|We found a large, hand-painted Japanese charger and an attractive plate with floral transfer at The Mews.|
We went hunting for china and porcelain with expert Sharon Dickinson. Here’s what we learned.
D HOME: If you’re new to collecting antique china and porcelain, what’s the best strategy: buy what you like, or buy for investment reasons?
SHARON DICKINSON: My criteria for buying, whether for personal use or for resale, is to only buy what I like, and then to be reasonably certain that I’m buying at a good price and not overpaying.
Never buy in hopes that it will increase in value; only buy something if you really like it and if it is in an acceptable condition for the money antique markets can be unstable. Be sure to verify its condition before making the purchase. Any honest dealer should be willing to disclose everything and answer any questions.
DH: How do you determine the condition of an item? How do you verify quality and authenticity?
SD: When buying in person, carry with you a small black light (found in hardware stores) to check for repairs that are easily detected under the black light. Repaired items are of lesser value than those in perfect condition. That doesnt mean you shouldn’t buy a repaired item – just don’t overpay. Also carry a magnifier (loop) to check closely for crazing and hairlines that are easily overlooked. Always do the “finger test” around rims to detect any chips and fleabites (tiny nicks). Be sure to check the undersides of the rims as well. When buying figural settings, check for missing fingers, as well as for fleabites on flowers and foliage.
Any reputable seller should be willing to make full disclosure about his or her products and be willing to answer the following questions:
What is the condition – any chips, cracks, hairlines, crazing, repairs, wear of gold, flaking of paint (especially in the center of the plates), or fading of colors?
What is the country of origin and name of the manufacturer? Are they still in business, and if so, are they still producing the pattern or particular item?
Approximately how old is the piece?
How was the piece acquired – from an estate, an individual, an auction, or from the factory?
DH: How can you tell if a plate is hand painted?
SD: Hold it under a good light and use a magnifier. If you see a patterned series of dots or lines, it is a decal or transfer, and thus, not hand painted. Or, it may be a combination of transfer and hand painting, referred to as mixed decoration, in which the outline or design is put on by transfer and the color is added by a skilled artist. Even if an item is marked as “hand painted,” always check with a magnifier. Also, look for a signature of the artist. Signatures may be cleverly hidden in the background of the scene. If you find a signature and a date, that’s even better.
Sharon Dickinson is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers. She and her husband, Jerry, have turned a life-long love of collecting into a full-time activity through their web site – www.efineantiques.com – where you can find more interesting facts and collecting hints.