I am always a fan of people who dig into a subject, taking the time to take photos, make illustrations and simply dig in to the nitty-gritty details. People often forget that it takes time to take the time to share their own thoughts and insights on topics they are passionate about. So I was excited when “JP” at earlyming.com was kind enough to allow me to share his writings (below) on collecting antique Chinese porcelain.
It’s been some time now since I’ve made any additions to my collection. There are several reasons. The first being that authentic Ming and Qing porcelains of value are quite rare and difficult to find. The second reason is that the online supply of such is totally out of control. I am speaking mainly of e`Bay. I like e`Bay, and in the early days (1998) there was an occasional bargain to be found.
Comparing the early trading days of 1998 to the present, I see many changes. Back in 1998 you could search for the exact phrase “Ming Dynasty” and come up with about 15 or 20 items. Of those, possibly one or two might be authentic. Statements of authenticity were carefully phrased with sellers wanting to build a good reputation. The e`Bay picture for Chinese porcelain quickly started to change.
Doing that same search on e`Bay today now returns about 300 items. Most are guaranteed to be authentic Ming Dynasty. The sellers are now international, many from China. The Chinese authorities would not allow national treasures that belong in their museums to be sold for pennies to outsiders. The Chinese are not foolish. Of the many wise sayings Confucius came up with, he’d have smiled at the famous P.T. Barnum saying that there is a customer born every minute. Time of course has replaced the quoted word customer with the word sucker. I bowed out of e`Bay’s Chinese porcelain trading years ago and have only recently returned with a renewed interest. I’m working on the detection of fakes.
Early in 1999 I reported a certain seller, user thesaurusfinearts, to e`Bay as being very dishonest in their claims, thinking they would look into the matter. Nothing happened. They instead allowed them to continue trading for another 4 years. In 2003 I got the following message when checking the username:
This seller is not currently offering any items for sale
Hmmm… I wonder why. Here’s why.
The US Government finally stepped in and closed down the dealer, Thesaurus Fine Arts of Seattle. Their claims of guaranteed thermoluminescence testing were finally challenged by an investigative reporter. Oxford’s Authentication Laboratory of England and Daybreak Archaeometric Laboratory of the US, both world leaders in the field, verified the fraudulent test results. Charges of fraud have been filed causing Thesaurus Fine Arts of Seattle to close down their operation. Click here to view that article.
In the Reference section of this site, under the heading of Buyer Beware, I point out one of the tactics to look out for in online auctions, the private auction. This particular seller quickly converted to the private auction early on. At one point I tallied up the asking price of the 50 some items they were offering that week alone. It came to $250,000.00. So why did e`Bay allow trading to continue for so many years in opposition of the many complaints I know they received?
Though the sales were few and far between, they must have received a nice commission on some of the 162 transactions listed, 88 from unique users.
I still like e`Bay, but only hope that they will now establish guidelines to protect the buyers instead of ignoring complaints, and turning a blind eye until the US Government has to step in.
Continuing on now with the detection of fakes, I’ve chosen these particular pieces as they have the appearance of genuine Ming blue and white. In some cases they almost mirror what you would see in a Christies or Sotheby’s catalogue.
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