Antique Detective: Too Many Chinese Porcelains Coming to Auction

By Anne Gilbert
   When you see hundreds of items in the same category coming to auction you know something funny is going on. A case in point are Chinese porcelain objects, some supposedly antiquities. Many labeled as “vintage.”
   For the last three years the Chinese porcelain market was “hot.” The Chinese were spending big Yen, buying back old porcelains. American collectors were following. My research turned up the fact that Chinese potters were busily turning out not only “Tang” and “Ming” repros along with many brand new porcelain “vintage” pieces. Nothing new about that.
   My best advice, if you are a beginning collector, is to have the seller give you a written affidavit, money back guarantee of authenticity, if you are spending several hundred or more dollars.
   Do your own research and scroll auctions on the internet. If you see too many so-called “Ming” or “Tang” pieces of the same form be suspicious.
   A wonderful book by Otto Kurz, first written in 1948, details not only the faking of Chinese ceramics but many other faked categories, now out of print, but worth tracking down.
   Tang tomb figures from horses to ladies arrived in Europe around 1909 when excavations brought them to the attention of collectors. By 1912 a factory in China was turning out hundreds.
   In the 20th century several shipwrecks brought authentic Tang pieces to shore and when they showed up at auctions they fetched top dollar.
   These days when an individual has what they think is a Tang, Sung, Ming or early Ching piece of porcelain, the dealer or auction house supposedly has to have a scientific test performed, and that costs hundreds of dollars. This is known as a “thermoluminescenle” or TL test. Radiation is involved. If you wish to sell such a piece chances are the auction house will ask if you have had a TL test. Obviously many of these pieces never make it to the high end auction houses. They show up, as they now are, at mid-range auction galleries around the country.
CLUES: Should you take a chance? Maybe you’ll get lucky. But, if you don’t spend big bucks for a test how will you know?
PHOTO CAPTION: (1) Chinese Amphora shaped porcelain Tang style vase. PHOTO CREDIT : Kimbell Art Museum, Ft. Worth, TX PHOTO CAPTION: (2) Reproduction Tang horse figure PHOTO CREDIT: Marks 4 Antiques Pricing Guides

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