After an hour or two of research we
discovered that Penelope here
was genuine.
 There are two sides to the antiques business – one deals with the very old (or at least passably grown up) and the other deals with 21stcentury technology. But it’s not just coaxing the Paypal card-reader into action in a village hall to sell a beautiful antique; there is a second, darker side to this juxtaposition of ancient and modern.
First and foremost, and I am not saying this for sympathy, selling online is far more taxing than people give it credit for. There is never a moment when one is off-duty. The phone clicks, pings and cha-chings throughout the day and night; photographs, listings, promotion, blogging and myriad other tasks eat hours, days and weeks off the calendar with never a full day off in sight.
It can be galling therefore, to notice a decline in sales. Your quality merchandise gathers dust, footfall drops and the whole thing threatens collapse. The reason? A worrying trend with online sales sites: let’s call them Fleabay and Betsy to remain unpartisan.
My understanding of “antique” – and this is laid down by professional organisations – is of an object which has a provenance dating it at over 100 years old. Vintage (to me) is outside the realms of (my) living memory but generally applied to anything over 20 years old. But there has emerged another category, a scurrilous and devious category, a hitherto unnamed category which undermines hours of shopping, cleaning, researching and listing: Faketique or cheapro.
This, in a nutshell, was a widening of Fleabay’s goalposts to encourage more sellers, sales and therefore revenue. It allowed items to be listed in categories in which they had no business. So this became a growing scenario:
Listing title
ANTIQUE VINTAGE ART DECO ART NOUVEAU BRONZE COLOURED LAMP LAMPS RETRO LIGHTING
Listing category
ANTIQUES>HOME>DÉCOR>LIGHTING
Condition
NEW
Item description
ANTIQUE, VINTAGE STYLE LAMP IN PLASTER. MOULDED BRONZED ART DECO ART NOUVEAU etc
Choose shade colour
BLUE, PINK, GREEN, RED
Number in stock
15
The above is a paraphrased listing from Fleabay from a search (for research purposes) for Art Deco bronze lamps. It was one of many times the furniture shook as I hollered “it’s not vintage and it’s not an antique if you have 15 identical things in stock.” Note that the word “style” is not mentioned until the description. Note the blending of periods and styles in order to garner as much attention as possible. Note that nowhere does it say there will be a sticker on it saying “made in…(insert name of country using child labour here)”
There is a murmur that Betsy: once tough on dateline and always a stalwart of ethical selling has, inadvertently and with the best of intentions, by encouraging expansion of small businesses to “factory” level, given a key to unscrupulous resellers to undercut its genuine handmade and vintage sellers.
This isn’t the first age of repro: late 20th Century affordable Antique style furniture and ornaments gave people a chance to decorate their homes with classical interiors, but for the most part these things were sold on the understanding that they were reproductions. And many were incredibly faithful though often of a much poorer quality.
Ironically much repro sold in the 1970s and 80s has now become vintage, surpassing its second-cousin status to have aesthetic and market value on its own merit. But the modern repro disease is led by unscrupulous resellers who buy wholesale and sell cheap copies listed as originals and undercut genuine traders. The end result is a confusing parody of a once thriving market. It has ultimately led to a devaluing of genuine vintage and antiques.

 

Genuine silver, genuine Art Deco
Why pay for a realArt Deco brooch when for a fraction of the price you can buy a copy made somewhere in the Far East? Why? Because the genuine brooch is…well, genuine. It was made by designers contemporary to the age, often hand cut and soldered not pressed and jointed by machine. Above all, because it is a piece of history, a survivor with a lifetime of stories to tell.
There is a place for repro and affordable copies, but sellers who pass off mass-produced items as genuine antiques and worse, pass off themselves as genuine antique dealers are bad news for everyone. For buyers it means poor quality goods with a faked, conglomerated history. For genuine sellers it often means reducing prices to the point of loss or being tarred with the same brush and labelled a charlatan.

 

Like any profession there is always development and learning; to use a medical analogy, a good antiques dealer is an experienced and knowledgeable Consultant. People who masquerade wholesale cheapro or faketiques as genuine are no more than quacks and I know who I’d rather have treating my various ailments.
It’s difficult online to know the difference between consultants and quacks but here are some pointers. Check if there is more than one “vintage/antique” in stock. Ask for details – a genuine seller will tell you everything they know (and probably more), they will only have the one (and no it doesn’t come in different sizes or colours) and they have worked hard to get it to where a buyer will see it.
For my part I would encourage any buyer (or seller) to pursue authenticity even if the price-tag is a little higher. A seller who sells bespoke or unique items will fix a price worthy of the item’s value plus their overheads, time and effort so yes you may pay more but you are getting the real deal. Ultimately customers buying higher keeps the market buoyant: the less cheapro people buy, the lesser impact it will have.
As sellers who appreciate intrinsic as well as financial value we work hard to find and research our stock and honestly price, list and describe it. Our hope is that buyers recognise this and take assurance that they are buying a genuine antique or vintage item.
  •  Antique: an item or object dated at over 100 years old
  •  Vintage: an item or object with age over 20 years old (a leading UK supermarket recently marketed a quartz wall clock as “Vintage”, it wasn’t, it was new but Vintage style.)
  • Retro: covers some vintage but usually an item with retrospective design style e.g. made in the 1980s but with a 1960s design
  • Repro: reproduction item often using original templates
  • Seller: online or physical trader also known as a dealer who hunts for unique items, researches value and provenance and sells to trade or general public. A good seller will tell their customers if an item is repro.
  • Reseller: online trader who buys cheap wholesale and sells in bulk, often using tags like antique, vintage, retro to describe their items. They can be cagey about telling their customers if an item is repro.
  • Faketiques: objects bought and sold by resellers, often wholesale from the far east with no intrinsic or artistic value but sold as genuine antiques or vintage, can also be known as cheapro.
Here’s how you can find us:
Shops
Social
Email