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Starting a collection: experts advise you to follow your eye, do your own research

If you would like to begin to collect either porcelain or pottery, where or how do you start? Experts agree on these points: Follow your eye. The most important thing, initially, is to go with what you are most attracted to, pieces for which you have a real feeling. Never buy for investment value alone. If you purchase what you like, it is still quite likely to accrue in value.

Look for pieces that are in perfect or very good condition. Saving up to buy one perfect piece is far better than buying several slightly damaged or damaged-and-repaired pieces.

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Buy, preferably, from a reputable dealer so that you will be assured that what you select is genuine. If you don't have much money to begin with, let the dealer know so he can introduce you to collecting areas where the quality is high but the price still modest.

Buy pieces that you plan to live with and enjoy, not lock away behind doors. Fine porcelain and pottery are both functional and beautiful.

The luster of fine porcelain can brighten otherwise dull rooms. ''A room without porcelain is like a room without flowers or plants,'' said one expert interviewed at London's International Ceramics Fair.

Once you have acquired a piece or two and asked the dealer for all the information he or she can give you, begin your own reading and research. The more you learn about what you own, the more you will enjoy it, and the more knowledgeable you will be when you are looking for other pieces in the future, or selling ones you have acquired.

If your taste changes after a while, don't be afraid to sell and take a new course.

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