This guide informs the eBay buyer of things to watch out for when considering buying an antique tea caddy.
There is a huge wealth of good or decent tea caddies available on eBay, but are you sure that the wooden caddy you're bidding on is "of the period" or not? After only a little practice, it is easy to spot modern reproductions in amongst the genuine. If you are bidding on a caddy that purports to be 200 years old, then as well as the caddy being
stylistically correct, it should have the "dirt of ages" - a build-up of dirt, dust and little defects like scratches and dings. The exterior veneer or marquetry inlay should have changed colour (and faded) over the years, due to an accumulation of sunlight and dirt/grease. The veneer or marquetry inlays used on the interior of the caddy are often remaining quite bright, but this is as expected (absense of sunlight) and serves as a useful contrast with the exterior. Pay attention to the interior of the caddy's compartments/tea boxes. You are looking for the original lead lining, that has now probably crumbled and flaked off in many places. Look at the base of the caddy - does it have the wear and tear expected with being 200 years old? Look at any part of the caddy that might have been replaced at some time like handles, hinges and feet. What you are looking for is signs of quality and age. Inspect the photos very carefully. If the caddy really is 200 years old then ask the seller to estimatre how thick the veneer covering it is. It should be 1 to 2mm thick - later veneering (e.g. in late Victorian times) was thinner, sometimes wafer-thin. Finally, beware of certain caddies that are often reproduced or faked. These especially include
fruit-shaped caddies and small caddies from around 1800. They look very new to the eye and break some or all of the rules mentioned above. Before you splash out, make sure you can spot fakes easily. Also beware of the genuine but refinished caddy. These caddies have been "restored" until they are as shiny as a new penny. Many collectors will not touch these, as they consider them to be ruined. This practice is prevalent in the American market. Some sellers sell a mixture of fakes and over-restored originals whilst maintaining a 100% feedback record!
Train yourself. It can be done. That being said, I have successfully bought several genuine antique tea caddies and boxes from eBay over the past few years.
Disclaimer: The author wishes to remind everyone that this guide is
not the last word in buying tea caddies. It is very important that anyone bidding on an eBay item does
their own research and makes
their own judgements.
The Genuine, Wooden 200 year-old Tea Caddy
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2 December 2006
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