Tuesday, 23rd April 2019
Computers & The Internet Article
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This Month's Magazine

Caveat Emptor - or Buyer be aware!

We read that eBay is doing very well. I am too scared to buy any antique without handling it; there are obviously plenty who are not!

There are some major players in the Antique faking game!
I remember an influx of fake Scrimshaw in the '70s. These beautifully engraved whales' teeth turned out to be made by a Dutch dental mechanic using a type of cement that was practically identical to tooth ivory. After a bit everyone became paranoiac and the auction houses stopped selling all scrimshaw.
 
Ceramics are a very difficult area. The latest outbreak of fakes began in England last summer and has spread to the United States. As this involved Art Pottery, and I am currently undertaking a Valuation that includes one of those strange pieces by the Martin Brothers of Southall, I needed to see how this affected my research and did some more myself.

The forgers fake Martinware and other kinds of Victorian Art Pottery and distribute it in the United Kingdom and France. Copies of "signed" Martinware grotesque bird tobacco jars are turning up with the right size and feel, and are difficult to tell from authentic originals. In addition to outright fakes, there has been a run of pieces restored to "perfect" condition by attaching thin, clear plastic sheets to both sides and then repainting the piece. The new process does not fluoresce under a black light, the usual tell-tale sign of a restoration.
Staffordshire groups are also being faked and somewhere there is a man who uses old moulds, strikes them lightly to get some abrasion, buries them in a damp place in his backyard and leaves them there for two years before selling them as originals for thousands of pounds.
 
Chinese porcelain is another minefield, especially export wares from the Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911). This is how the scam goes: You are known as a buyer of Yuan porcelain and begin to hear about newly discovered excavation sites. If you show interest, you will be taken to a site and be given a broken but genuine Yuan piece to take away for testing. After you are satisfied with the results, you will be offered a high-quality copy at a top price, but one that is still lower than the market price in London, Hong Kong or New York City." The scam artist will tell you that he is the first to learn of the new site and that he must decide quickly because another customer is eager to buy the piece.


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In the USA there is report of an even more ingenious shipwreck scam. Here the potential buyer is taken to a shipwreck site where divers repeatedly surface carrying porcelain items. These turn out to be fakes made by placing new porcelain in a tank filled with salt water and sand which is kept agitated and rubs the porcelain surfaces. One day in the tank is equal to 100 years in the sea, so for 'Ming' porcelain they only need to spin the piece for five days. We must now approach all ceramics with suspicion at auctions, fairs and shops as many of these fakes are undoubtedly turning up at online auction sites this year.
 
Another area where fakes have run rampant is Queen Anne silver. These are so good that they cast doubt on the genuine pieces and the market has fallen away for any sales without good provenance. Excellent Fabergé fakes have been emerging from Israel for some years and esteemed makers such as Hester Bateman are also made there.
 
One Hester Bateman apostle spoon was recently sold on eBay; as Apostle Spoons were not made in the 18th century it stood out like a sore thumb!
I don't want to scare people off buying antiques. We all get stung occasionally and if you are caught please don't use the internet to pass them on again. Start you own collection of fakes and market it as just that! Since eBay has a "hands off" policy, you should e-mail the seller directly about problems of authenticity and condition.



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