How do you know what you're buying on eBay? or anywhere else for that matter.
We can't all be an expert on everything...and if you're looking for something in particular...whether it's real crystal, vintage diecast car, Murano glass or solid silver teaspoons, or genuine uranium glass....there's usually a way to tell if it's the REAL THING!
Rule 1: is one everyone knows:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
That's true to a certain extent, but there's so much on eBay, in Op shops, in stores, at garage sales that really are bargains, you have to have a few tricks up your sleeve to ensure you get your bargain, and not a bad mistake~!
Rule 2: is obvious, but it's amazing how sometimes we just miss things!
- read everything in the item description, carefully! - and watch for words that might indicate the item is not everything it's cracked up to be!
You might find that the item is just a replica, or copy of a type of object or era.
Words like "-style", "similar to - ", "-like", "-in the style of-", "era", "circa", "repro", "-look", "copy", "approximately", etc....all indicate an uncertainty to the date, style or maker of the object in question. When you see phrases like "Eames Era", (meant to indicate the fluid, spartan Scandinavian look of the 1960's), or "Vintage" (indicating something older than modern!), you need to ensure the item is really dated from those times and not just the "look" of those times
. Victorian Style Vase: Is this vase REALLY Victorian or does it just look Victorian? Repro or real? (This one is REAL)
Rule 3: simple!
- ask the question!
Luckily eBay has the facility to quickly and easily ask questions of the seller. You can easily clarify the description of the object by asking the seller through the "Ask Seller a Question" facility at the top side of the item page. You would simply and clearly ask something like: "Is this item genuine crystal, does it have a sticker? Where was it made?" (If you were lucky enough to handle the item, you can give crystal a flick with your fingernail. Real crystal pings with a beautiful echoing "tinggggggg", glass just makes a "clunk" ) Try flicking crystal to see if it gives the genuine PING of lead crystal. Often cut glass or even pressed glass is patterned with the tradition crystal diamond cut, giving it the look of crystal. So give it a flick!
If your selller responds with a concise answer, giving you precise details on the item, then you may feel comfortable in purchasing the object. If a seller or shopowner is evasive, or does not answer the question you asked satisfactorily, do not bid on, or purchase the object. If you can't tell without handling it yourself, then....Better safe than sorry!
- Look for a Maker's mark.
Most genuine objects of good repute have a maker's mark of some type. A maker's mark is some mark, initials, design, sticker or tag that indicates the object was made in or by someone or some factory in particular. Most non-generic items have maker's marks. Sometimes due to age, or other factors, the makers mark or tag, or sticker, has been removed or lost.
China and porcelain is of course the most famous example of items with maker's marks. The maker's marks in china can be traced back hundreds, and sometimes thousands of years! These marks both denote the maker and the era in which the object was made. Unmarked china and porcelain are very common, but the most famous and valuable pieces will always be marked on the underside of the cup, saucer, figurine etc, with a maker's mark, which can be fairly easily identified. You could try books on the subject, or the internet.
There are other objects too, which occasionally have such informative marks. Silver for example will be marked with a Hallmark if it is Sterling, or solid silver. A hallmark indicates both where, and when, it was made. Small icons are used for coding, and to be able to translate the hallmark on a silver piece, you will need to consult a jeweller or a book on the topic. Suffice to say, if it has a hallmark, it will be genuine silver, not plated. Silver which is marked E.P.N.S. , or E.A. though, is plated, and therefore not as valuable.
Plated silver, sometimes looks like the real solid thing!
Most toys, vintage and modern, will be marked with a maker's mark. Sometimes they are not so obvious - Steiff Teddy Bears for example, have a button, hidden on one ear, marked Steiff. If you find one of these you are very lucky!
Barbie Dolls have an imprint on their bottom. The date is not indicative of when the Barbie was made, only of when Barbie became a trademark, but the Country it was made in gives you a period of time within which the Barbie Doll was made. The earliest Barbies were made in 1959 in Japan, but subsequent models have been made in Taiwan, The Phillipines, and China. Check the country on her bottom, and you might find a treasure!
The date on Barbie's bottom or waist is not indicative of when she was made, simply the year Barbie became a trademark. The Country she was made in will help you find out the period in which she was made.
Other collectable figures, like Star Wars figures, usually have dates and makers somewhere printed on them too.
Vintage diecast cars and trucks usually have a maker, year and model name on the underside of the toy. You might even find a catalogue/model number...find a very early one with only 1 or 2 digits and you'll be glad you looked! They are easy to look up using the internet. Diecast cars usually have lots of details underneath!
Many, many other items are marked with maker's marks. Signatures or etched makers marks on handmade or good quality glass, tags on clothes, tags on handbags, maker stamp on shoes, publisher printed in books, stickers on furniture, painted initials and marks on porcelain, and much more......but before you get too excited at finding that Murano Glass vase,....here's another rule!
- Examine the quality of the object.
So you've found a wonderful Murano Glass Vase! ...or so you think. It's one of those hankerchief shaped ones, and a gorgeous colour you love. However, before you dash off and buy it....you need to look carefully. Murano Glass, and for that matter, ANY other factory of excellent repute, has "quality" as it's number one priority. The manufacture of the object is paramount. Many vintage objects these days are so popular, and art glass is one of those things. Problem is, almost any Tom, Dick or Harry, can make coloured glass! And almost every Bargain Basement Shop is full of it!
If you are lucky enough to be able to feel and look at an item in person, then it may be easier to judge, but what if you are interested in an eBay item? You can't touch it, or examine it in the flesh. In this case you need to check through the above rules, and ensure that you have researched it 'in absentia' as much as possible. In addition to this you need to have looked at other, similar objects on the internet, on eBay, and elsewhere to compare quality, and to compare details.
Murano glass, for example, is usually very weighty and thick. The colour is bright and the techniques used are difficult and the results perfect. Check online to see other examples of genuine Murano Glass, you'll see that the Two Dollar Shop glass copies just don't stack up. They're not as inventive or as beautiful, not as thick, or as clever. And they won't have the solid base that Murano glass has, or the sticker!
Beautiful Murano glass, solid, heavy, inventive and colourful - and very collectable! But beware of cheap copies! This one is genuine, has a very solid and perfectly finished base.
Unless a seller is supremely unaware of the item he or she is selling, and even when probed, still does not know, or care exactly what his item is worth, then the price should be a general indicator of whether the item is Real or Not. Clearly, a big brand name item, starting at a 99c price, is suspect. Use your other rules to substantiate the seller's claim that it is a genuine brand item. If satisfied, then go ahead and buy. Cheap price usually equals cheap quality. However, it may be that the seller does not know what he has, or that you are just the lucky buyer, stumbling across the bargain! So do your homework!
- Do your Homework!
The internet, the library, experts, shops...they're all valuable tools for researching your item. What are the best brands? What prices do these items realise? What are the distinguishing the features? What are the options, different styles available, colours etc.? You need to also closely examine all the details of the item, to familiarise yourself with it, so that you'll be able to compare similar items on eBay or in another store. Don't be wondering if you're really getting a bargain, or if the Lead Crystal vase you want is really crystal, or just cheap pressed glass, or even worse....reproduction pressed glass!
- Beware of the Fake!
We all know They're not supposed to make copies of famous brand names. It's illegal. But how do YOU know which is, and which isn't fake.
The brand name says Benetton, the shirt looks like Benetton, the seller says it's Benetton. The thing is, you KNOW, don't you, that sometimes brand items are labelled to imitate famous names. Do your research - where was it made?, what's the quality like? Does it have a maker's mark? Is this item the price you would expect of a valuable piece?, Does the seller have 20 more just like it?
Paintings and other art are all susceptible to faking. Only serious homework will allay your fears in this respect. You need to know what a print looks like, in comparison to the real thing. What does the artist's signature look like. Make sure your 'genuine painting is not a print which has been printed onto textured canvas...they look very believable! Does the seller have proven provenence for the piece? Provenence is the provable history, something in writing, a receipt or guarantee from the previous owner, a sticker or stamp on the reverse of the painting saying where, or when it was framed. All these clues are traceable and checkable, and they can be very helpful in proving the provenence of your art.
Check the provenance of art, and do your homework. Look at the signature, check the material the painting is on, ask about stickers, framing, stamps, and other provable clues.
Fortunately eBay, and other authorities have their finger on the pulse in regards to this matter, and ALL items which contravene copyright laws or infringe any manufacturing rights have no business being on eBay or being sold at all. If you, or anyone you know, ever finds any illegally copied merchandise being sold it should always be reported to authorities. It could save someone you know from being tricked into buying a piece of junk, instead of the quality item they'd hoped it would be.
You love the DVD you have seen, but will it play on your DVD player? will it play at all? is it genuine or just a pirated copy?
Check the seller's reputation. If the item is being sold on eBay, you have the ultimate reputation guide - the feedback system. Click on the number next to the seller's name - the higher the number, the more items this seller has bought/sold. Have a look at the percentage of positive feedbacks. Also check some of the comments previous buyers have made. If there are too many negative comments, or unhappy customers for your comfort, don't buy your DVD. An unhappy customer is much quicker to leave his gripe than a happy one, so be certain about this....if your seller is doing wrong by his customers, you'll be able to find out about it. Buy from sellers with good reputations, a high number of sales, and a good percentage of positive feedback. Always remember, ask first any questions you might have.
Rule 10: The last one....
- If in doubt, don't.
Don't give in to your niggling doubts. If you have a gut feeling that something is just not right with that Antique dining table, then it probably will always feel wrong. Impatience has a lot to do with it. Remember, another table, probably better than the one you are "humm-ing and haa-ing" about is probably just around the corner, on eBay next week! Keep looking, and do your homework!
Nothing is nastier than getting taken for a ride. You've only got yourself to blame - especially when you should have known better. Well KNOW BETTER! use these rules for finding the Real Thing.
Good luck finding your treasure!