“There’s an unspoken rule in trading antiques that it is the buyer’s responsibility to determine the authenticity of the pieces.”
This interesting quote came not from the Delboy Trotter manual of market trading, but from an article I happened across on the ChinaDaily.com website, reporting the successful prosecution of an antique coin dealer for selling 110 counterfeit coins, which he claimed had been unearthed at a construction site.
His three year jail sentence has generated something of an uproar amongst his fellow antique dealers, who it seems are not usually held to the same ethical standards as other industries – it seems that the scale and bare-faced cheek of the offence were this dealer’s downfall.
Closer To Home
While reputable dealers in the UK take pride in being able to vouch for the quality and authenticity of their stock, fakes are not unknown, as too are honest mistakes and ambiguous labelling by dealers and auction houses.
Take the seemingly innocuous phrase “Marked as….” for example. Carelessly read, it may be interpreted as “This object is…” but the reality is that it may mean completely the opposite – “This object is pretending to be….”
An example that comes to mind is Troika Pottery. At more than one auction house in Yorkshire and the Midlands I have seen objects described as “Marked as Troika” – when they are quite obviously not. In one case, several genuine pieces of Troika sat alongside two very ordinary studio pottery vases that had simply had a Troika-style mark applied to their base. Yet the catalogue suggested that all pieces were Troika.
Look at it this way – if I stuck a Mercedes badge on my Ford, could I sell it as a Mercedes?
What Should You Do?
The reality is that whatever the legal niceties of a situation, buyers should beware:
- Research what you are buying
- Ask questions – particularly of a dealer
- Look out for inexplicable anomalies or cagey wording in items’ descriptions
- If you aren’t convinced, walk away, or just buy it anyway – but only as an aesthetically-pleasing object, nothing more.
I used Troika as an example as it is currently popular, yet new enough for it not to be all that widely understood. A couple of developments over the last year also seem to me to have increased the likelihood of fakes appearing:
- Authentic unpainted pieces have been being sold, cheaply and in quite high volumes, through auction houses and on eBay. These are genuine, but for some reason were never decorated. I imagine it would be relatively simple for someone with the right skills to decorate these and pass them off as originals.
- A selection of the original moulds, sold to a private collector when the pottery closed in 1983, have been made available for sale. While there is every possibility these will go to a good home, they may also not do, and one imagines could be used to produce new pieces, to be sold as apparent bargains at car boots, etc..
To learn more about Troika pottery, feel free to browse our wide selection of genuine Troika Pottery and Troika Marks.
When Is Charlotte Rhead Not Charlotte Rhead?
More subtle variations of this problem also exist – one notable example is that of Charlotte Rhead and Crown Ducal. It appears that various moulds and various trademarks were both separately, and legitimately, sold to the same person – who then commenced manufacturing items from the moulds, and adding the trademarks he had purchased to them. This does of course create a thoroughly misleading impression of the provenance of these modern pieces.
These links have more information, and are worth a visit:
- Crown Ducal by Charlotte Rhead – Reproductions
- Beware the Moulds – an article about what has happened
- SylvaC fakes – Some information on SylvaC fakes and reproductions
Remember – always feel free to buy a dubious item for the pleasure it gives you, but make sure you know what you are looking at, and pay accordingly.