Buying Chinese antiques: about fakes, eBay, high prices

Here's an article I found on eBay: very interesting and elaborately explaining about all the fakes (90%), the hunger of the Chinese for importing back valuable antiques, valuation and the dangers of buying from/selling to unknown contacts. ebay in china antique furniture 
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The Brutal Truth about Buying Chinese Antiques on eBay 

The original can be read here: ""

As long time collectors of Asian art, we have purchased many authentic and truly remarkable Chinese antiques on eBay. You can too. But fair warning - you need to really understand how this fraud riddled business works - or you will most certainly be ripped off. 
Here is a summary of years of hard learned experience: 

Novice Asian Art collectors often start out thinking that the best way to acquire Chinese antiques would be to buy them "wholesale" directly from the source - dealers in China. They soon discover that they couldn't be more wrong.

We're just going to say it - every single antique listed by a China/Tibet based dealer is a FAKE. No exceptions.
(OK, there is ONE partial exception, and we will talk about it at the end of this article).

It is illegal for sellers based in the Peoples Republic of China, or Taiwan Republic of China, to export Chinese antiques out of their respective countries. These countries have enacted strict Cultural Preservation laws designed to keep their national heritage at home.

As of June 2009 in the Peoples Republic of China, exporting anything earlier than 1911 (the end of the Qing dynasty) is strictly forbidden. Also, President Bush signed an executive order just before he left office preventing the importation of Chinese antiques older than 250 years.  In Taiwan, anything 100 years or older cannot be exported. In the Peoples Republic of China, the penalties for smuggling "Cultural Relics" are severe. Lengthy imprisonment, and sometimes even execution. The Chinese Government  doesn't fool around. This is well documented on the internet.

Some common semi-antique items from the early 20th C can be legally exported from China, and bear a red wax inspection seal, a so called "jianding". You see these seals occasionally on items from western sellers. They're found on genuine antique items sold at official government "Friendship Stores". Tourists can also request inspection of items that they find locally, and if compliant, Chinese Customs will affix a seal to them. All the seal means is that the piece was inspected by some Chinese government official and was found to be compliant with the antiquities exportation laws - i.e. it won't be old, rare or valuable. It is possible to obtain a seal for a brand new fake. They don't authenticate the piece.

Hong Kong was the gateway to the west and served as an important trade center for Asian antiques for many years. When rule reverted to China in 1997 a "50 years of no interference" promise was given to the people of Hong Kong. That means that Hong Kong dealers CAN legally export real antiques, but most of them now deal heavily in fakes.
Just check out internet stories about antique dealers on Hollywood road. Do business with HK dealers at your own risk. We don't generally, unless we know the dealer.

Tibet is part of China, and the same rules apply there too.
Taiwan dealers often openly ignore their cultural preservation laws and often seem to get away with it.

Can you imagine any official Chinese Museum or other legitimate Chinese business issuing "Certificates of Authenticity" and exporting true cultural relics? What, do they have a DEATH WISH? There used to be plenty of these bogus COAs on eBay, but for the most part buyers have wised up on this and official looking Chinese Certificates of Authenticity have all but disappeared. 

china auction antiquesThe world's hottest market for real Chinese antiques is... China! China has many new auction houses that do a booming business selling genuine Chinese antiques to the nouveaux riche Chinese businessmen. It's a well known fact that world record auction prices for Chinese antiques are being set in China. American and European auction prices for equivalent articles are substantially lower than typical prices achieved in China. That's why Sotheby's and Christies are so hot to get a piece of the action, and have long established Hong Kong showrooms. In fact, Sotheby's recently started holding auctions directly in Beijing through the establishment of a joint venture business. If a China based antique dealer acquires a valuable piece, he or she would sell it inside China, legally, for a lot of money. Why on earth would they want to sell it cheap on eBay, to a foreign buyer, and take the chance of imprisonment? 


The overwhelming majority, maybe 90% or more, of all Chinese "antique" items listed on eBay (regardless of the source) are not antique - they are modern reproductions. Or tacky fantasy creations.

Some reproductions are beautiful, and undoubtedly require skilled artistic abilities. But heads up - you are buying a worthless modern decorative piece. If you like the piece, that's great. If you keep it long enough it will be an antique some day!


There are several large "Chinese Antique Dealers" out there who live in the USA, or Canada, or UK. They seem to have the same stuff as advertised by their mainland brothers, but they proudly display "USA DEALER", or "UK DEALER", or similar. This does not mean that these items are genuine. This means that these con artists import their modern junk, and sell it from a western country to an unsuspecting dupe who lives in a western country. Apparently, there is no shortage of dupes!

Some western scammers claim to have current antique sources inside remote villages in China. Then there's our personal favorite -  their "family" fled China after WWII and brought large collections with them. Wow! They must have traveled with one hell of a lot of luggage! :)

Some western sellers appear from nowhere offering batches of 20-50 high end Chinese antique items from some bogus "estate" they are liquidating. Great pictures - all fakes. We call these "hit and run" dealers.


Good feedback ratings on these western con artists do not mean that they are selling real antiques The types of customers who buy junk from these scam artists are mostly novices. They are all too happy to leave excellent feedback for their "genuine Ming Dynasty jade dragon pendant", or whatever piece of junk they just blew $100 on. They wouldn't know a real antique piece from a fake - so how reliable is their feedback? There are many dealers out there who have thousands of sales and 99+% positive feedback who have never sold a genuine piece their entire life. In fact, there are dozens of fraudulent eBay Chinese Antique dealers with 100% feedback.

What's one common tactic used by many of these scammers? "USER ID KEPT PRIVATE". WATCH OUT! This is most often used not to protect a buyer's privacy, but to protect the scammer's sales. This is used so you can't look at the seller's negative feedback, look at an actual item and say "Hey, that buyer WAS right. This WAS a fake." There are several dozen dealers out there that if eBay rules allowed us, we'd simply post their IDs and tell you to avoid them like the plague. Unfortunately, we can't do that - you'll just have to figure out who these crooks are yourself.


There are not that many good, undiscovered antiques left floating around in China. Surprise. Strange but true. We hear that from our China based collector friends all the time. (If you really want to get a sobering education about the shortage of genuine antiques in China, and the proliferation of local fakes, read western reviews about the Panjiayuan Antiques Market in Beijing.) The good pieces have mostly been looted and taken out of China over the years (by a succession of foreign interventions and wars), voluntarily sold to westerners or Japanese collectors years ago, destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1970's, put into public museums, or bought by wealthy dealers and/or private collectors living in China. If you want to find good Chinese antiques on eBay, do what the China based dealers do - look in the USA, Canada, Japan and Europe! If you find yourself bidding against a bidder(s) with PRIVATE feedback and multiple bid retractions, you're likely bidding against a China based dealer. 
Many China based dealers are pretty good at authenticating pieces - but certainly not all of them. Don't assume that just because a China based dealer is bidding that the piece must be authentic. About half of the China based dealers have NO authenticating skills at all - they just ASSUME that all US based pieces are  authentic, copy the original eBay listing's photos and descriptions and try to pre-sell it quickly inside China BEFORE the U.S. eBay auction ends. Then they will use other people's money to acquire the piece, or simply retract bids or walk away from the purchase if the numbers don't work. Ironically, many end up buying mis-attributed Japanese pieces, or just plain fakes. A significant number are also involved in creative Paypal fee-reversal based scams designed to rip off western sellers - but that's a whole other story. 
Sort your listings by distance, and pay attention to those NOT in China. Then, look at the Chinese listings - this will show you what kind of fakes are currently hitting the market. Keep an eye out for these bogus items appearing from western sellers - they will show up sooner or later. 

If you don't know what you are looking at, you will probably end up with a fake. Want to collect snuff bottles? Great. Buy a couple of books and study the subject. Then you will start to develop an eye for what is real and what isn't. Because something looks cool,  that's no guarantee it's genuine. Read. Study. Learn. Browse the Asianart and Gotheborg boards. You will still make mistakes occasionally (we do), but less and less. When you do buy a fake, try to get your money back as quickly as you can. If you get stung, that's called your "tuition fees". You will pay some.


When it comes to Chinese antiques, most sellers know next to nothing about what they have. They are not experts in Asian arts. Don't take their age estimates, descriptions, stories about where the piece came from, etc. seriously. They're guessing. Educate yourself and trust your own opinion. BEWARE of listings with lengthy history lessons - virtually guaranteed to be bogus! Beware fuzzy photographs - ask the seller to email better ones. Occasionally you will find some sellers who know EXACTLY what they have. You will probably not get any "great deals" from these people, because they also know exactly what it is worth. But "great deal" is relative. It may seem expensive to you, but if it is truly valuable, it is probably selling for a price way less than Sotheby's or a major art dealer. Of course, ignorant or greedy sellers often price items way beyond what they are worth, so look out for these too. Interestingly, pieces which are grossly overpriced are usually described generically - like "old Chinese vase". Sellers have no idea what they have, but darn it, it sure looks valuable to them - and everyone knows that multi-million dollar Chinese antiques get discovered every day selling for just a few dollars in local Goodwill stores  - so they ask a lot of money for it! Morons. We find the combination of ignorance and greed very entertaining!


If the item description says Qing, Ming, Song, Yuan, Tang etc. - it maybe SOMETHING that is SOMEWHAT older, but it probably isn't accurately described or close to the period identified. (But then again, we have seen some rare few pieces from all these periods accurately identified selling on eBay, so you never know...) Same thing for TIBET, JADE, IVORY, SILVER, CINNABAR. Fake city - you better know your stuff. An eBay search on the two keywords "TIBET SILVER " brings up a staggering 110,000 listings - every single one is a fake. Try it yourself!


Avoid buying "antiques" from any dealer that has a name that sounds like a Chinese restaurant! Basically, endless combinations of dragon, golden, lotus, Tibet, jade, lucky, etc. Also, any dealer with the word "museum" in its name is suspect. With very few exceptions, most of these dealers are internet only scam artists. Think about one thing - where can ANY dealer get real pieces to offer for sale? All legitimate dealers need a source for genuine antiques! Legitimate dealers find them in estate sales or they are a brick and mortar shop. In either case their supply is naturally limited. They won't have hundreds of pieces - just a couple here and there. Legitimate dealers can usually be identified by doing some internet sleuthing as they must have a life beyond eBay. Everyone else is just an internet only scammer.


Are some real antique pieces being smuggled out of China? Yes, absolutely. We've heard from some lacquer and jade collectors that sometimes villagers will rob graves, and, because their activities are illegal, they will secretly sell pieces to smugglers who get them out of the country clandestinely - usually through Hong Kong. We suspect that the majority of these looted pieces will sell for a considerable amount of money and end up in the hands of big money collectors and dealers - not the type of individuals who will post them cheaply on eBay. Even if smuggled pieces were being dumped on eBay, is this the kind of shady business you would want to support?

Sad to say, there appear to be many western Jade collectors who are absolutely convinced that large quantities of authentic Hongshan Period (3,500-2,000 BCE) jades are making their way from China to eBay. They gobble up archaic looking jades from China based dealers in the vain hope that somehow, among all the fakes, they will find an authentic artifact. They purchase high precision electronic scales, hardness testing tools, and all sorts of equipment to assist in their authentication process. Then they post their results on internet forums and endlessly debate each other about tool marks, burial calcification patterns, etc. ad nauseum. Our opinion is that these well intentioned folks are simply wishful thinkers looking for a lottery win - but the game has already been fixed. They may be very knowledgeable about their subject matter (much more than we are - we know very little about Jade), but they seem to be totally oblivious to the legal and economic realities of the fake antiquities trade in China.


Increasingly, sellers from Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, etc. are showing up on eBay and listing large quantities of "valuable" Chinese artifacts - mostly porcelain. Real? Well, all these countries DO have large ethnic Chinese populations, and Chinese trade was conducted with them for many centuries. Well publicized ancient Chinese shipwrecks were discovered and harvested through out South East Asia, and many countries do not have restrictive antique export laws... So, theoretically, they can be legitimate sources for Chinese antiques.

Now for the bad news. Scammers in these countries are firing up their local kilns and manufacturing  fake Chinese ceramics by the boatloads. Usually copies of valuable Song era pieces. Some popular internet Asian art forums are being used as test grounds for their forgeries. The scammers post their fakes, and solicit feedback from knowledgeable westerners - looking for ways to improve their wares.

As recovered shipwreck cargo has verified, most genuine items from South East Asia are likely to be common export tableware - so called "kitchen Ming" or "kitchen Qing". These were produced in huge quantities in south China's Fujian province, and exported extensively.

Whether you should consider a South East Asian dealer as a reliable source is entirely up to your comfort in authenticating the piece. In our opinion, the vast majority of these dealers are scammers, and we would not consider purchasing anything from these countries unless it was part of a well publicized and VERIFIABLE shipwreck recovery.


You will mostly find late 19th century to early 20th century export items. These can be recognized because they are often marked with a "CHINA" country of origin marking - either stamped, engraved or painted. They are not very high quality or particularly valuable, but they are authentic and a great place to begin your collecting. These poor quality pieces used to be totally ignored by the China based dealers, but no longer. The mainland China market is so large and so desperate for any authentic material that better examples of these export items routinely get grabbed and sent back to China.

Then you will find some rare, but damaged pieces. These are often overpriced, so be careful. A little natural shelf wear is expected and in fact is a good indicator of authenticity, but significant damage or restoration really hammers the true value of the piece - so be careful you don't overvalue it in your mind. This damage devaluation depends a lot on the type of antique. Porcelain can loose up to 90% of it's value with simple chips or hairline cracks. Rare Ming cloisonne can tolerate a few minor chips without affecting value - same thing for lacquer and Canton Enamel. Each area of collection has it's own standards. We seem to be noticing a trend where increasingly more damaged pieces are being brought to market - probably becasue the limited supply of undamaged pieces is rapidly dwindling.
Next you will find Japanese pieces that are accidentally or purposely misrepresented as Chinese. The prices for Chinese antiques have been rapidly rising, while Japanese items have been relatively stable. So dealers often are tempted to classify Japanese items as Chinese even if they know better. We often see Japanese carved wood and lacquer coated pieces (Kamakura-bori) passed off as Chinese Ming era carved cinnabar lacquer. Same thing for colorful Japanese Awaji ware porcelain being passed off as Chinese Qing monochrome. There are so many mainland Chinese buyers fighting for anything that looks old and nice quality that sometimes Japanese pieces mistakenly go for outrageous prices. Eventually the buyer may find out that he or she made a big costly mistake, but by then the seller has long since made off with the money. If you can't readily differentiate Japanese pieces from Chinese pieces, you are in danger of being misled. But don't panic - oftentimes Japanese pieces are great artistic quality and many can be quite valuable in their own right - so all may not be lost... As a side note - in addition to fairly common Japanese misrepresentations, you'll also find assorted material from Thailand, Burma and other Asian countries and even Asian looking Victorian era British and French "Chinoiserie".

Now comes the good stuff. Usually in small quantities from dealers that rarely handle Asian art, but occasionally some of the larger legitimate dealers will have significant numbers of good quality pieces from major estate sales or private collections. Some dealers consistently list nice quality authentic pieces, and if you study eBay over a period of a few years you will get to know who these fine reliable dealers are. But be warned - some once good dealers have "turned to the dark side", and are now using their long history and good reputation to promote  questionable items. We sometimes as a courtesy inform dealers that a piece they are listing is a fake, and the good dealers will invariably research and pull the item. Those who have turned to the dark side generally ignore our warnings and leave the listing run it's course. Laughing all the way to the bank- as they say. If they do that, we never buy from them again. Dealers who do this sort of thing are secretly blacklisted in the Asian arts community - but unless you participate in the discussion boards and forums you aren't going to know who they are.


Once you have found something that looks interesting, the next step is to try to authenticate it.

Step #1 - Check out the dealer first! Click on view sellers other items. 248 listings of rare Chinese antiques? Forget it. NOBODY has that much inventory. Not even the large, established Asian Arts dealers liquidating several major collections. They're all FAKES. In fact, our eyebrows rise whenever we see more than just a few antique Chinese pieces for sale. Some dealers throw in a few overpriced but easily identified as genuine articles into a huge pile of fakes - just to "prove" that they are an honest dealer. Don't fall for it.

Next, check all neutral and negative feedback for the seller - specifically looking for complaints of fakes and forgeries. There are external websites that allow you to look at any seller's old and removed eBay feedback - find them through Google. Even a couple of suspicious negatives in a sea of positive reviews are big red flags. Not proof, but warnings to look carefully. Even positive feedback can contain hidden warnings - like "not quite as old as advertised", "a little different from photograph", "fast shipping from China"  "honorable seller, quick refund" etc  - these all scream FAKE. If you are more familiar with certain types of antiques, say for instance cloisonne, then carefully look at any cloisonne pieces sold by this dealer. Do they look legitimate to you? If they don't, forget this dealer and move on. In our opinion, the dealers that sell fakes often sell nothing but fakes - "one rotten apple spoils the barrel".

Step #2 - Compare to known good examples. The internet has many sources for helping you authenticate pieces. Start by looking at other eBay listings for similar items. If it's a real antique, it should be unique. Then look at eBay completed auctions and try to identify if the piece is a mass-produced copy. Do a Google image search describing the piece, and look at any museum examples that might pop up. Do a Google product search and find out what similar pieces are being sold by antique dealers, or importers of modern curios. Sign up for free accounts on and, and search their completed auctions to find similar pieces. If you are going to do this often, sign up for an account on Scan the forum for postings about similar objects. Try to acquire a library of good reference books and auction catalogs with lots of photos and descriptions. Some auction houses, like I.M. Chait, allow you to search their completed auction listings. Same thing for Aspire and Liveauctioneers. But remember, all auction house listings are not 100% reliable. On average 40% of all auction house listings for Chinese antiques are fakes! This is a real number - the result of a significant survey. Some disreputable Canadian and US auction houses regularly listed on liveauctioneers sell 100% fakes - disturbing. We have been told that some of these new western auction companies specializing in Asian Art are totally bogus fronts - owned, operated and supplied by China based businessmen that do business with fakes.

Step#3 - Beware of the red flags! Look out for unusually heavy pieces, as this may mean molded resin. Look out for air bubbles (signs that a piece was molded) in pieces that are supposed to be carved. Look for tiny accidental knife nicks on carved items - there should be some. Ask the seller for better photos of areas that are damaged, or should show signs of shelf wear - like foot rims and bases. "Mint condition" often means made yesterday! Be suspicious of heavy corrosion on metalware pieces like bronzes and cloisonne - these are possibly signs of chemical distressing, not real age. Large reign marks are often suspicious - many genuine pieces were unmarked. Look out for suspiciously dirty pieces - dirt does not necessarily mean age - especially for pieces that are easy to keep clean, like porcelain. Speaking about porcelain, good luck! It takes YEARS to become even modestly proficient in authenticating Chinese porcelain. You will have to learn all about Chinese history, shapes, enamel colors, painting styles and techniques, glazes, kiln techniques, foot rims, marks and calligraphy, etc. Old wood darkens with age - learn how to recognize true aging from artificial coatings. Understand that real silver pieces are almost always hallmarked, and these marks are extensively cataloged to aid in authentication. Knowing just a little bit about each of these areas can help a lot. But remember - a little bit of knowledge can also lead you into a trap where only experts can find their way out. It seems that the more knowledge and experience you have, the more sinster the traps you have to avoid.
As we mentioned earlier, many (probably most) genuine pieces are unmarked - with the excpetion of porcelain which is often marked. Pieces that are marked need to be carfully vetted. You are probably already aware of this, but most reign marks are "honorary" and not of the period. In particular, 99.9999% of all Qianlong marks are apocryphal and likely 19th, 20th or 21st century.  So a good general rule is to ignore reign marks until after you have authenticated many other attributes such as appearance, shape, finish, construction, size, color etc.

There is an excellent MARKS section on the GOTHEBORG website that anyone can freely look at, and many Chinese and Japanse marks are identified with their approximate ages revealed. If you come across a piece that is supposedly "Mark and Period" be extra careful. You will have to look with a magnifying glass at the calligraphy of the mark and ensure that each and every Chinese character is correctly formed with the individual strokes being laid down in the right size, the correct direction for each stroke, proper sequence of stoke overlays, etc.

Imperial pieces, which are extremely rare and valuable, are almost never found on eBay. They were marked by well known and heavily documented court calligraphers, and each calligrapher had a unique and distinctive writing style. As you can see, authenticating reign marks is not trivial, and takes years of study.


As of Jan 1, 2009 trading of IVORY was no longer allowed on eBay, but sellers routinely say "Faux-ivory" or "ox bone" just to get around this roadblock.

Interested in ivory? Antique carved ivory can be superb quality - but are you really prepared for this? What a cesspool of potential problems. In addition to there being mountains of fake ivories to contend with, genuine ivory is a highly regulated commodity that can land you in huge trouble with local law enforcement if you do not understand and comply with the international CITES regulations, and local laws. If you are unfamiliar with the CITES regulations, don't even THINK about buying any antique ivory artifact. There is a very good eBay UK guide to ivory by member argento_glitter that discusses the legal pitfalls of trading in this controlled commodity - start there. The bottom line is that all ivory transactions need to conform to the world-wide endangered species laws, and all items need to be genuinely old (pre 1949) and accompanied with proper CITES conformity paperwork which includes valid provenance proving the article is pre-ban.


There is big money in fencing high end master forgeries. These pieces are exquisite, and even experts are often fooled. These forgeries have made their way into the best of dealers, museums, noteworthy collections and the high end auction circuit - so there is no reason to believe eBay is immune. These are the pieces that are most troublesome to serious collectors, because skilled forgers go to painstaking lengths to create their dark art. Buying one of these means loosing thousands of dollars to what is essentially criminal fraud - not something many of us can afford to do.

Thinking about buying an expensive, very rare high-end piece from one of those high profile "boutique" Asian Art dealers on eBay? Not for the timid, and certainly not for the novice. Try to find out as much as you can about the dealer. Find out if they have a street address that's an actual storefront - or are they running this as an internet only business. Ask them where they get their pieces from, and if the piece has any valid provenance. Google the dealer name along with the keywords "fake" and "forgery" just to see what dirt comes up. Since some of the most active collectors with the biggest money live in China and Taiwan - look through the dealer's feedback to see if they have ever sold pieces to these legitimate Chinese buyers. If not, why not? Verify the dealer's no-questions-asked return policy and get the piece authenticated, from multiple sources, as soon as you get your hands on it. Then authenticate it again.

Guarantees of authenticity are great - but make sure you really understand what "authentication" hoops the dealer will force you to jump through before they will accept any returns. Even if you live in a major city, getting opinions from Asian Art specialists from the premier auction houses, or museum curators is damn near impossible - even for us - and we know a few folks in this business. Many museums enforce a policy of their employees never commenting on works outside their collection. (The V&A Museum is one refreshing exception, and are often helpful.)

Scientific testing to establish age is sometimes possible but not foolproof. It can be valuable, but is expensive and time consuming. TL (Thermoluminescence) age testing of fired ceramics from Oxford Authentication or C14 age testing of organic material from Rafter Laboratories costs at least $500 - so if you need to do it, you will also need to eat the cost of the test. Each of these widely accepted tests takes a number of weeks for results. If you do not understand  TL testing or C14 testing, research it on the internet.
A few years ago, we bought, at auction, an Eastern Zhou Dynasty archaic bronze vessel that looked very convincing. We had it X-rayed to verify it was ceramic mold cast, and the radiographs looked very good. It was then taken to a major museum where one of the professional conservators drilled samples from the casting cores found in the legs. She noted that the color of the core material was a little different than she had seen in the past, (
RED FLAG HERE!) but we sent the samples off and waited for the results. Those samples were sent to Oxford Authentication in England, where it passed a TL test with flying colors - scientifcally "proven" to be about 2,800 years old. We then sent photographs of our piece to a well known professor of Chinese archeology who has cataloged thousands of ancient Chinese bronzes - and he concurred that the piece appeared to be very accurate stylistically with the proposed time period.
But one day we casually discovered the piece was slightly attractive to a magnet - and that was just plain wrong for bronze. Fearing the worst, we then brought it to a local scrap metal recycler who had some sophisticated metal testing equipment. It ended up being detected by a handheld XRF meter as having a high zinc content with small amounts of iron  - i.e. it was made from modern brass! The Chinese were not able to smelt zinc and make brass until the Ming dynasty - so we knew this "ancient" piece (which had convincing evidence of long term burial) had to be a fake.
We have since learned from a famous archeological metallurgist that scammers often like to use brass instead of bronze as it is much quicker to chemically corrode to a convincing patina of age. We can only assume that knowning that TL testing is often used as the only conclusive scientific proof of age, the hollow legs were stuffed with ancient brick material so they would TL test as ancient. This was our first (and maybe our last) major forray into collecting Archaic Chinese Bronzes, and even with considerable research and lots of professional consultation it has proven to be quite perilous. We lost a significant bit of money on this piece. This authentication process took us almost a year - only to discover that it was a sophisticated fake.
 How good is a seller's seven day money back guarantee ?

Just like counterfit money, those who buy fakes often try to quietly pass their costly mistakes on to someone else so they will not be left holding the bag. Fakes should be permanently marked as such or destroyed so innocent others will not be harmed if they acquire them in the future - but they rarely are. Once a fake is introduced into the market is just seems to drift around and never really go away. We see eBay listing for specific fakes appearing over and over and over again for literally years. As long as eBay listing are basically "free" to the seller until the piece sells, then scammers will just keep relisting the fakes until some poor unsuspecting novice falls for it.
As time goes by the quantity of real pieces goes down while the quantity of fakes in circulation just seems to increase.

If you are absolutely wild about a particular piece and must have it at any cost, bid 3 times more than you think you will ever need.

But we prefer to acquire pieces at a wise price - a price that will allow us to get our money back, or occasionally make a modest profit, when we decide to sell them again. The thing about collecting Chinese antiques is that what you find appealing when you first start collecting is not what you will want after a few years. As you learn more and more, and see higher quality examples in the market, your taste will probably improve and you will gravitate towards those higher quality pieces. You will likely want to flip parts of your collection to re-invest in better pieces - and the secret is always to buy right in the first place. Or you can just wait a few years until the market catches up with your overpriced piece - but by then the better piece you have your eye on will also be much more expensive...
Auction or Buy It Now?
Because of the intense competition for authentic pieces, we have had better luck lately with BUY IT NOW items. But what a chore it is to find them. If a piece is authentic, good quality, listed correctly as a Chinese Antique and listed for an attractive BUY IT NOW price it will be snapped up within a few MINUTES of it being listed on eBay. With few exceptions, active BUY IT NOW pieces that have been listed for longer than an hour are either FAKE, POOR QUALITY, INCORRECTLY ATTRIBUTED or OVERPRICED. If a piece is just plain overpriced, sometimes you may have a chance by submitting a reasonable best offer - especially if the piece has been stagnant for a long time.
We have been told that some major China based dealers maintain a 24x7 group of workers whose only task is to sit on a computer and repetitively look at newly listed eBay Chinese antique listings. eBay USA, eBay France, eBay Germany - all the major western sites are constantly scanned. Not only will they snap up attractive BUY IT NOW items, they will also quickly send out cash offers to sellers listing attractive regular auction items - attempting to end the auction early and get the piece cheaply. Surprising how often they succeed. Sellers are generally unwise to accept these unsolicited BIN offers, but all valuable Chinese antique listings will generate tons of them within a few hours of going live.
Expect current prices to be as much as 5x what they were only one year ago. 

No telling if and when the bubble will burst, but  there are alarming multi-million dollar defaults at major auction houses, and speculation runs rampant. But for now, prices just keep rising.

Even with this rapid rise in pricing, most authentic antique Chinese pieces on eBay will eventually end up being a bargain - in spite of heavy bidding. But bear in mind that if prices start to approach major auction house prices, it's time to stop bidding. Remember - when you buy a piece off eBay, you are buying something essentially without provenance. Provenance means provable history of ownership. (Forget about Certificates of Authenticity - they are not worth the paper they are printed on). Even if the item is authentic and rare, you will probably never be able to re-sell it through a major auction house or dealer, because they won't even look at pieces without provenance. The major auction houses have been stung and embarrassed by clever fakes, so they won't take pieces without provenance. That means some day you will have to re-sell it on eBay or through a minor auction house, and you will never get its real value with these venues. We stop bidding when a piece approaches 1/3 of a minor auction house type level - but that's your call.

Finding the hidden jewels can be very exciting. Sometimes you run across a valuable piece that has been totally mis-identified and mis-classified by a seller who didn't have a clue what they had. Hot damn! But guess what? With 800 Million eBay users, you are NOT going to be the only one to find it!  The serious collectors are always looking in unrelated categories, checking for mis-spellings, looking for generic descriptions, etc. There may be fewer bidders, but valuable pieces still tend to draw the serious bidding action, no matter how messed up the listing is.


The odds are heavily stacked against you - and it's going to get worse. The heydays of finding cheap rare Chinese antiques on eBay are now behind us, never to return. But there are still some cool treasures out there - if you are smart enough to recognize them, wise enough to bid appropriately, and lucky enough to find a good BIN piece early or win an auction. Want to invest in quality Asian art but are not prepared to battle this tsunami of fraud? Consider collecting Japanese pieces as an alternative. Once you've recognized how to identify the fake modern Chinese copies (it's really not that hard to recognize the Chinese fakes because the artistic quality is NEVER as good as the Japanese originals), your chances of finding authentic Japanese pieces are much, much better. Plus, dealing antiques with the Japan based dealers is not only 100% legal, but is generally much safer.

The dwindling supply and rapid rise of prices for Chinese pieces has made Japanese alternatives much better value for your money and we find ouselves collecting it more and more for this very reason. Don't expect Japanese pieces to rise rapidly in value however.

Good treasure hunting!

We hope that you learned something that will save you from wasting your money on junk. If you understand the basic rules we have just outlined, you are now more informed than thousands of naive eBay buyers who fall for this fraud weekly. 
If you read this guide, and disagree with anything we have said, please write to us, and with some supporting new information, we will gladly revise it. If you read this guide and didn't learn anything new, please don't vote it down as being unhelpful - this guide was written for new collectors who have not been exposed to this background material. 

Just to confuse you one last time, there seems to be a significant amount of "antique"  Chinese FURNITURE that is apparently exported to the USA without restrictions. We're not sure exactly why. Most likely the "antique" pieces are really major restorations - rebuilt from both new wood and some "provincial" old wood parts - and are therefore exempt or just too common and ignored by Chinese customs officials. Or maybe these "antique" furniture pieces are all just really convincing modern copies, and what we think is old and authentic is actually newly manufactured. Or maybe both. The bottom line is that we believe that some nice older furniture pieces are still being being exported from China and it seems to be possible to occasionally find some rather nice authentic appearing material. We bought some pieces that are clearly composites using old wood carved elements and new wood structural pieces and are quite happy with our purchases. This modestly priced composite furniture is great for display and everyday usage, but don't expect it to be investment quality. 
Go ahead and research this further from Chinese furniture experts if this is of interest to you, as we are not experts here. 


How many Chinese Dehua blanc de chine porcelain statues are now being listed on eBay? The answer should be something over 100.

Now, how many are authentic antiques? None? Maybe one... maybe... Excellent!

Now, what about the Song Dynasty Geyao piece in our avatar? Bought it here on eBay. Real or Fake?

Real! (OK, it's not really Song Dynasty, but it is an early Qing Ge type copy - and it is genuine and old and rare.)

We scored big. You can too! OK, you Graduate!

contact us to discuss more!

Why eBay failed in China

Myself, Belgian, I saw the rise of eBay in Europe and surely Germany. It's the deserved and only market leader.
But in China it didn't work. I have my own explanation for it, with following key thoughts:

-  China has no second hand culture (second hand is dirty!)

- eBay was not able to overcome the trust issues. There's a lot of cheating and all Chinese are very weary to buy form an unkown contact.

- ebay probably tired too hard to implement a Western management style and policy. That surely keep big clients away.

- TaoBao simply won the game and it was probably heavily underestimated how fast it could grow.


Overall, it are typical mistakes by western companies coming to China for the first time... lack of adaptation, lack of understanding the big difference in culture. 


An article on this topic focuses on the socio-cultural difference

read the full article here:

Successful in dozens of countries, the multi-billion dollar business was no match for China, where citizens place a premium on interpersonal relationships and high-quality social interactions. What lessons can others learn?

In was around the mid-2000s when many Internet-based sales companies started eyeing China as the big economic prize. With a rapidly expanding middle class and over one billion people, the country had—and still has—enormous purchasing power. eBay, the San Jose, California-based online consumer-to-consumer corporation, nearing its 10th birthday at the time, entered the country in 2004 with hopes of beating competitors to the reward. Two short years later, then Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman flew to Shanghai to announce the company’s exit from China’s online auction market. So why did eBay fail in one of the world’s most populous countries when it had succeeded so successfully here in the United States? Researchers think they have finally found the answer by analyzing the sales data from TaoBao, an eBay-like operation founded by Jack Ma; TaoBao currently holds 96 percent market share in China. “There is only one big winner, so eBay has failed,” said Paul A. Pavlou, professor of management information systems at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. Along with Tilburg University’s Carol Xiaojuan Ou and Robert M. Davison of City University of Hong Kong, Pavlou found that TaoBao had a better grasp of what makes Chinese consumers tick. “Those buyers really want to get to know the sellers,” Pavlou said. The use of technology to accommodate a worldview such as guanxi could mean more savings for consumers all over the world, not just those in China. TaoBao helps buyers and sellers simulate close personal relationships and build something called “swift guanxi.” This is a Chinese concept “broadly defined as a close and pervasive interpersonal relationship” and “based on high-quality social interactions and the reciprocal exchange of mutual benefits,” according to a study by Ou, Pavlou, and Davison, “Swift Guanxi in Online Marketplaces: The Role of Computer-Mediated-Communication Technologies,” that will appear in an upcoming issue of MIS Quarterly. “For U.S. companies who want to do business in China, they have to understand this concept,” Pavlou said. In building TaoBao, Ma understood swift guanxi, and he equipped his online marketplace with tools that would allow this kind of relationship to bloom. Customers on TaoBao spend an average of 45 minutes using what the researchers call computer-mediated-communication technologies (think instant messaging) to ask sellers questions about themselves and their products before purchasing anything. eBay’s developers, on the other hand, didn’t grasp the importance of the Chinese concept and, although Pavlou said there were rumors after Whitman’s team purchased Skype that it would install video conferencing technology on its auction pages, the company never made is newest technology available for those purposes. Jeff Menzise, a doctor of clinical psychology and a research associate with the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, said that the factor underlying the success of TaoBao in China has everything to do with cultural worldview and their specific axiology. “One of the highest values is on personal relationships,” he said. “That’s how you see the tech they’re developing now is effective.” The use of technology to accommodate a worldview such as guanxi could mean more savings for consumers all over the world, not just those in China. In their research, Ou, Pavlou, and Davison talk about how companies might use computer-mediated-communication technologies in association with an exclusive online discount. Alison Hummel, a sales expert based in Philadelphia, recently helped her mother-in-law buy a car. She was on a local Fiat dealer’s website when she noticed an online-only discount. Hummel wanted more details, and was surprised when an instant messaging window popped up. Using that technology, she was able to talk to someone at the dealership who explained how the discount worked. “It was such a large purchase that I thought I’d better understand it fully,” said Hummel, who had seen instant messaging windows on retail sites but had never seen them associated with savings before. If America were to adopt a similar view of business to that of the Chinese, there might also be less need for government oversight. In the MIS Quarterly write-up of their study, Ou, Pavlou, and Davison “blame a lack of higher infrastructure for the existence of guanxi, but because guanxi exists, there’s less need for those infrastructures,” said Morgan State University’s Menzise. There is some debate about what generational differences could mean for the implementation of more personal online sales tools and procedures. Menzise sees younger and future generations having less attachment to personal interactions but suggests that this can be corrected. “If we don’t establish [some way of creating personal relationships in online sales], it’s gonna turn real cold and real soon,” he said. Despite all of the questions that still need answers, sales and psychology experts foresee this concept of personal relationships growing in online sales across cultures. “It wouldn’t surprise me if other countries started to shift away from impersonal online interactions,” Menzise said. And don’t count eBay completely out of China just yet. “China is truly not over,” said Daniel Feiler, eBay’s director of communications for the Asian Pacific region. He noted that eBay had good competition in the tight Chinese market for consumer-to-consumer auctions, and although eBay has left that business in China once before, the company, Feiler said, has a “very fast growing export business, taking out all the middle men.”