Named for the colorful patterns printed on cotton fabric produced in India in the late 17th century, the chintz china pieces most often purchased by dedicated collectors these days were made from the 1920s through the late 1960s. The earlier patterns often featured larger flowers, while the later designs were more decidedly more intricate with smaller florals.
But in collecting jargon, chintz is a generic term that refers to the china of many different manufacturers and a long list of patterns: Florence, Blue Chintz, English Roses, Sweet Pea and Welbeck, among many others. Some of the most recognizable factory marks are Royal Winton, James Kent, Crown Ducal and Lord Nelson.
All the companies associated with these marks made sets of earthenware dishes that were originally sold inexpensively for everyday use. Collectors are also seeking chintz bone china patterns made by Shelley these days.
Identifying True Chintz
One advantage to collecting chintz is that most pieces are marked on the bottom with the manufacturer’s mark along with the pattern name. This makes it easier for dealers and collectors to identify, research what they have, and look up prices for their china treasures. Many vintage chintz pieces also show some signs of aging such as slight discoloration or crazing in the surface glaze.
It’s wise to keep in mind, as with most antiques that rise to formidable price levels, chintz has been reproduced to some extent. You might remember seeing reproduction Welbeck by Royal Winton for sale in Victoria magazine (recently back in print and once again on newsstands) a number of years ago. These items were wisely dated “1995” so collectors won’t confuse old with new.
However, Schroeder’s Antiques Price Guide (now out of print) reported that some Shelley patterns have been reproduced as well. These pieces aren’t dated and it takes a little more finesse to decide whether the marks are vintage or more recent. Take care not to pay "old" prices for newer issues.
There are also new cake sets and other inexpensive dinnerware sets mimicking older chintz patterns showing up at discount retail outlets. These wares usually filter into flea markets and antique malls eventually, so be sure you know your stuff before paying an inexperienced dealer a high price for something relatively new.
Paying for a Collection
As collectors of chintz will tell you, its eye-catching and colorful nature adds immense cheer to a home, but don’t expect to find it for a song anymore. That is unless you’re willing to settle for some of those discount store imitations. Keep an eye out for them at your favorite thrift store.
While you can locate a few assorted pieces of true English chintz, mostly smaller plates, for around $50 each, most vintage chintz items sell for well over $100 per piece these days. Some hard to find items such as certain teapots and breakfast sets in very popular patterns sell for thousands now when marketed by a knowledgeable dealer or upscale auction house.
Collecting a set of the reproduction Welbeck mentioned above won’t be quite as costly, but it’s certainly not dirt cheap. Even still, it serves as a viable alternative if you fall in love with chintz in spite of the budgetary limits many fans face.
Learning More About Chintz
Schroeder’s recommends Charlton Book of Chintz by Susan Scott as a good reference on this topic. Scott has written several volumes devoted exclusively to lovely chintz china and any one of them would be a good point of departure for learning.
There are other reference guides focusing on particular makers such as Royal Winton and Shelley available through major online book retailers and used booksellers (some are now out of print) as well. If you decide to specialize in searching for pieces made by one or the other of these popular manufacturers, specialized guides will definitely come in handy.