! There are actually 2 backstamps on these pretty floral dishes. The second backstamp reads “Homer Laughlin, MADE IN U.S.A.” followed by various letters and number that differ from plate to plate.

tips for dating and identifying vintage china and antique dishes using the backstamp
helpful tips for identifying vintage china by homer laughlin and cunningham & pickett by their backstamps and markings

I learned that these dishes have two backstamps, because there were actually two companies involved in making them! Homer Laughlin was a pottery company and they made the actual plates. Cunningham & Pickett bought the blank dishes from Homer Laughlin, and then added the floral design and their own backstamp. Stratford is the name of the design on my great grandmother’s china.

helpful tips for identifying vintage china and antique dishes by their backstamps and markings
identifying vintage china by homer laughlin and cunningham and pickett stratford backstamps

The letters and numbers on the green Homer Laughlin stamp represents the date and the location that piece was made. The first letter and number represent the corresponding month and year the plate was made. A=Janurary, B=February, and so on… So “F 50” means this creamer was made in June of 1950. The second letter and number represent the location the plate / piece was made. Where you see “N 8”, the N stands for Newell, WV and the 8 stands for plant number 8.

identifying vintage homer laughlin and cunningham and pickett stratford backstamps

Identifying my great grandmother’s china collection…

Now this is where things get even more interesting to me… The pieces in my great grandmother’s china collection span from 1950 to 1961. We have a random number of certain pieces and even some duplicates that you wouldn’t necessarily expect!

homer laughlin and cunningham and pickett stratford collection displayed on white hutch

Let me explain… There are 5 dinner plates, 9 salad plates, 1 square plate, 13 small bread plates, 8 teacup saucers, 6 little desert dishes, 1 soup bowl, 1 serving bowl, 1 serving platter, and 2 creamer and sugar sets. Now maybe a piece or two broke over the years. And maybe that could explain why some of the numbers don’t match up? But I highly doubt there was ever 13 full place settings to explain for the 13 small plates. And why would there be 2 creamers and 2 sugar dishes?

homer laughlin and cunningham and pickett stratford backstamps
homer laughlin and cunningham and pickett stratford backstamps

It’s almost like my great grandmother collected this china set over time, and possibly over several years. Maybe cashing in her S&H green stamps and adding pieces when she was able? Maybe at times she had enough for the larger pieces, and maybe sometimes she had just enough for another small bread plate? I have scoured the internet looking at photos of old S&H brochures, and I could never find this pattern advertised. I know it’s just speculation at this point, and I may never know if my intuition is right on this one. But all the little details line up just so, and it makes me appreciate this heirloom set all the more!

vintage floral china collection on white hutch

Recognize this china hutch? It used to be black, but I recently painted it. I love how much brighter this space is, and I really love how my great grandmother’s china looks displayed on it! [Click here] to read the post and get sources for the exact paint color I used!!

4 Tips for identifying vintage china and antique dishes…

Being able to identify the backstory and the history behind my great grandmother’s china collection was so meaningful for me! Even if I’m not 100% sure about the green stamps! So I thought it might be helpful to share how I found all this info in my search. Do you have fine china hand-me-downs that you’d like to learn more about? Or maybe you enjoy thrifting and antiquing for these items but you’re not sure how to identify your finds? Let me share a few of my best tips for identifying vintage china and antique dishwares and kitchen items!

1) Start with the backstamp or markings!

Start with the backstamp! If you’re piece has a backstamp on it, you can type out exactly what it says in google and search for similarly worded backstamps. Even if you can’t find the exact same plate or dish… this is the best place to start looking for more info!

homer laughlin and cunningham and pickett stratford backstamps

Check the google image results.

When you’re looking through the google search results, you may just keep scrolling down the page and looking at the websites that show up. But be sure to look through the google image search results as well! You may find an image of a similar backstamp or a dish with the same pattern or design. See below, right under the search bar… if you click on “images” it will show you all the images for whatever you searched. That’s where you’ll want to look!

using google image search for identifying vintage china and antique dishes

Check the re-sell websites.

Search the re-sell websites! When you’ve exhausted your google search, try looking on Etsy, Ebay, or Recollections for similar china and dishware sets. Oftentimes if you can find a listing on one of these sites, you may be able to learn a little more about the piece or pattern by reading the seller’s description of the item.

helpful tips for identifying vintage china and antique dishes

Try using the Google Lens App!

You can download and install a smartphone app called Google Lens! It is such a neat tool that works with your phone’s camera. The app allows you to take a photo of an item, and it will search google for similar photos! This is perfect for when you’re out antiquing and thrifting and want to look up an item before you purchase. You could use it to help you identify vintage china and other antique items, and also to price compare to see if you’re getting a good deal! Such a useful app!!

These are the exact steps I took to researching the history of my great grandmother’s china collection. I hope these tips are helpful to you! And I hope you enjoyed today’s post as I shared my love for collecting and identifying vintage china and antique dishes!! There are some pretty cool stories and hidden gems to uncover if you know what to look for! And in this case, the story was written out for me in the backstamps of my great grandmother’s hand-me-down china. Happy collecting y’all! Thanks for stopping by the blog today, and as always thank you so much for following along…

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2 Comments

  1. My mom’s recent interest seems to be antique fine china, so she’s currently looking for vintage dishes to add to her new collection. I appreciate you letting us know that vintage china often has backstamps on the pieces, so it’s best to check them first if you want to look for more information about them. I’ll keep this in mind while I help my mom find a trusted seller for vintage collectible dishes.

    1. Good luck on your hunt! The backstamps really do have so much info!! 🙂 I’m glad this post was helpful!

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