Q: Here are photos of three plates. They are Gorham plates, thick and heavy. Not sure what the mark is but plates are numbered 225, 4282, and 2590 respectively.

A: Collector plates are not a subject we like to address because most of them are hard to sell and worth very little money compared with what was paid for them.

We have both done our share of estates and on more occasions than we care to remember we have walked in and found hundreds of items bought as investments, and we know that after 40 or 50 years, it is often hard — if not impossible — to recover the money.

Yes, we think many of the items are cute, even attractive, but in many instances there are far more out there for sale than there are customers to buy them. Often at the end of an estate sale, the collector's plates are still unsold and waiting for someone to take them home. They can be the sad waifs of the collecting world.

We know collector sites offer these for sale at rather large prices, but if you go to more realistic outlets such as eBay, it turns out most collector plates can be bought quite cheaply if you are willing to do a little searching. The three plates in today's question are from the Gorham Corporation's series from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Co. collection.

The first plate in this grouping was Navajo Silversmith, issued in 1977. You have the second 1978 edition of the Turquoise Bead Maker, the third edition of the Basket Maker (1979) and the fourth edition of the Arrow Maker (1980). Each of the editions consisted of 7,500 plates, and that is a lot of plates.

When Gorham is mentioned we automatically think of fine American silver produced by a company that began operations in Providence, R.I., in 1831. But in 1967, the distinguished firm was purchased by Textron. From 1970 to 1984 as a division of Textron, Gorham made china in Pasadena, Calif., in the old Flintridge China Co. factory. They ceased making china there in 1984 and began importing from Japan.

The three collector plates in today's question initially came packaged in nice boxes with packing and paperwork, and it is always a plus when the incidental material stays with the plates. The three plates were all decorated with images taken from the work of E. Irving Couse (1866-1936), who was well known for his paintings of Southwestern Native Americans.

If we check retail sites, we find the plates are generally listed from the high $30 range to the mid-$40 range each, but more competitive sites such as eBay say they can be bought for as low as $6.95 for the Turquoise Bead Maker, $18 for the Basket Maker and $17.50 for the Arrow Maker.

Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Av., Knoxville, TN 37917, or e-mail them at treasuresknology.net. If you'd like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.