During the last few years a number of fellow Ebayers asked that I write something about selling and buying Asian porcelains on Ebay.
How do you tell a fake from an original? Is the most asked question.
Knowing this requires more space than you could possibly write here in less than a month. In my own library are no less than 400 books on just Chinese ceramics and most of them deal only with objects made since the Sung period. The volumes on Japanese porcelains are also numerous [I don't know how many]. So giving a good guide on how to tell the difference would only confuse and mislead. Plus piles of auction catalogs.
Explaining glazes, pastes, colors, shapes, the execution of marks and much more just isn't possible without writing a few books and enough of them already exist.
So here are a few basic rules for spotting a fake listing right off the bat on Ebay and elsewhere.
- Any Porcelains being sold on Ebay USA and are located in China i.e. Hong Kong, Shanghai etc. purporting to be Imperial, Ming, Sung, Tang, Jin, Yuan or just older than 120 years has a 99.9 percent chance of being a total Fake, period. This includes Buy It Now listings as well. Please don't Email me telling me how you bought a pair of Qianlong mark and period 16 inch Famille Rose vases for $300 from a reputable dealer in China on Ebay, they are brand new, very convincing and enjoy them for what they are just decorations.
- 99 Percent of all porcelains on Ebay with Kangxi, Yung Cheng and Qianlong marks are late 19th C. or 20th C. and not of the period indicated by the mark. Or just ouright fakes.
- Ebay is flooded with NEW.. brand new copies of Chinese Imprial porcelains being sold as originals, I can assure you they are not.
- If a Chinese porcelain listing on Ebay or Ebay Live is for a Marked piece; for example having a Yung Cheng mark and does not clearly say Mark And Of The Period, its not period. Before bidding always ask if they are certain it is period and what the return policy is. Saying it has such and such a Mark means nothing.
- A new twist has been recently started on Ebay and elsewhere, brand new pieces are being sold as Republic Period circa 1915. they often have Qianlong marks in particular and a mountain of fake late 19thC. mark and period examples are also turning up also. BE CAREFULL!!
- For all Ebay Live auctions ALWAYS get a written condition report and ask for more photos. They rarely include them in the listings and the photo quality is often very limited and much too small.
- If any listing doesn't mention condition ASK before you bid.
- Certificates of Authenticity, these are often mentioned in listings, they can be printed by anyone and are not worth ANYTHING, top dealers do not provide these.
- A while ago a few dealers were listing very rare examples at absurdly low prices. The line being given was, they are trying to build a business on Ebay and are selling pieces at bargan prices to get to know people and to build a customer base. If you run across these listings, RUN for your life, no matter how good they look. I can assure you no one wants a customer so badly he would sell you a $350,000 bowl for $99.00 plus shipping.
- Dealers in China know what this stuff is worth...trust me, THEY know, so the likelyhood of them selling inventory here at a discount is ZERO.
- If a listing states that a Museum Appraised it...this is a lie. No reptable Museum EVER assigns values to objects. They are forbidden to do so.
- Many of the Ebay Live auctions contain dozens of fakes as well, even from well known auction houses. Pay very close attention to what their listings don't say.
- Fakes are also being imported and listed here in the states, so watch out for them as well.
- LASTLY...Check the Seller's Feedback and AGE of the account. If the Feedback is ALL Private, run for your life. These are "Generated Feedbacks" done between pools of crooks on eBay in 99% of the cases. If the account is recently opened and has hundreds of Feedbacks watch out and if they are all Private, you're dealing with a Scam.
Note: Many fine quality Asian dealers DO buy fine quality porcelains off Ebay US and Europe to supply a rapidly growing market in China. If you want to have some fun, figure out who a few of them are and check what they are bidding on here in the States and in Europe. Several I know of sell repros and buy period pieces to sell in the Asian market.
After saying all this and you're still serious about buying and collecting Asian ceramics, do your homework. The US is filled with fine Museums with amazing Asian collections. The MFA Boston, The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA; The Metropolitan Museum, New York, The Cincinatti Art Museum and so on...The Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian has a fabulous collection and much of it is online.
Check localy for a Ceramics Club, subscribe to Arts of Asia or Orientations and make an effort to visit well known dealers whenever you can. To buy these you must handle them to learn them, nothing replaces touching. Visit Paragon Books and check out thier inventory of great books.
If this information has been helpful and maybe even kept you or a friend from buying a mistake I would appreciate a YES vote for this guide.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by.
Ebay is a great place to do business and knowing what you're doing can make it better for all of us.
Good luck to you, Sincerely, Peter Combs, plcombs
For more information on the making of Fakes in China, go to You Tube and Type in "Faking China Part 1" , "Faking China Part 2", "Faking China Part 3"