Saturday, April 2, 2011

Too much of a good thing

A couple of weeks ago, Avram and I had an amazing shopping day. We bought, over the course of the day at the restore and the Goodwill, two chairs ($11 total), A desk for Avram (composed of a closet door ($5) resting on three filing cabinets ($18)), 10 record albums ($5), and a 3X5 New Zealand Wool rug ($15).

Also on the same day, I found a china set at the Goodwill. It was an epic trip at the Goodwill. We had already been to the ReStore (Habitat for Humanity - it sells used architectural elements from houses, mainly), and we didn't want to bore the girls with what was going to be a quick trip in and out. So Avram ran inside to check to see if they had any filing cabinets or chairs. A while later he came out, without those items, but with 10 records - and good ones too. He told me about three filing cabinets he had seen, so I went in to look at them - I like them and their prices, and decided to get them.

Me being myself in a thrift store, I couldn't resist just looking around for a moment or two, and saw six padded bags for china, each one labeled with a "set for $14.99." I checked inside, and being that it was nice china, and a large set, I immediately began hovering - the official process known as standing close to an item, looking proprietary, while trying to gain the attention of a goodwill employee. I knew that $14.99 for an almost complete set of china was too good to be true - so I figured it was actually $14.99 for each quilted covering, or about $90 for the whole collection. This set included six dinner plates, eight salad plates, eight bread and butter plates, eight tea cups and eight saucers, a serving bowl, and a teapot, all matching. Here is the link to see it, but I'm warning you, it will give away the later part of the post, so don't go there yet.

I finally waived down an employee, amidst darting up to ten feet away from the shelf of beautiful goods, frantically searching for a person in a blue vest, and then coming back to ensure no one was taking the opportunity to encroach on my find. The employee confirmed to my dumbfounded senses, that yes, it was the whole set, all six bags, for $14.99 - she had been there when they set the price. The same employee helped me over to the checkout (remember, I also had a cart full of three filing cabinets - two riding inside, while one precariously balanced on top). I didn't know if this employee was correct, despite having been there for the pricing, but there was no way I was going to let this opportunity for real china to get in my way. The cashier was surprised at the price being so low, but I quoted the helpful employee, and I booked it out of there, running (or walking carefully) away with my loot. I felt a small smidgen of what Butch Cassidy or Mal from Firefly must have felt when successfully completing a job - elation at having robbed a train, or held up a bank - or running away with a boatload of china. Not that I see either man going in for china, but regardless....

Fast forward to the next day (although you should know, Avram went back into the Goodwill after me, to buy a Princess Tiana little doll with stretchy plastic clothes for Elisheva for her birthday coming up, and then that night when I went to pick up the filing cabinets, I bought a $1 chair. That's right, four separate purchases at the Goodwill in one day.), when Avram and I looked up our new china online, to see what it was worth. Originally we thought it was another kind, but tonight I confirmed its' actual pattern - Corona, designed by Raymond Loewy for Rosenthal/Continental. Now you can go and look at my link (isn't it nice and timeless and classy?) Also, if you haven't goggled at it already, notice the price of these things - $34.99 for each plate! (And I own as many as they have in stock!)

I can't even add up the worth of what I have, because I own more than they do in most of the areas. But if I were to buy this pattern, it would cost me somewhere around $706, and that's not counting the serving bowl or teapot, neither of which they have currently, so I can't find a price on. And every piece I've looked at has no discernible markings or wear.

What do I do?

You need to know something about me. Avram and I started our marriage with eight dinner plates. As of a year ago, we were down to two -the other six had all been broken, in less than four years of use (this doesn't add up to our time married, but we didn't use them for a year and a half while living in Virginia and England). Last year I bought Corelle. We all have been much happier, since none have broken. Also, I would love to own fine china - to display it, sure, but really to use it, to pull out for birthdays and holidays, and even Sunday dinners.

Ever since I found out how much this China is worth, I feel frozen. I haven't used one piece, and tonight is the first time I've looked at it, since the day after I bought it - I put it downstairs in storage. I'm scared I'll break a plate by looking at it wrong. Ever heard of Jimmy Carter? He was viewed as an inept president - all politics aside, he was the first Left Handed President, and everything was set up for a right handed president - and he bumped into thing/fell a lot in public. Avram and I are both left handed, as is Lydia, and I don't know if it's attributable to that or not, but we're all klutzes. On the other hand, I don't think I could ever actually buy a nice china set on my own - at least, not one that I practically stole from Goodwill. I don't know if you've picked this up yet in my post, but I like being thrifty, and considering there was no way I was going to pay $90 for this much china, and even hesitated a bit over the $14.99 price, I could ever bring myself to afford any nicer pattern than upscale Corelle, or maybe a Walmart brand. I sob into my pillow just thinking about the lameness of my china future if I sold this set.

Because you must know, Replacement ltd, the sight I've linked to, buys china. If I email them with specifics, they'll send me an estimate (which will be confirmed once your china arrives at their warehouse). I have nothing to lose by finding out an estimate, and I suppose I'll probably get one, just to know. But at what point do I sell? For one thing, depending on demand and supply, their estimate won't be reflective of the worth of the value of my set. Writing this all out, I can give myself lots of advice; "Get the quote, it can't hurt. If it's enough, sell it. If not, enjoy it." After all, my monthly rent costs less than it would for me to buy from Replacement what I got at Goodwill. Even if they only gave half the worth, that's something.

But the real question is, at what point should I keep it? And if I keep this set, how to I ever convince myself to use it, and not just keep it on a shelf forever? And how do I not break it? Nothing in my house that we regularly use in the kitchen is worth this much. The Crystal stemware I own? From Goodwill. Our cups? All plastic. Plates? Corelle. Avram and I even registered at Walmart - I don't have delusions of grandeur. But I want to. And I want nice things. Someday I'd love a china cabinet. For a dining room. For a house. That I do not have. Right now I'm just a Grad student wife, who's supposed to be doing crazy things like washing out our plastic baggies to get maximum usage, or making a pound of ground beef stretch for a whole weeks worth of meals. Not that I've ever done these things, but I've thought of thinking of doing them, which counts for something. Is it thriftier to sell this set now, for badly needed money (for when Avram leaves me, but that's for another post), or to hold on to it, since I scored real china for so cheaply - and I do like the pattern.

Please, give me advice.


  1. So I was going to post a link to a youtube video showing someone using china dishes as clay pigeons and shooting them with a shotgun. They I was going to suggest that you do that with your dishes. That way, when you decided to not follow my advice, anything you decided to do would be better than that.

    However, to my great surprise, I discovered that there are no youtube videos showing people blowing up china dishes with shotguns. I can't believe it. Do you know how amazing that is? I seriously think that's what you ought to do with them. Posting a completely unique video on youtube is worth way more than $706!

  2. I think you should keep it. You got the deal of the decade on it, and I highly doubt you'll find another deal this good. Plus you never know when you will be in a financial potion to go out an buy a set of China, much less China as nice as what you got.

    Use it for special occasions, and when the girls go to bed early so you can have a special date night. You have to remind yourself to use it, we haven't used ours because I forget to pull it out, and out of habit reach for our plain white everyday dishes.

    Ignore Soren, he didn't know we had a set of China that we've never used until five minutes ago, and was promptly told not to get any ideas.

  3. I have a hard time using my nice kitchen pieces, too. I have an amazing knife set I got for my wedding that I didn't use for 8 years because I was afraid of ruining it. I finally convinced myself that it's wasting more money NOT using it than it was using it, because I kept going out and buying cheap knife sets that didn't last long when I had one that would last a lifetime, even if I used them.

    My china I got for even less than yours - a coworker gave it to me when she got divorced. At first I had the same mentality; I didn't want to use it so it wouldn't break. At last I convinced myself it was just a waste of space in my historically small kitchen cabinets and if I didn't use them, I would have to get rid of them since I couldn't justify the space. Since I didn't pay for it, what's the big deal if it gets broken? Someday, enough of these will break to warrant tossing the rest (replacements doesn't have my pattern) and then I'll be rich (or at least not poor) enough to buy myself a nice set.

    Hey, you asked for every niggling thought. That's what you get.

  4. I tried to find the pattern on the internet but there are too many. Where is your link? It is a great story. Whether you keep it or not depends on whether you think you will use it or not. You do like to entertain and the day may come that you are doing some "important" entertaining with Avram's work but maybe you'd feel pretentious. You have to judge.

  5. Sell 'em! Of course, I'm the opposite of sentimental and fancy; and I'm a minimalist to a fault. Get a bucket load of cash for something that you rarely use anyway! Sign me up! :)

  6. Maybe you could just sell some of it. I mean, when you do entertain with fancy china in the future- are you ever really going to use eight teacups and saucers?

  7. i say keep some and USE them if they break, well you are back you square one. maybe put the platter and a small set like for two away so when all the rest are broken and the kids are all grown you can put those ones in a china cabnet to look at and go "oh the beautiful dishes a scored all those years ago.....ahhh the memories". and hey you could do sorens idea and smash them all and use the smitherines to make your walls in the house you build some day all pretty like the temple. idk. in my oppinion the only way to waste them would be to hide them.

  8. I say keep it! I think you'd regret selling a beautiful set that you really loved, just for some quick cash. But on the other hand, I totally relate to your dilemma. We have only one plate left from our original wedding set, and have also made the painful leap to ugly Corelle. I always loved having special Sunday dishes growing up. You might be able to keep them safer, longer if you did that.

  9. I forgot to tell you -I think I saw your wedding dish set at Goodwill today. I didn't count up what was there. I thought about calling you, but I figured you have too much china to deal with already!

  10. I just happened upon this blog by clicking "next blog" and I read this post. Being a thrift-store maven myself, I would keep the set and hand it down to my kids. It's amazingly beautiful and timeless. And it would look stunning on a table for holidays.

    Maybe you can find a china hutch at the Goodwill to display them in? :)

  11. i hope i'm not too late but i vote to keep it also. use it on sundays or christmas, easter, etc. i have a nice set that i only use a few settings mixed with my regular dishes which means I get to enjoy them regularly, but when I set the table Alex and I get them but not the kids. It's always a risk, but life involves risk, and I feel like they are wasted if they spend my whole life in the cupboard.

  12. well.. i always wanted to have fancy dishes. but even though i am right handed i brake everything as well. BUT i think you should keep it. Its so "thora" to have fancy dishes. and you can use the cups and saucers to have a really fancy tea party with the girls! And you are totally the kind of person that would enjoy showing them off and having a cabinent int he dinning room for that purpose. I think you would regret it if you got rid of them. You love fancy things! This is your chance!!

    PS im really really really really ( really?????) cheap, i would sell them. :) well only if it was acutally a few hundred. but thats just me and im no fun and i only have boys that dont appreciate pretty things nore do they want to inherit them from me one day either

  13. Think of it as a $15 china set. (It is.) A lovely set to please you, your family and your guests. Enjoy it. Be thrilled that God has given you something lovely to brighten your meals. And don't cry over spilled milk or broken china. It's only a $15 set.

  14. I know I'm coming in really late in the game, and it may well already have been decided, but I had to give you my extremely expert opinion (expert because I've been thinking really hard about it through the entire 10 minutes I was reading your post and all the comments):

    I, like I think you are, am a little uncomfortable with having things so incredibly expensive/valuable in my care. I like nice china, I want nice china, but not so nice that it is about $100 for a single set.

    If I'm hearing you right, you really want nice, classy, timeless china and this fit the bill well enough for a reasonable price, right? It wasn't an intense emotional connection to these dishes in particular? If that is the case, I say get the estimate. Based on that, scour the internet or stores of the variety that have about the quality of china you really want and figure out how much you could get a set for of what you really want. If it is less than what you could sell the china you have for--SELL IT!!!!! Then set aside enough of what you made from it to buy the china you really want. And have a tidy sum to pocket for your trouble. This is a good plan. I usually hesitate to insist that my idea is the one best one that must be heeded, but I'm gunna do that this time--DO THIS.

    There is no reason to keep something that you don't really have a sentimental attachment to just because you already have it when giving it up means you could still get exactly what you want and some lots of money, too.

    And then once you get the china that you really do feel comfortable using but is nice enough to feel special about, you can use it freely for your Sunday dinners and smile to yourself knowing that it wasn't just a $15 set, it wasn't even free--you actually got paid to get this china, and that is an awesome story.

  15. And also--tell us (me) what you actually finally ended up doing!

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