BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BUYING ANTIQUE Porcelain & Bronze ON EBAY: Primarily, when buying an antique on eBay you should have done enough research to know what it is you are buying. Ebay can be a minefield for the inexperienced collector (and also many a seller!).
Many sites advertise themselves as antique sellers but the only thing that is antique about them is their knowledge of the 'tricks in a book' - very much old hands at deception!! They will mislead buyers, sometimes outrageously with claims that their item is eg. Victorian when clearly it was made within the last year! Others choose their words more carefully such as ' bought from a collector of 18th & 19th Century artifacts'. This DOES not mean that your item is 18th or 19th century!! Highly likely not!!
However, these sellers are now making audacious claims that their fake/repro items ARE actually 18th/19th century even though they know otherwise. This is because people are wising up to the misleading description fraud. If you buy an item listed as such & you have your doubts go & get second opinions from several auction houses & challenge your purchase. Another way they choose to mislead buyers is to list the item such as say eg. 'Meissen Vase' - then go on to describe it as Meissen style within the listing. In many cases these modern reproduction/fakes are quite decorative but fundamentally worthless as an investment.
These worthless, poor quality items are bought online from eastern based companies where people are often illegally forced to work by criminal gangs & paid paltry wages to produce these items. They cost very little to make & ship over to the UK, usually through ports such as Felixstowe in the South East or Portsmouth, in Hampshire. Usually sold on the docks in job lots for barely no more than the cost of a pint & packet of peanuts each...then passed off to mugs on eBay for hundreds..don't be one!!
How do you spot a fake/reproduction ceramic item? Generally this is quite easy with experience. However, on eBay even the experienced eye can be deceived. A good feedback score or flash eBay site does not always mean a reputable or honest seller. A lot of buyers were terrified of receiving a negative feedback so tended to bury their heads in the sand & not question fake/reproduction products sold as otherwise. Do not worry about negative feedback - eBay's new rules stop sellers using the negative feedback route as a 'threat' to disuade genuine buyers from challenging unwelcome purchases - stand your ground & ask for a refund if the goods are fake/repro & sold as otherwise. Don't worry about feeling follish either - anyone can make a mistake & be lulled into buying disreputable goods.
If you have researched your item you wish to purchase you will be armed with some ammunition to fire at your seller. If you were buying a Meissen Figure/Vase eg. the blue cross swords mark should be UNDER the glaze & mostly drawn fluently by hand, often with impressed pattern numbers. Beware of the short neat crossed swords on top of the glaze as these items are brand new fakes/reproduction & have low depreciative decorative value only & no where near the quality of 18th/19th century Meissen. The same can be said for alot of the Continental ceramics - underglaze markings. However, most genuine Sevres items have overglaze marks thus you need to be aware.
A) B) C)
Di) Dii) E)
A) A pseudo Meissen mark found on fake/repro imported from East. (Top of glaze transfer.)
B) A fake top of glaze transfer mark often described as a 'Sevres' mark.
C) A real Meissen mark - c.1920.
Di) 'New wave' fake Meissen crossed swords mark from 2007, slightly irregular hand drawn & under glaze...getting more convincing to untrained eye - BEWARE - often used with an impressed letter "M" (Meissen didn't even use an impressed "M"!!) Can be found sold on pieces listed as "Continental porcelain with crossed swords mark" which unfortunately gets around eBays strict counterfeit rules. Being also brazenly sold as Meissen by some unscruplous eBay sellers. Watch out for pieces on ormulo bases - ask your self why they are not attracting lots of bids as would be worth thousands. Trust your instincts!!
The new swords mark is not fluent. They meet/cross at wrong point, rarely have any curve normally associated with mid 19thC items, are of wrong colour blue & above all are on items that are simply light years from the quality of genuine Meissen.
Dii) The fake item from which it was attached to on eBay - look at the flowers in the basket - all moulded from one piece as opposed the individual leaves/petals associated with the skilled masters at Meissen. Funny, a "150 year old" piece in mint condition too!! Remarkable !!
E) One of the latest marks with unscruplous sellers claiming to be Meissen. Often worded 'i am not sure how old it is' - I can tell you, c.2008 !! Just more modern worthless repro rubbish - total fake.
F) Another popular recently used fake mark 'R with crossed swords' passed off as Meissen mainly but also Rouen & Sevres (I think it stands for RUBBISH??). These sellers use the same/similar formats to sell....usually multiple eBay sites from the same seller & word their lingo like '19thC. German Meissen style', 'of Meissen design' or 'we are not porcelain experts but we think this is Meissen, make your own minds up' - don't fall for this line - they are fully aware of the junk they are trying to pass on to rip you off. DO NOT BUY this worthless cheap & nasty junk !! The less we see of it the better!!
Buying a Period Bronze/Spelter figure on eBay? Well think again - these are very rarely sold on eBay! More importantly period bronzes sell for very large sums - often many thousands. If you can buy a good Victorian bronze on eBay for under a grand then ask yourself why? There are good quality Bronze reproductions available at a fraction of the cost of the real thing...nothing wrong with them decoratively, but they hold no appreciative value. However, some eBayers deliberately mislead buyers with their descriptions of their bronzes such as...'bought from a collector of 18th & 19th century bronzes'...is the normal tone...pity they don't also add to their description...'oh by the way mate the one you are watching/bidding on is from China made in 2006 & was shipped in via Felixstowe last week for a tenner!!' It kind of wouldn't have the same ring to it I guess! Often these are very poor quality too (see examples below) so buyer beware. :o)
A) B) B.i)
A) A repro/fake 'Victorian' Staffordshire Bull terrier in 'Bronze' - dim. approx. 15" x 8" - yes - as you often see on eBay actually not bronze or Victorian made with steel, painted a bronze colour & very poor rough finish! Mine was made c.2006. These are still frequently sold on eBay & still passes off as 'vintage, Victorian or antique' - only have a use as a doorstop but at £100+ a rather expensive one!! Can be found at UK auctions for about £20-40.
B) Very poor repro/fake "bronze" Dancing Lady by DH Chiparus - "signed" - these appalling creatures are an insult to the master's who created the originals. Frequent visitors to eBay of varying quality, the worst being those shipped from the East, as my example above. The better quality & in fairness, rather impressive repro's can be bought from Germany for a couple of hundred pounds - real period ones would set you back several thousand pounds!!
B.i) Check out her features on the example I have given - her face looks like she's chewing a wasp! Incredibly poor quality! Again made from painted steel & brass - often sold as a period bronze. Both of these items are in effect worthless & only offer a modicum of decorative value. Now with added "French foundry marks" to try to make more convincing. Do not buy this appalling & worthless junk or anything of it's kind.
Recently eBay UK have finally reacted to pressure from sellers & buyers alike against those who peddled illegal & modern ivory products. They have removed certain sellers & have barred the sale of ivory without documentation such as valuation & declaration certificates. Personally, I feel they should take it a step further as these, often shoddy certificates are not worth the paper they are written on...let's face it, how hard is it to fashion a fancy letter of authentication on your own computer?
However, genuine sellers should be able to give you a contact number of their alleged reputable valuer & better still, a website to research the integrity of the certificate provider. I still see modern ivory being passed off as 'antique' on eBay, with certificates & my comments on here have even been the subject of ridicule by one aggressive & rude 'antique ivory' seller (I wonder why???). If you can buy genuine good quality decorative 'antique' ivory products on eBay for under £50 then start asking yourself questions. Period ivory sells for good money at auction so why only sell for, in effect, 'pennies' on eBay? Reason is that knowledgable & responsibile collectors steer well clear of this illegal trade as they can spot the difference immediately. If you buy a piece I suggest you take it to a dealer/auction house for a second/thrid opinion. If you are informed it is modern then please report the seller to eBay.
A few pointers to protect yourself would be: Ask questions - no answer then do not bid! Research your item - know what you are buying! Look at the sellers past & present items - spot any trends....sells the same/similar items all the time...possible repro/fake dealers. There is nothing too wrong with selling reproduction items as only a small percentage can afford the real thing, however, misrepresenting the item or passing it off as period is just not on. 'Good' quality repro items do have a place in the market as decorative goods, but unfortunately they are usually sold as period as in truth this is what most buyers want. Beware of sellers who make the listing private (hide bidder ID & item when it is won). Alot of fake & repro sellers on eBay use this tool much to their advantage, thus hiding the winning bidder so they cannot be informed by others that they have been ripped off/defrauded.
Try visiting your local antique auctions this is highly recommended - you can learn so much from others - seek their advice, most experienced dealers would be happy to help. Generally most antique sellers on eBay are selling genuine items - so enjoy your antique/collectable hunting on eBay !!