Chinese porcelain figurines have been popular in the U.S. for decades, and are often found in estate sales. Finding a genuine antique is rare. There are many reproductions on the market, as well as fakes. Even if a piece has identifying marks, they are often forged. Here are some things to look for when evaluating a piece.
Generally identifying marks can be found on the bottom of a figurine. The McKinley Tariff Act requires all imports to the U.S. after 1919 be marked with the country of origin in this way: “Made in __________”. So, you can get an idea of whether a piece is antique by the way it is labeled.
- “China” generally indicates a piece was made between 1890 and the 1920s.
- “Made in China” indicates a piece was made after 1919, and therefore is not considered an antique (over 100 years old).
- Antique pieces may display an imperial reign mark, which you should research on Gotheberg.com.
- A red wax seal (called a jianding) is an export approval mark used after 1949. The jianding does not indicate the age of the piece, but only that it has been approved for export.
Legalities of Selling and Exporting Antiques
There are two primary laws governing the sale and export of antiques from China.
- Any item produced prior to 1949 is considered a cultural relic, and cannot be taken out of the country without a jianding or official receipt.
- No item produced prior to 1795 may be purchased from a government antique shop.
Currently the Cultural Relics Bureau oversees the exportation of antiques from China. By law, an item with the jianding could have been produced from 1795 through the present. However, generally no antiques (older than 100 years) will receive the jianding. It is more typically seen on items produced between the 1920s and 1950s when antique-looking reproductions using traditional techniques were heavily produced.
Signs of Age
How do you know if you may have an antique piece? Signs of age in porcelain include:
- Indentions or raised spots
- Rust Spots
- Staples or staple holes (indications of repair)
If you think you may have a valuable or antique piece, recommend to your Client that they have it apprised by an expert, for both resale and insurance value, and get written authentication of its probable age.
Quick Tips to Take with You
Quick Tips to Take With You
What you need to remember about antique Chinese figurines:
- Signs of age: crackles, indentions or raised spots, rust spots, scratches, staples or staple holes.
- “China”: 1890-1920s
- “Made in China”: after 1919
- Jianding (red wax seal): generally 1920s-1950s
- Excellent resource: Gotheborg.com
Stay tuned to Tales From the Sales for more insightful and valuable articles.
Donna Davis has over twenty years of experience in the antiques and estate sale business, and conducts sales every weekend in the Greater Atlanta Area. She is also the Founder and Director of the National Association of Estate Liquidators, and Lead Instructor of NAOEL’s online school. You can contact Donna by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800-521-8820.
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