Sunday, 28 September 2014

Dealers and Mud

Storied vessel
PhDiva on her blog, perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek, reacts to my earlier brief post about an opera's musical director on tour in Abu Dhabi passing by an antiquities shop there and commenting on it. She writes her of my "Throwing Mud At Dealers?":
There are many fakes or dubious items on the market [...] but people have to stop throwing mud at dealers just because they are against the perfectly legal practice of collecting.
Perhaps dealers could do a lot themselves to enhance the image of their business. Collecting is indeed perfectly legal, but is it always done perfectly legally in relation to the laws that apply to the material concerned in a given place or time? If it is, why not go a little bit out of the way to actually demonstrate it up-front? If mud-slinging achieves an awareness and an increased desire of individual dealers and dealers' associations and representatives to demonstrate kosher practices, then all for the better. Here is my reply:
Hi, I suspect you have misunderstood the sense of what I wrote. Personally, I would expect Mr B. (like other dealers do) to have some broadly-formulated statement that all his goods have been legally-sourced and "sold with a guarantee of clear title" as well as being guaranteed as authentic (not fake).  Have a look though what he actually guarantees on the page to which I linked.That is the point I was making. What one makes of that is another matter.

As for the question of guarantees of authenticity. Frankly, if you are guaranteeing something, I think that what is required is a statement which back that up which goes further than "because I say so".  We have all seen that there is a difference between an "informed opinion" (casus two 'Cabinet W' coins) and a cast-iron fact-supported guarantee - for example the availability of a report detailing what scientific analyses have been conducted by whom, when and what the results were. This applies in particular to artefacts where the seller is not providing full and verifiable collecting histories to show that the object concerned is fully 'grounded' to use Elizabeth Marlowe's term. Collectors seeking guaranteed authenticity should obviously demand either one or the other, and preferably both just to be sure.


kyri said...

hi paul,it would be nice to have a "scientific cast iron fact supported guarantee" but if the piece is worth a few hundred pounds than this is not economically viable.a basic TL test on a ceramic costs £2oo.passing on the collecting history/provenance of the piece is a much easier and cheaper option.this gallery has mark ups of %500 + i dont know anyone who buys from them,only people who have money to burn.

Paul Barford said...

I think not all scientific examinations come at the same price, the Bonhams plate for example, all you need is a binocular microscope... Basically if the seller has not scrutinised it at that level of detail, then he cannot "guarantee" anything. That's my point, he can give an "informed opinion".

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