Why should you start collecting these pieces? Because they have timeless style. Consider this your guide to buying the best.

Laurey W. Glenn

Visit any antiques store or flea market, and you'll see an array of transferware. Here's the skinny: A new printing process began in the 1700s in England. A pattern was etched onto a metal plate, inked onto a special tissue, and then applied to a ceramic item, which was glazed and fired. The pieces became less costly alternatives to painted ceramics. Today items range from $45 for a plate to thousands for a platter with intricate details, but they're some of our favorite collectibles. Accent your home with a few pieces.

Is It Legit?
If you purchase transferware from antiques dealers, they've likely done research as to how old pieces are. But you can be a pro too. Flip an item over to see if it was registered under the English system (similar to our copyright system). Imprinted, stamped, or painted marks reveal when a piece was registered, not made. Visit www.thepotteries.org for specifics on dates and examples to help narrow the time frame during which a piece was registered.

Best Bets for Shopping

"Decorating Step-by-Step: Terrific Transferware" is from the February 2007 issue of Southern Living.