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Ancient artefacts and antiquities: how to buy safely

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NB: This is a very old guide I wrote many years ago, in 2006,  so not all the observations  about eBay still strictly apply but all of the principles remain relevant.

eBay can be fun and interesting things can be found there but for the newcomer it can also be risky.
The majority of antiquity dealers are honest and knowledgeable but fraudulent selling of fakes and forgeries is very common on eBay.
In some sections the vast majority of things on offer are fakes!
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BEWARE of sellers with private auctions where the seller keeps the bidders'
IDs private. Private auctions can be used to conceal shill bidding (which artificially
inflates the final sale price) and to prevent buyers of misrepresented items from being notified of such. Being contacted by other eBay users is one way to avoid getting cheated, even though eBay discourages this by referring to it as "auction interference"

Not all private auctions are scams. Some legitimate sellers keep bidders' IDs private to avoid losing them as customers to lower-priced sellers or because they feel that their customers want their privacy protected

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BEWARE of sellers  who keep their feedback private.
A seller who makes his feedback private is trying to hide something.
The majority, though not all, the known sellers of fakes on eBay hide behind the private auction format. The reasons they give for running private auctions are mostly spurious and silly.

100% positive feedback record does not necessarily mean a seller is selling good pieces.
Knowledgeable collectors don't bid on the "things" offered by so many sellers who offer tourist souvenirs as antiquities and so they never get to leave feedback.

Feedback can be of some help.
Read both positive and negative feedbacks.
You can discount negatives when they appear to be retaliatory -- left in exchange for a negative feedback given to them.
You can glean useful information from positives when the information in them is negative. The person in this case is sending a message that he was dissatisfied with the transaction but doesn't want to get set up for a retaliatory negative feedback. Look at the neutral feedback too. Some people leave damning feedback in that category!

From my experience of eBay antiquities I say without reservation don't bid at all on private auctions or on sellers with private feedback

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BEWARE sellers who give estimates of age using the term "suggestive".

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There is reason to be suspicious of sellers who don't allow you to see what buyers have bought.
Positive feedback can be given by a novice collector who has been duped!
This is the least of the intrinsic perils of eBay as the items cannot be seen after a while anyway
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BEWARE of ambiguous descriptions.
Some sellers of fakes are good at writing descriptions. You think they are saying is that the piece is genuine when they have not said that at all!

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BEWARE sellers who say they have no access to radio carbon dating.

The seller whose listing text is shown below says:
All sales are final, We don't guarantee this items age as we don't have
Carbon Dating Abilities, And therefore we can not verify the exact age of
this PIECE. We ship from the land of pharaohs, Please try to save this
item's pictures on your hard disk because we will delete the pictures 3 days
after end of the auction.


This is simply stupid waffle. You cannot date stone or faience with radio carbon dating methods, it is only for organic materials.

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BEWARE of sellers of Egyptian things who claim to have contacts with "diggers in Lower Egypt" as one seller puts it.

It is seriously illegal to export antiquities from Egypt and what these people are selling are tourist trinkets.

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BEWARE of spurious certificates of authenticity.
Sellers of fakes often provide COAs!

There are several sellers on eBay offering the same type of fake certificate of authenticity.

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BEWARE  sellers who restrict their returns policy.
 It's usually good policy to not bid if the seller doesn't offer the option of returning it if you're not happy with it.
Check the seller's returns policy carefully.
 Is the length of time permitted long enough? Will the seller allow for an extension if you want to have the item looked at by an expert?

With ancient artefacts it's best to buy from a seller who offers a lifetime guarantee of authenticity.

 There are many fakes of ancient coins out there, and even experts occasionally get fooled. If you buy an antiquity and it's later condemned by several dealers you show it to informally, you should be able to return it and get your money back. you should not be expected to provide a letter from a museum ; such letters are not provided by museums!
If the seller doesn't specify a return policy, email and ask.

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 BEWARE  sellers who claim they're liquidating estates and that therefore all sales are final
They may be hiding something unpleasant behind their no-returns policy.

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BEWARE shill bidders.
These sellers have a  network of friends  who bid up the prices.

One of the biggest eBay powersellers in the antiquities section was thrown off eBay a few years ago for massive shill bidding fraud

BEWARE  false "no reserve" bargains.
These sellers have a  network of friends  who bid up the prices.
If it looks like a genuine no reserve piece is  going to go at a low price, they have a friend buy it.

That's what happened all the time with  this powerseller  mentioned above.

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BEWARE antiquities listed elsewhere than in the antiquities sections.

BEWARE of sellers who say they have no  idea what the thing is but a similar one went for a fortune at an auction somewhere.

BEWARE of about buying an expensive item from a seller with few feedbacks.

BEWARE of bad images/photographs
Photography can be used to show what a piece looks like or to deceive.
Online images  that are too dark or too small or too fuzzy  or badly  lit
This probably does not indicate that the seller lacks photography skills ; it is so easy to take good photos! This could be a way of trying to hide something.
 
BEWARE sellers who seem knowledgeable in their descriptions but cannot answer a simple question.
It's easy to copy and paste information!

BEWARE of it's too good to be true, it probably is!
This very much applies to online auctions. Deals can be had, but you need to be careful.

BEWARE three day auctions
Another common tactic among cheaters is running three-day auctions, long enough to snag someone but, in the minds of sellers, not too long so as to attract undue attention.

BEWARE of the product selection
 Look at the dealer's other auctions. If they are selling clearly fake items such as a "genuine rare" bird fossil for a 'Buy it Now' price of only $49 then you can be assured that the rest of his stuff is probably fake too.

 Good feedback is no guarantee for an honest seller.  Some buyers were willing victims, knowing that they bought junk, and others might not know they were defrauded.  Use Internet search engines and ask on off-eBay message boards if you are unsure about a seller.
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Join the information forum on this website: it is all about sellers of fakes.
ancientartifakes
You will find it by searching on google.

Join Yahoo Group ancientartifacts
This is  a group dedicated to the discussion of the authenticity of
artefacts for sale on eBay and elsewhere.  For further information and
discussion about eBay antiquities auctions, and dealer websites, join the
group at . There are over 3000 of us there now!

It’s a great shame that forgeries and fakes so much contaminate this otherwise absorbing pastime.
Research and read!
Go to museums.
Ask knowledgeable dealers questions. They are only too pleased to assist.
By all means contact me.
Bron.

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Go to my "me" page to link to my website and from there you can email me.

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