Chinese Antique Porcelain
Buying Tips for Beginning a Collection

Avoid some of the pitfalls when buying Chinese antique porcelain and increase your chances of a real "find".

The following tips can be applied to the purchase of Chinese porcelain, both when buying from online sellers as well as when acquiring it from a dealer, at an antique show, or in a brick and mortar business (antique shop).

Watch these points...

Seller deception or ignorance:

Look at the seller's other items. Are there many reproductions or mostly genuine antique porcelain items? How about fakes?

Remember, reproductions are not antiques, but they are not fakes either. They would be fakes if the seller or dealer tried to sell them to you as REAL antique porcelain. A fake antique is a new or recently produced item made to look old or antique.
With the latter the original manufacturer's intent was deception. If there are reproductions, that doesn't mean the other old-looking items are all new. However, if a large part seems to be reproductions or fakes, your alarm bells should be ringing.

The presence of many reproductions of Chinese antique porcelain, and even more so that of other fakes in general, could indicate one of two conditions:

  1. The seller doesn't have the expertise to distinguish recently made imitations from real antiques.
  2. The seller is dishonest and may also sell so-called "antiques that are not authentic (careful - in some regions of this world this is more likely than others)

Inexperienced seller:

  • Some sellers will just tell you the item is antique or old - because they were told so when THEY purchased it; but they may actually be unable to judge by themselves. If the dealer doesn't volunteer that information, ask!
  • Dealers often do not care enough to verify authenticity of Chinese antique porcelain items, if they are not part of their field of specialisation, or it is too difficult for them to investigate. For them it is just business; they want to make the sale no matter whether the item is antique or not.
  • Check if the seller is willing to let you return an item if it later  turns out to be a fake, or ask for permission to take a picture first to ask a third party advice. If they refuse both a conditional return and taking a picture, there is a good chance that they suspect (or know) the item is probably a fake.
    See Fake Porcelain


If the seller mentions any kind of provenance... my advice is: disregard it.
Provenance is often false information.
Depending on where you buy, the dealer or his source may have made up a story. At the best it is useless.
The only provenance that I could think of right now, that I would rely on, is that of shipwreck ceramics. bought directly from a company involved in legally recovering this from ship wrecks, and only if they have a good reputation.
Even with shipwreck ceramics, if you buy them somewhere else the risk of buying a fake antique is the same as with other porcelain. It might not really be  coming from a wreck. Even shipwreck ceramics are faked frequently, completely with false covering of maritime growth. Fakes are also put into fishing nets and lowered into the sea. After some time, when mollusks or other marine growth has settled on its surface, the new items are offered as shipwreck items.

Apply common sense when buying Chinese antique porcelain...
As with any other collectibles, Chinese art and ceramics are usually costly if the item in question is rare and/or of exceptional quality. To find an extremely rare or valuable item in the average shop, at an antique show, or online at a bargain price is almost impossible.

The following three just don't go together:

  • High quality & low price
  • Low price & flawless appearance
  • Cheap & antique

Just keep it real. A good deal or lucky find is in everybody's mind - but, can these be hunted down or only found by chance?
Decide yourself.

Knowing your seller, or rather his expertise, is important. But it is always best if you assume that nobody is perfect.
Even experienced, knowledgeable collectors and dealers make sometimes mistakes when it comes to antique porcelain authentication and buying. Be aware that antique dealers live from their business.
Some dealers who usually know their wares admit to selling of antique porcelain reproductions they bought by mistake! This only proves you can never rely 100% on others. Your own knowledge is invaluable when it comes to authenticity at the time of buying Chinese antique porcelain.

It is is always better to let that nice, rare antique porcelain vase go, if after a careful inspection any doubt remains. Or, you could ask for a second, independent opinion.
Another opportunity to buy an authentic antique is always around the corner, even if you now think it was your only chance...

Attitude makes the difference
Buying as a novice collector is actually the same as with a seasoned collector. However, the seasoned collector has two advantages: experience and attitude.

Well, here you are looking at that antique porcelain matter if it is on the web or if you hold it in your hands - ask yourself if it looks intriguingly old?
Hold it! - At this step some restraint is needed or you easily fall into the "old look = antique" trap. Low-level copies and fakes often draw on this initial excitement to make the sale.

--Cool off! Reconsider... is it possibly a fake antique or is it genuine? --

When replica are made to look old the forgers often are overdoing it. The experienced collector knows this and gives himself time at this point. He evaluates the overall appearance, considers the sales location (situation) and the condition of the piece.

If there is the least doubt remaining regarding authenticity, he steps back and leaves, knowing that this initial excitement is just what sellers of fake antique porcelain hope for.

When you can do this without remorse, you have made a big step towards becoming an experienced collector... :-)
Another opportunity is always around the corner!

Why people buy fakes...

Buying online
If you consider acquiring Chinese antique porcelain online some extra precautions may be required.
See Buying Antique Chinese Porcelain Online

How to avoid buying fake antiques

Go to Age Faking Methods

Back to Buying Antique Chinese Porcelain

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