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Jeruba's avatar

Antique porcelain collectors: how could it appear that two sellers are selling the exact same piece?

Asked by Jeruba (41907 points ) August 21st, 2011

I just lost an eBay auction for a piece that looks exactly like this:
[ Limoges violets ]

Oddly, the marks on the back look just alike too:
[ plate 1 ] [ plate 2 ]

Could two pieces that were hand-painted really look as much alike as this? including the exact degree of definition of the T & V stamp and the signature of the artist?

If these are in fact the selfsame article, how could it be offered in one place when it has just sold (at a higher price) in another?

Is there something more I should know about (a) Limoges china, (b) online selling, and/or (c) eBay auctions? I’m a relative novice at all three.

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16 Answers

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t know anything about Limoges china, but I do believe an ebay seller can have the item on offer elsewhere. Check the listing to see if it mentions being able to withdraw the item from sale if it is sold elsewhere.

It does seem odd if they look identical. It would seem to suggest they are the same piece.

JessicaRTBH's avatar

It could be a stolen picture with the actual item being a fake. I always get burned on eBay so it’s left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I’ve had the bait and switch scam quite a fewtimes. I know nothing about the china you speak of though. However, I’d imagine it wouldn’t look that similar to another piece.

augustlan's avatar

I know that some people do swipe pictures already in use elsewhere, so they don’t have to go to the trouble of taking and posting their own. It’s not necessarily a scam, but it seems pretty iffy to do it for an antique/hand-painted item.

funkdaddy's avatar

Not at all an expert on China, but have spent way too much time studying valuable ebay auctions to try and deduce which ones are real.

A couple of notes

1) the two images you have of the bottom are genuinely different shots, which would lead me to believe the piece is at least actually held by whoever is selling it each time. Many times people just steal other’s photos as @augustlan mentions. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. See the areas of dark and light on the second image? Almost like someone’s reflection. They don’t seem to be on the first. (of course this is all moot if the person had several similar shots and another would match up)

2) sometimes after an auction ends someone backs out or the seller recognizes the bid as being from someone they don’t want to do business with (some sellers won’t ship high value items to someone on a brand new account for instance, or if they aren’t verified by PayPal). Often it’s easier just to start a new auction than to try and get contact information for the second highest bid. In fact, I think this is what eBay recommends because of the limited information they expose to sellers. You didn’t mention if both sales are on ebay.

3) If several almost identical items are being sold, often the seller only takes photos of one and uses that set for all auctions.

And I guess a couple of ebay basics (excuse me if these are review)

1) ebay auctions start low, and often much of the bidding can happen in the last little bit, even the last minute or seconds. The new item may be lower now, but unless it’s a “buy it now” item, the price may end up similar to the old auction, or even higher.

2) You can see who the seller is on an auction, if these are both from the same seller, it’s less likely something is up

3) You can always write a seller, or even ask right on the auction, to mention you just saw another auction for the same plate. If they don’t give a satisfactory answer, you can save your money for some other loveliness.

Jeruba's avatar

Great information, @funkdaddy. You sound very experienced. Thank you.

I see what you’re saying about the two shots, but I’m not convinced.

Staying with plate 1 and plate 2 designations as in my question:

•  Plate 1 was on eBay and plate 2 is listed with a reputable dealer. Sellers do not have the same name; the one on eBay is just a username and the other one has a shop name.

•  All the photos of plate 1 are paler and more washed out than those of plate 2. If you lightened the photo of plate 2 using Photoshop, I think the gradations would fade out.

•  The tag lines and descriptions of the two plates are identical except for two words. One is undoubtedly taken from the other.

•  Look at the tiny markings on the handles of the two. Both are at maximum size as downloaded, so one is bigger than the other, but how could those be different plates?

The eBay item was up for a week and closed at 5 p.m. today. I searched and found the other one only after that and was surprised to see such a close match—and a listed price toward the high end of the bidding range but below the final gavel amount.

I am so very puzzled by this.

prioritymail's avatar

I definitely see what you mean about the two being essentially the same. Is it possible that the winning bidder listed the item for sale on another site as soon as he knew he won it?

Jeruba's avatar

@prioritymail, that’s why I mentioned that the listed price on the second site is below the final auction price (and definitely below the total including shipping) of the first. I’d say no: to unload it, it would be cheaper to return it and pay return shipping than resell it at a loss.

Besides, I found it scant minutes after. I simply took the descriptive headline from the item I didn’t win and Googled it, and there was the same plate and description on the other site.

(I must amend my remark above about the reputable dealer. I don’t know the dealers. It’s a site that I was directed to by a reputable dealer, but that is no guarantee about the individual sellers who list there.)

@JessicaRTBH, I’d like to know about your bait-and-switch experiences. What happened, and what did you do?

creative1's avatar

Just an fyi…. yes handpainted peices can look alike they make complete dinner sets hand painted from the period this peice if from here is a link to a set of 4 cake plates as an example of the type of work that was capable of the period.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I have an eBay store. I agree with all of @funkdaddy‘s answer.

Jeruba's avatar

Thanks, @creative1. I expect pieces of the same set to look alike. I have pieces from the same set already, and they do. But a tiny pattern of surface defects also identical? Precisely the same positioning of maker’s mark and artist’s signature with identical fading and identical positional relationship to faint surface discolorations? Seems unlikely.

It occurred to me that one possible answer is that both pieces are fake, reproduced with defects and all. I don’t know if there’s actually a going Limoges-faking business. It seems to me that making items of that delicacy and quality today would actually cost much more than it did a hundred years ago, by which standard the antiques are a bargain.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Jeruba It’s more likely that one person was lazy and copied a photo when creating their listing. There may be photos to choose from on Yahoo or Google.

Jeruba's avatar

Mystery solved. I received a reply to my inquiry to the seller. It was the same person operating under two names. When she’d sold the item via eBay auction, she should have taken the listing down on the antiques site, but her modem was down and she couldn’t. She apologized.

So all the photos were of the same item and there was in fact only one on offer in two places. When I went back to the second listing, it had changed to say ‘unavailable.’

I’m disappointed now, but no longer confused. And I learned that if I had done the search before the auction closed, I could have purchased the item directly for less than it finally sold for.

At least, I suppose sellers can cancel eBay auctions before they conclude?

Thank you all for helping me with your suggestions and your knowledge. I’ll be a little smarter next time.

SpatzieLover's avatar

At least, I suppose sellers can cancel eBay auctions before they conclude? Yes. A seller can end a listing prior to closing for a variety of reasons.
FYI-Buyers can also back out of a purchase. I have been able to purchase many items I thought “I lost” due to a non-paying buyer.

Jeruba's avatar

@SpatzieLover, when that happens, what do you pay? your last (highest) bid or—?

And suppose I were that buyer: suppose in my excitement I went too high and decided I couldn’t really afford it. What would I do then?

That was my first time bidding. If I’m ever going to do this again, I would like to be a little less naive. Maybe this should be a whole new question.

SpatzieLover's avatar

You’d pay your highest bid, if you chose to accept the 2nd chance offer. You have the option to accept or decline it. You could also email the seller and explain that you bid higher than you felt comfortable with. If it were my item, I’d ask what you felt comfortable paying and would send you a Buy-It-Now offer for that price.

JessicaRTBH's avatar

@ Jeruba -
I’ve had a number of them. The first was a vintage pair of Dior sunglasses where the seller used a real picture from an estate sale site and I ended up with some bizzaro pair from China not even close to being or even pretending to be real. The seller then vanished and suddenly their thousands of ‘feedbacks’ meant nothing. I was stuck with the most heinously overpriced junk sunglasses ever until MasterCard helped. eBay didn’t care at all. MasterCard fraud protection had me covered though. Another was a football jersey where the photos were of an authentic jersey and what I got was another Chinese hunk of junk. Again, eBay didn’t even respond to emails. It was cheap enough I just took a loss on that. One more was a ‘vintage’ (haha – it’s really not that old) My Little Pony set. The photos showed it new in package but the one I received was quite beat up (not in package) and looked like it was purchased at a garage sale. Apparently, that seller thought that you could just pull pics from anywhere and claims it was an honest mistake. I got my $8 back on that on which is kinda funny. I’ve learned not to go by feedback because one of the seemingly reputable sellers I mentioned with tons of feedback somehow was off eBay the very next day. I love the stuff on eBay but I’m no gambler.

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