Buying Chinese porcelain and Chinese art in general these days is a tricky endeavor on several levels. All of them are of course tied to the issue of authentication and dating of objects as well as knowing the differences between common pieces and rarities. Put simply, it all falls under three basic categories.
This Chinese Porcelain Plate Looks Great Right?..It's A Great FAKE and Worth Nothing.
A brand new copy of a Ming-style Yongzheng era Mark and Period plate, it is a convincing fake.
Three Basics Of Collecting; Buying Chinese Porcelain
- Detecting FAKES and COPIES At the top level is avoiding the literally millions of fakes and copies being pushed across the world through a variety of dishonest outlets. Ranging from corrupt auction houses, dishonest dealers and bogus websites all stocked with goods shipped from China by the container load every week. It is a huge business, and a business of deception.
- Determining Age of Old Objects. Once you've managed to avoid the fakes, you then need to know enough to discern whether or not an item is of the age or type it is being offered as. Which can be as difficult at times as spotting a modern copy.
- Determining Quality. "not all antiques are created equally." Determining the quality of an object in comparison to other objects of the same type and period is a skill that comes mostly with time, but is very important for those wanting to build an interesting collection. Doing this well, is key to separating the proverbial "wheat from the chaff."
Buying Chinese Porcelain , Art and Antiques, Where to Start
If you're fairly new at buying Chinese porcelain and antiques, meaning you've been at it for less than five years of study and haven't yet handled thousands of objects. I say "HANDLED" as opposed to seeing, there is a BIG difference. Seeing is not the same as touching, your tactile memory is a powerful tool when it comes to objects. So until you've done all of this, learn to sit on your wallet, take a breath, be patient and get verification.
Especially if you are not absolutely certain of the object and reputation of the dealer or auctioneer selling it. Most seem nice, some have very impressive auction rooms and they are very often crooks. Conmen are always very personable and convincing, how else can they succeed at doing what they are doing? If this sounds harsh, it's not, it is reality unfortunately.
The number of auction houses in the entire world who have a very good strong understanding of Chinese art and most importantly are 100% honest about what they sell is we believe fewer than a couple dozen. 7 are in the USA.
In the US, in our opinion only 7 fall under the category of being very knowledgeable and are honest in their representations.
Seven Auction Houses In The US You Can Rely On, The Good Guys!
One is an online auction house known as "I-Gavel" founded years ago by long time Sotheby's expert Lark Mason. The others are the three major auction houses; Christie's, Bonhams and Sotheby's. Then you have Doyle NYC, Freeman Auctioneers, and the Heritage Auctions based in Texas. Heritage Auctioneers is fairly new to the Asian Art auction business, but have spent the time and money to put on staff experts with deep experience.
There is no Santa Claus for non-experts in any of the art world.
The rest of the auction houses either sell only fakes, or a mix of authentic and copies and do not clearly state in their descriptions which are copies and which are not. It's often all left rather vague on both authentic things and copies. The rest are sellers of all or nearly all fakes only, or 90% fakes. They often describe all objects as being authentic, but are estimated at bargain basement prices. The combinations of chicanery is nearly endless.
Rule # 1. Crazy low estimates on rare looking objects in Asian Art auctions, means it's a fake 99.999% of the time. Auctioneers have access to auction prices on the web too, they can't feign ignorance about it any more. So they are either lying about the object or about what they know about values. Either way, you should run for your life.
So, How To Collect and Learn and Not Lose Your Shirt?
A Few Resources You Should Focus On: The Basics
Until you really get on your feet and truly know what it is you're doing, information is out there that can serve as your "Training Wheels."
- Buy safely, patronize the the SEVEN companies discussed above. In doing so, you'll accomplish a few things. You'll end up with authentic items and you'll be able to learn first hand from handling them and seeing what authentic items should look and feel like. You're also dealing with folks who know their stuff and will be happy to discuss objects of interest to help you learn much more than you probably know. Optimally you should attend auction Previews in person when possible, you can learn ten times more quickly and make relationships with educated specialists.
- Bidamount.com, Check our weekly auctions on our News Letter Page, we've already looked a them for you.
- Get to know highly reputable dealers. Long term dealer specialists see more in a month, than the typical collector and generalist dealer sees in years. Typically, they love what they do more than almost anything and will be fonts of priceless information. You may also find you get better prices from dealers fairly often than at auction. Many of the greatest collections ever created came in the majority from great dealers.
- Museums, if one is nearby visit it often and consider very seriously joining it. Once a member, always take the time to attend lectures, "hands-on" days where they allow members to join their experts to study and learn. In other words participate in as many events and offerings they provide as possible.
- Reliable Internet Resources, build a list and book-mark them. There are many good informational resources upon which you can rely.
- BOOKS! A few words about books are also important to add here. Get ones that are very specific! Start building a GOOD solid library. Do NOT buy Generalist types of books with vague broad titles that try to encompass the entire field or all of the objects within one category. Do focus on books focussing specifically on certain eras and periods and by type. Books can represent a significant investment of time and money, so buy selectively.
- Our YouTube Channel. Over 300 fairly lengthy looks at past auctions, identifying objects, Museum collection tours online and the occasional look at auctions of fakes being sold by folks we think are beneath contempt. (Check the link on the right side column.)
Bidamount.com Our Approach: How This Site Works And Serves The Collecting Community
Helping Seasoned Pros And New Collectors
Bidamount.com is an informational site. With its own extensive content as well as slews of links to other reliable resources. On Bidamount, we also share objects being sold that have been vetted by us one by one. You can just decide if you like it and want to buy it.
We believe buying Chinese porcelain and Asian art in general should be easy and stress free.
Lots Of Free Content & Information
- Weekly News Letter of active auction listings.
- Hundreds of FREE online auction catalogs & books.
- Weekly YouTube Videos
- Help with valuing and identifying objects you own or are considering buying.
- A FORUM to exchange and share objects and get opinions and me others.
- Museum collections links .
- Auction results
- and much more.
Start on our HOME page, check the drop down BOX section for links to everything. Simple and EASY.
For advanced users. We have pages of almost FREE additional content.
The Bidamount Global Auction Member Pages
Hand selected listings from the six most important auction sources on the web.
Updated every fews days as things sell and appear.
We say almost free, as we charge a modest Fee of $4 a month to cover the costs for this section of the site. We kept it down to 13 cents a day. TO learn MORE CLICK HERE
- Independent Pages For Each Of the Major Auction Platforms, featuring hundreds of good to fabulous hand selected listings.
- CONTENT: Including Chinese porcelain and pottery, bronzes, jades, paintings, scholars objects, rugs, carpets and silks. Japanese and Korean objects from every category and occasionally Middle Eastern Asian influenced art.
- Auction Results, hundreds of completed auction items and what they realized linked to where and who sold them.
- FAKES: Post auction images of NOTORIOUS Fakes and Copies Sold At Auction.
- Auctioneer REPORT CARD. A sortable and searchable list of over 300 auction houses and how we rate them on an "A" through "F" grade system, with comments by us on each company. A handy quick reference before spending a dime.
A Few Words About eBay, Liveauctioneers, invaluable and Bidsquare?
These four auction platforms are just that, they are platforms only and have no control over the content placed on their sites. Basically they are like a big shopping malls, with many stores paying rent and selling what they want. The "Mall Management" has no say over whats being sold unless it's dangerous and/or poses a threat of physical harm. They have no experts to vet or authenticate what is being sold.
They are well run, use good technology and are great venues for those who know exactly what they are doing.
In closing it's not all doom and gloom, the information and advice you need is out there. You can still buy and not risk being taken by applying common sense, taking advantage of available resources and most importantly taking your time.