EBAY buyers have taken matters into their own hands after the online giant failed to act against sales of fakes, despite being alerted to the problem on numerous occasions.
And the case has highlighted problems with the Feedback facility
designed to instil confidence in buyers and sellers.
The buyers have set up an eBay account and posted a £0.01
'information only' listing that appears beside the suspect items in
the search lists.
Their move comes after eBay failed to act despite complaints
from respected pottery historians about a seller whose listings
include items of Sunderland lustre that have been embellished by
Dick Henrywood, author of several books on 19th century
transfer-printed wares, Myrna Schkolne, author and lecturer on 19th
century Staffordshire, and Stephen Smith, who runs a reference
website devoted to Sunderland lustre plaques, say collectors have
paid high premiums for items they believed to be coloured at their
time of manufacture.
While eBay seller 1079edmund from South Wales sells genuine
pieces of transfer-printed pottery of a type most commonly
associated with the potteries of Sunderland and Newcastle,
complainants say many are heavily rubbed wares that have been
repainted or simple black transfer wares now embellished with
Stephen Smith, whose website is www.matesoundthepump.com (the
name refers to a verse that appears on some particularly desirable
Sunderland plaques), believes a distinction should be made here
between honest restoration and fakery.
"Restoration is bringing an item back to its original condition.
Fakery is the wilful attempt to deceive people into believing an
item is something it never was, in order to get a higher price for
Definitions aside, 1079edmund typically lists his over-painted
items as surviving in excellent condition.
The embellished wares (typically applied over the glaze with
household gloss paint) fail to achieve the iridescence of those
fired in a kiln. The enamels are often in colours not used by
Victorian potters, for example a shade of green and an
orange/brown, and are applied with careful brush strokes rather
than the broad washes seen in genuine 19th century enamelling.
Mr Smith recommends those who suspect they might have purchased
a redecorated piece should try scratching the pink 'lustre' with a
fingernail (Victorian lustre under a glaze will not make a mark) or
rub a hidden area with white spirit (recently applied paint will
probably stain the cloth). He has even taken Nitromors paint
stripper to a plaque he owns to reveal a rubbed - but, in his
opinion, far more attractive - plaque beneath. This, however, is
not to be recommended on all pieces: while underglaze lustre and
enamelling won't be damaged by paint stripper, some plaques and
jugs have hand-painted script or dates over the glaze.
When Mr Smith checked the buying history for 1079edmund, he
found some of the items in their original condition before
embellishment. He displayed 'before and after' views of some of
these pieces on his website.
EBay have also been presented with this information but have
taken no action against a seller who apparently has an exemplary
record as the vendor of more than 400 items. His 100 per cent
feedback is full of glowing comments from buyers who are clearly
unaware the items they purchased may have been embellished. "People
who don't know they've been duped leave positive comments," said Mr
When the seller recently listed four more over-painted items,
eBay buyers took matters into their own hands by setting up a new
eBay account and posting a £0.01, entitled Fake Sunderland
Lustre plaque information only, that appears beside the
suspect items in the search lists.
EBay allowed the information listing to run, which gives
pointers about identifying recent over-painting on items of
lustreware. It has received many voices of support, through the
'ask a question' feature on the listing - and also appears to be
having the desired effect. A Sunderland pink lustre wall plaque
with a maritime verse c.1840 with notes stating that the "condition
is outstanding" failed to make its opening bid of £25, prompting
1079edmund to withdraw two of his over-painted items. Moreover, two
previously satisfied buyers have left follow-up comments about
over-painting to their originally positive feedback.