The team explain the mysteries of how to tell a collectable Chinese object from a fake, including advice about when to attack your Chinese fan with a hot pin.
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Over the years on Flog It!, you've brought us thousands of fascinating
and valuable antiques from all across the world.
From Oriental ceramics to German woodcraft and Aboriginal art.
There isn't much that hasn't crossed our valuation tables
and I think it's fair to say, we've got the inside track
on a whole world of fine art and antiques
and we'd love to share it with you.
On today's show we'll be exploring the mysteries of the Orient,
and all the exotic and fascinating objects it has to offer,
as we take a whistle-stop tour to the Far East.
Our experts reveal what to look for in treasures from the East...
I don't think I've seen a fan in such wonderful condition.
It could only be the best quality.
..and tell you when it's fine to let your heart rule your head.
That's what antiques can do to us. They fire our imagination.
Over many centuries, Europeans developed
a voracious appetite for Chinese antiques,
and Chinese collectors have recently been busy
buying back items that found their way to these shores.
It's a complicated subject, and it's often difficult to predict
the market for such objects.
Even though our experts find them hard to value,
it doesn't stop them from giving it a go.
So here are their tips on how you can understand
the mysteries of the East.
Terry and Jackie, you have brought along
a fan and I don't think I've seen
a fan in such wonderful condition.
'Quality speaks for itself. You really only'
have to look at an Oriental item of quality
and you can almost see it from three, four yards away.
Just the detail on the figures,
the flowers, all the decoration
and the little latticework
is just so intricate.
It could only be the best quality.
This is Cantonese, 1890, 1900,
and this is the sort of thing that frankly, in terms of value,
has gone through the roof in the last five years or so.
And what I particularly like about it is the way that you look
from strand to strand, it tells a story all the way through.
If you follow one figure, for example,
you take a figure here,
half of his body's on that panel,
half of his body's on that panel,
and same with the trees.
Tells a story all the way through.
It is quite remarkable quality.
I'm sure it's ivory.
I needed to just check that it wasn't plastic.
That may seem silly, but, you know,
plastic dates from a lot earlier than a lot of people think.
But this is undoubtedly ivory.
'The simple way to check if it's not plastic,'
heat up a pin and stick it in.
If it's plastic, it'll melt a hole in it, but it won't matter,
because if it's plastic, it wouldn't be valuable.
If it's ivory, it won't go in.
Ivory's become more and more emotive
with the butchering of elephants and...
..we feel pretty happy, legally, to sell items pre-1947.
Anything that has been, for want of a better word,
butchered in our lifetime, certainly within my memory,
What do you think it's worth? A hundred? More.
-I think more.
-I really do.
I think a lot of the Chinese think, "We should be having these things back, now,"
and they are prepared to pay huge money to have the right things back.
-I think this could be worth £300 or £400.
'With the expectation mounting in the room and overseas,
'was anyone prepared to have a flutter on the fan?'
We've got an awful lot of Chinese and Eastern artefacts in the sale.
It's bringing in all the overseas buyers and hopefully they'll pick up on this.
The Cantonese ivory fan.
At 190, 200, 220.
260. 280. 300. 320.
-There you are. We're already...
400, 420, 440,
460, 480. 500.
-600. At 600, now.
650, 700, 750.
-I'm lost for words.
-So am I.
-I must brush up on
my Cantonese valuations.
At 950. 1,000.
'It's very important that you'
look at the sale and think,
"That's right for my object." But a good auctioneer will do that for you.
Phone at 1,800.
£1,800. Anybody else?
At 1,850. I sell with the internet.
-I know. I daren't look.
Down here at 1,850.
-Oh, my goodness me.
Tears in the eyes.
Never mind, Charlie, you can be wrong as often as you like!
I'm going to become a decorator.
What an amazing price.
Do make sure you get your antique piece into a specialist auction,
where the saleroom can help you
build up a worldwide fan base
and hopefully get you the best bid.
But, it's also about timing.
If there was ever a time to sell something Chinese, it's now.
A prime example of the buoyancy was the plaque at Preston.
This is about 1880, 1890 and we see figures and attendants
in formal gardens with these building structures
and very stylised trees.
This is an object just to be looked at
and enjoyed for its artistic merit,
rather than anything to be used.
Would you be happy at £100 to £150.
I think you'd be very silly to be happy with that.
I think it's worth a bit more.
-I reckon 300 to 500 is more to the mark.
I think you'll do really well.
Chinese carved ivory plaque.
'The Chinese market'
is voracious. There is so much money out there.
£700. Straight in on one of the phones at £700.
840, 860. I'll come back.
The bid's on the phone at 1,000.
10 years ago, would've been worth £100.
'Four years ago, maybe 200 or 300.'
-Oh, my God!
'Just kept flying.
'The bids absolutely shooting in
'from the online bidding platform that we have.'
At some points, it was coming in quicker than I could actually take
the bids and I was having to jump bids
'to keep up with it.'
We're not there yet. 24, 25.
At the time we sold it,
I put three to five, expecting it to make a thousand.
We're not there yet.
The Internet has enabled us
here to market everything
all over the world. So it's made a massive difference.
I can't believe it.
Very excited people in the far corner here. Congratulations to you.
It's £3,300 online.
Direct from Shanghai at £3,300.
He said coming from Shanghai.
You're out in the room, the phones are all dead.
It's £3,300 online.
APPLAUSE It's so fantastic!
Oh, my God!
Really, that was just sold at the perfect time.
If that was to come on the market now,
it would make less than half that.
It's changed that quickly.
So, it's all about timings.
And, if you're not greedy
and you don't try to hold on too long
and you time it well, fantastic.
And that's exactly what happened on the day.
'Things may have dampened down a bit since we sold that plaque,
'but buying Chinese can still be a great investment.
'The trade secret is not to rush out to sell,
'but hang on until the market looks right.'
'If you want to invest, there are some Chinese pieces where you
'cannot go wrong, including a type of ceramic
'called Famille Rose.'
Gosh, we are going back now, many, many years, to Andover.
You've brought a nice collection of Oriental ceramics
in to show us today.
Can you give us the history of them?
Well, they were my mum's and she died about 25 years ago.
When she died, we were clearing out her loft and we found it in there.
I love Famille Rose.
It's so delicate. The colouring.
Lots of 20th century examples.
This was really bang in the mid-to-late 19th century.
We get the Famille Rose from the sort of pinky colours,
pinky greens and blues in the pattern.
There was so much! There was some lovely tureen covers and stands.
'A pair of vases, shaped dessert dishes.'
They're very typically decorated with these Oriental scenes.
Little people in different courtyards,
buildings in the background.
'Cantonese Famille Rose ware gets its name from the Port of Canton.
'That's where it was exported to the rest'
of the world, although it was probably made in one of
the big ceramic-producing areas in China.
-Have you ever thought about the value?
-This is why you brought them here today?
I think it's such a shame. It is just a waste, isn't it?
I was quite mean, you know, because I could get away with it then.
I put such a ridiculous estimate on it.
I suggest we put it in as a little group,
and if we did put them in with a sale,
I think we'd be looking at an estimate
of maybe £200-300 for the group.
-Is that all right?
Oh, hindsight is a wonderful thing, Mark!
So how did the buyers feel about the Famille Rose on the day?
..and 20. 950. 1,000.
-D'you need a seat?
-1,100. And 50.
1,200. And 50.
£1,200 on the phone here against all in the room. 1,250 at the back.
1,400. And 50. 1,500.
And 50. 1,500 on the phone. All done at 1,500.
Against all at £1,500, selling.
Yes! On the phone, £1,500.
-I don't believe it!
-That is just great.
I just don't believe it.
If you're thinking of collecting Chinese porcelain,
what I would do is go and look in museums, go and study the porcelain.
Go to local auctions, see what people are buying.
Go find out the good Oriental dealers, go and talk to them,
you know, because they are looking for potential buyers,
so they're willing to help steer you through that.
Good advice from Mark, but sometimes,
it can simply be about an item just drawing you in,
as Anita knows.
I love dressing up, and this is the most wonderful kimono.
Do you dress up in this? Has this got any family...?
-My husband has worn it at a fancy dress.
-He looked good.
If we turn it round to the back first of all,
we can see this wonderful imperial dragon here.
Look at those eyes, a wee bitty scary.
And this symbol here denotes a pearl.
I had the immediate impact of the colours
and the quality of the embroidery.
That dragon with the scary eyes!
What did it mean? That wonderful pearl symbol! What did it mean?
But it also made me think of, who did it belong to?
What was their life like? What was their function in life?
What was life in court like?
I think that it could have been a military kimono
and may have been worn by an officer at ceremonial occasions.
So, that's what antiques can do to us, they fire our imagination.
Difficult to put a price on it, but if we put it in at 150-200,
we might have a chance at that.
When I give an estimate, either in Flog It or in my own auction,
it is an estimate.
We don't know exactly how much it's going to get
until the hammer falls.
Any advance now at 520 for the kimono?
-At 520, 550, 580, 600...
-Someone really wants it.
At £700. Any advance now on £700 for the kimono?
To be sold for £700.
Yes, the hammer's gone down. £700!
What a turnaround! Worn for a fancy dress party and sold for £700.
I always say if you love a collection, keep it.
But if you've bought to sell, or if you've bought because it was
something that caught your eye, then this is the time to sell.
Don't forget, when it comes to the mysterious Oriental market,
if you go with your heart and enjoying own a piece,
you might also get lucky enough to earn serious cash.
What a wide range of exquisite objects.
If you find a piece you like and you want to start a collection,
where do you begin?
Well, this tale of one man's obsession with
the lure of the Orient may give you some food for thought.
Collecting is a real bug and once you've got it,
there is no stopping it. Believe me, it's so addictive.
But of course, there is one major problem.
Sooner or later, you're going to run out of space to store it all,
and it's precisely at this point, back in 1955,
that antiques dealer and collector Denys Eyre Bower decided to do
something radical about housing his own personal collections.
So he borrowed £6,000 from the bank and bought himself a castle.
And this is it. Chiddingstone Castle.
'He had antiques from his four areas of interest
'on display to the public.
'..Stuart and Jacobean artefacts...
'..and the exquisite Japanese collection.'
'His acumen for antique collecting being much better
'than his grasp of property management,
'and it's true to say his obsession with collecting
'had a disastrous effect on every other area of his life.'
Not long after taking over the castle,
Denys met and fell in love with a beautiful young lady half his age.
He was so in love with her,
but one day, when she threatened to call off the romance,
well, he was so besotted he ran to see her,
picked up one of his antique guns, took it with him,
dramatically threatening to kill himself if she called it off.
Well, don't ask me how, but somehow, accidentally,
he managed to shoot her.
'Denys was sentenced to life imprisonment,
'and spent a number of years in Wormwood Scrubs,
'before finally being freed in 1962, when he returned
'to live at Chiddingstone Castle among his collections.
'I have arranged to meet Julia Hutt,
'curator of Japanese art at the Victoria and Albert Museum,
'and also a trustee of Chiddingstone Castle,
'to look at some of Denys' Japanese collection.'
There's a wonderful collection of Japanese artefacts here.
We're surrounded by them.
This is what I would normally associate
Japanese lacquer-ware with.
Things like the sake bowls there with the typical reds,
-and of course, the little writing box there.
Lacquer is basically the sap from a tree that grows in east
and southeast Asia, and by making incisions in the bark,
the sap oozes out...
-They can draw it off.
-Yes. It's collected and then it's processed.
And the vessels themselves, now, let's look at this little box.
Now that's some discipline to achieve that.
Yes, really testing of the lacquerer's skills to be able
to work with these minute pieces and place them individually.
-This is some of the best work I've ever seen in my life.
Do you respect Denys as a collector, a connoisseur?
-Did he have a good eye?
-Yeah, I agree with you.
I think he was an English eccentric
who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
He was buying on modest means
and with a very good eye, he was able to buy some spectacular pieces.
Well, old Denys may have had a turbulent private life,
but I tell you what, boy, was he a good collector and dealer!
He had a fabulous eye for detail.
He followed his own instincts, he bought items when they weren't
fashionable so they were affordable, there's a lesson for us all there.
He bought only quality and items that weren't overly restored.
And his legacy is here today
for us all to enjoy at Chiddingstone Castle.
We've been influenced by Oriental design
for centuries here in Britain,
where it makes its way onto all manner of tableware
and pottery pieces.
Nowhere is more evident than our own home-grown blue and white China.
One man who's been bitten by the blue and white collecting bug is our expert, Mark Stacey.
He wanted to show us the old method of transfer printing
on ceramics, which achieves that lovely effect.
So, he's heading off to pottery to get hands on
to show us how it's done.
We always think hand-painted pottery is the most valuable
kind of ceramics, but that's not always the case.
At the Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent,
they've been mass manufacturing pottery for 200 years.
Mark met Jemma Baskeyfield,
the company historian, to find out more about it.
Where's this demand coming from? Who's buying it at the moment?
Our biggest area of growth as far as customers go are in the Far East.
So, in Japan and in South Korea,
they really appreciate what is a very British pottery.
Oh, that's rather odd, isn't it? Because back in the first phase
of the popularity of blue and white, of course, we were actually copying the Orientals.
We were producing Chinoiserie designs, weren't we?
-It's almost come full circle.
Then over time that developed and by the time our company came along,
in the Victorian period,
you got these much more English patterns.
Very romantic, and this is now appreciated
by those customers we were taking inspiration from in the first place.
So, these buyers are looking for those traditional patterns,
-the floral, decorative pieces?
One of the things that annoyed me when I was collecting blue and white
is people said, "Oh, yes, but it's not hand-painted."
But it's a very skilled process, transfer printing, isn't it?
It is, very much so.
And the best way for you to understand
is probably to go to our transferring shop
and actually see the ladies and have a go yourself.
-I was hoping you'd say that.
-Well, come on then.
'Before transfer printing, all ceramics were hand-painted,
'which was time-consuming and could only be afforded by the rich.
'In the mid-18th century,
'potters developed a transference technique of printing,
'which meant it could be more mass-produced
'and reach a wider market.
'I've always wanted to see how this is done and now's my chance.'
How are you?
So, here's Jackie, one of our top transferers.
She'll help you today to understand more about transferring.
-Are you going to be gentle with me, Jackie?
-Are you sure?
-You're making it look very easy.
You don't want me to cut this out, do you? You'll get it ready for me.
-Yes, I've done most of that for you.
So, how long does it take you to learn to do this properly?
-It took me about six or seven years.
-I was a slow learner.
Oh, no! Do you think I can learn it in ten minutes?
I do believe in miracles!
What's the first part of the process?
The first part is where the print is printed onto the tissue,
-via the rollers.
OK, I can take you up to our print area and show you how it's done.
'These delicate designs will end up on ceramics,
'but how do they get this fabulous print onto the paper?
'A metal drum is etched with the pattern and inked up.
'The design is printed onto paper,
'which is then later transferred onto the ceramic.'
And how long does it take to dry here? Just a few seconds?
This one, it'll last about an hour, this one will.
It needs to stay sticky for us to actually use it.
Oh, so if it's dry...
Yep, as soon as it dries, it's no use, we'd have to throw it away.
So timing is really quite crucial in this room.
-And this pattern, we've been decorating with since 1862.
-This has always been a popular design, hasn't it?
-A lot of people have produced it.
-Yes, over 60 factories.
And we're the last one.
'The last one standing.
'It's ironic, what started as mass production
'has become a rare skill.'
Well, Jackie, I'm going to watch how you do this. You've cut out the...
And what we're doing now, we're applying the border.
You're pushing it down and, as you come round here,
you're lifting it.
-So you're sort of placing it, then pushing it down.
-Do like doing it?
-I love it.
Then you get a piece of flannel...
and you rub it down.
And you take your sides...
..put it about the middle.
So, there's some glue on the back of these already?
No. The prints are sticky. If you feel...
..the prints are sticky already.
It's still wet, see, the printing.
-You have to put them on while they're still wet.
But you can't possibly get them in the same place every single time, can you?
More or less. Every one's different.
There is a slight difference, which what makes it so nice.
-That's the back stamp you're putting on there.
So, would you like a go?
-I'd love a go.
-Shall I swap seats?
Right, plonk yourself down.
-So, first of all, I've got to get my jug, haven't I?
So, I just pick this up.
-Yeah. You can feel it's sticky.
-Oh, I can. Yes.
So, the middle bit goes under there.
You push it into it.
-Have I got it twisted?
-No, pull it further up.
Oh, I've ripped it.
-I think this is going to be really rare Asiatic Pheasant.
-It is, yeah.
Keep your thumb on when you lift it up again.
And the same again, the other side.
I'm getting used to this, now.
If I'm firing this with thousands of other jugs,
how will I know it's mine?
I think you'll know that one's yours.
-Pick up a stamp and just so we know it's yours,
we're going to put a special rose on the bottom.
-Just for you.
-Now, you can show all the girls your work.
WOMEN CLAP AND CHEER
-I'm quite pleased with it.
-I am, yeah.
-Thank you, Jackie.
-It's all right.
-That's really made my day.
-That's it, Jackie. I've finished, now.
-That stage is finished.
-You've got to rub it down.
You've got another stage to do, now.
-You didn't tell me this, Jackie.
-No, I know.
So, what do I have to do now?
-You have to take your coat off and put on a pinny.
And some rubber gloves.
-Do you like it?
-Yeah, I do.
-They're lovely, aren't they?
-What is this stuff? Glue?
-It's liquid soap.
-Oh, it's horrible.
Rub it. That's it.
'The soap fixes the transfer and then it's off to be cleaned...'
Now, what's been left on there is actually the pattern?
That's just the pattern, yeah.
Just swill it in the water, take the rest of it off. That's it.
Now, what we do,
is we'll put it on this truck, here.
That's the most we can do in here.
We'll hand it over to the rest of the factory, it'll have a firing,
then dipping in glaze, then a final firing.
And then, fingers crossed, we'll have a finished,
half decent piece of pottery at the end. And we'll send it on to you.
I hope so. Cos you never know,
that could be a valuable antique in the future.
We'll be lucky.
'So, you see, it isn't a simple process.
'There's a lot of hard work and skill that goes into this beautiful craft.
'But, is it worth collecting?'
The great thing with transfer printed ware
is that there's a huge variety in patterns that you can choose from.
Botanical, animal-related subject,
Of course, the Oriental patterns.
So, wherever you are in the collecting sphere,
there's something for you.
This is a really good tip for you.
If you really fancy collecting transfer printed ware,
I can't think of a better time than now
to start collecting transfer printed wares.
The market has really dropped.
So, if you want to start collecting, go car-booting,
go to your local charity shops, if you want, because there's
really some good things to be found, for very little money.
-Thank you, ladies!
See you again! Thank you for your help! Bye-bye! Bye!
Goodbye, Mary, Ellen!
I hope we've demystified the Orient for you today
and given you some pointers about what to look out for
if you want to buy or sell Chinese collectables.
There really are treasures out there just waiting to be discovered.
Join me again next time for more on Flog It! Trade Secrets,
but until then, it's goodbye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Paul Martin and the team explain the mysteries of how to tell a collectable Chinese object from a fake, including advice from Charlie about when it's all right to attack your Chinese fan with a hot pin.