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Buying fake antiques - why people buy fakes

Buying fake antiques is all too easy. Chinese fake antiques are naturally abundant, here in the Far East, as there are lots of antique Chinese ceramics for sale everywhere, both online and in antique shops.

Most of these so-called antiques are really new or made-to-look-antique reproductions. Genuine antiques represent a very small percentage nowadays and buying fake antiques is much easier than buying authentic Chinese antiques.


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Introduction to Chinese Porcelain


Many buyers in the region are aware of the situation, but worrying is that many collectors in western countries are not. They trustingly are still buying fake antiques. Especially those just beginning to collect Chinese ceramics are vulnerable.

The trade of fake antiques is big business in China, and so is selling them overseas. But even for new collectors in China itself the buying of fake antiques is almost the norm. It is said that in China itself the majority of buyers buy fakes (reportedly up to 95%!!!).

As long as the Chinese government does not clamp down on fakers, the problem may likely not be resolved. And, at the moment it looks as if they condone or passively encourage such activities.

New collectors in the west are often not aware of the magnitude of the problem. Or, maybe, they prefer not to know?

Unfortunately, the Internet has given the antique forgers access to a huge market and direct access to large numbers of unknowing buyers with little knowledge of business in other countries. And they sell and sell, and the naive western buyers (sorry!) buy and buy, thinking they get "real" antiques directly from China.
Sites like Ebay are notorious for having fakes on offer. Sometimes they are so obvious, that those in the know can only shake their head. And they sell lots of them, apparently - because novice western antique buyers are not on guard. Buying fake antiques is not a possibility in the buyer's mind, in the first place.

A combination of factors like the impossibility of seeing the actual item before the purchase or bidding, the difficulty of discerning between real antiques and fakes, ignorance in view to certain sharp selling practices, as well as the generally trusting attitude with which western buyers act, trusting the seller ls if he/she were a local dealer, these factors all contribute to the problem and are one of the main causes that many become victims of these very business practices.
Don't miss to read this, especially the bottom paragraph.


Fake Chinese porcelain is everywhere
Online antique auctions, Ebay, smaller online shops...they all have lots of these for sale. Just search for sellers from China on Ebay and you can see large quantities of reproduction antiques (my apology to the very few honest Ebay sellers based in China!).
Be on guard. They sometimes sell from accounts in third countries too, and some provide false certificates with their ceramics. Almost all authenticity certificates from China are fakes (I say 'almost', but I personally I think all are). All this to make the naïve western buyers more comfortable and trust them!
A number of western sellers is offering recycled fake antiques too. 'Recycled' means fake antiques that changed hands, and of which a subsequent seller/owner believes - or prefers to believe - that they are genuine.

Read also about the Fake Antique Trade in Asia.

Inexperienced western buyers are easy prey because they are not on guard against any such deception. From everyday life in their own place they know that most dealers have a sense of responsibility, and they go on buying fake antiques because they are not on guard.

After all, deception occurs much less frequently in the west. Chinese people on the other hand are more accustomed to sharp business practices, because they encounter them all the time in their daily life; they are always on guard.
This does not mean they are not subject to buying fake antiques or reproductions. They fall for these too, especially when they start out and their knowledge is still insufficient to distinguish the real thing from fakes.

They also may be buying fake antiques, but more often than not this is because they let down their guard in the desire to obtain that unique, rare antique against better judgement.

Collectors anywhere can just not depend on the integrity of dealers alone, when it comes to Chinese antiques.

As forging techniques of porcelain are changing and getting more advanced by integrating new methods all the time, fewer experts are able to recognize fake ceramics which are high-quality copies. Generally, most sellers are completely unable to know if such an item is a genuine or fake antique, but it appears they often 'prefer' to think that it is antique.
Insiders know that they mostly are not. Thus, on sale in shops are often items that are actually recycled antiques.

The difference between two worlds - what you have to know when buying antiques in or from China
In the West, a guarantee that an item is antique or old means it probably is (or that is at least what it used to be). The dealers/sellers in western countries know that legal implications and social responsibility that come with such a guarantee and they act more carefully.In Chinese society and some other Asian countries many people are accustomed to an old mindset that once an item is sold, the seller needs not answer for his guarantee anymore. If the buyer later detects that it is a fake, the dealer shrugs this off and denies any responsibility.

Dealers in such places will often try to find out first how much you know about antiques. The items you are shown will be fake or genuine accordingly. At the very least, if you are not sure, you must ask for confirmation. Buying fakes antiques is still possible at this point. The seller may take some 'good' item from a cupboard or other hidden place, telling you that you apparently know your stuff. Careful, this may still be another fake. Buying fake antiques is much easier than buying an authentic quality antique. You are not off the hook yet. This is just another method testing the potential buyer's knowledge. Sellers in China itself may use even more brazen selling tactics.

Please be careful if a dealer let's you 'decide yourself'. Often that means that an item is fake, the dealer know ist, but doesn't want to confirm or deny it. He/she wants to avoid the responsibility for selling you a fake!

Part of the problem is that buyers in the region have an attitude of shrugging off their loss. Seldom do they demand a refund or take legal action, unless a very large sum is involved. Although, attitudes are changing slowly, at least in some areas, it still will take considerable time until this stops.


Summarizing the problem...
Do you see the difference between the attitudes?
The western buyer bases his purchase at least in part on trust. He believes the seller more easily than a Chinese person does. The Chinese people, both the dealers and the buyers, on the other hand, often do not see the selling/purchasing as a trust relationship, it is mainly a commercial act that is complete when the goods and money change hands.

So here is an answer to the question why people do buy fake antiques!
If the buyer purchases from a seller with a trusting attitude, but the seller does not care about a trust relationship, then the buyer is likely to get a fake!
It is so simple as that. That is also why Ebay and other auction venues online are so flooded with fake antiques today. You cannot get back at the seller later, mostly. And companies like Ebay shy away from their social responsibility. They want the fees, not the trouble of going after fakes! The sellers of fakes get away with it…



So here is an answer to the question why people do buy fake antiques!
If the buyer purchases from a seller with a trusting attitude, but the seller does not care about a trust relationship, then the buyer is likely to get a fake!
It is so simple as that. That is also why Ebay and other auction venues online are so flooded with fake antiques today. You cannot get back at the seller later, mostly. And companies like Ebay shy away from their social responsibility. They want the fees, not the trouble of going after fakes! The sellers of fakes get away with it…

There is one more point to mention - certificates of authenticity. On Ebay and other places online certificates of authenticity are often presented by sellers, supposedly to prove authenticity of an antique.

Many of those who are in the know regarding the situation in China in this respect are aware that such documents cannot be relied upon.
There are two reasons for this. One is that many such certificates are simply fakes, the other is that a bribe may produce a genuine certificate with a false authentication statement.



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