>Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know a seller’s items are authentic?
As with any purchase, buyers need to consider the reputation of the seller and their ability to attribute an item correctly.
ArtAncient Ltd. are members of some of the oldest and most respected trade organisations for ancient art, antiques and numismatics; we have sold and donated objects to museums and we participate in international art fairs, which are vetted for quality and authenticity. You can also browse some of our notable sales here.
How do you determine authenticity?
This cannot be spoken of in general terms, as each case is different. That is why there is no substitute for expertise.
For example, a piece of fired earthenware such as a Chinese pottery statue from the Tang dynasty can be dated accurately by a scientific test (a thermoluminescence test); this accurately shows the date of last firing, enabling us to theoretically date the piece. However, though helpful, such tests have been and are being manipulated in a variety of ways to create ‘false-positives’; by the creation of pastiches from real ancient fragments, by creating sculptures from ground up ‘worthless’ ancient tiles and even by exposing pieces to radiation.
The detection of forgeries is not always easy and even major non-specialist auction houses have been caught out, without meaning to deceive. Pieces must therefore be inspected for positive and negative signs of authenticity, and to do that one must know what they are looking for in each case.
As in many areas of the art world, most inexperienced collectors make mistakes (and lose money) at the beginning because the thrill of acquisition, especially of something cheap or unusual, outweighs the sobering reality that the item may be a forgery and that the buyer is not experienced enough to judge.
The most sensible collectors buy from reputable sources and will pay attention to an item’s provenance (or ownership history). For more details on provenance please read our article on provenance.
I’m amazed that I can own such objects.
People have sought after ancient and ethnographic objects for centuries, with major auction houses holding antiquities sales almost since their inception.
Some famous names, past and present, have collected ancient art; JP Morgan, William Randolph Hearst, Sigmund Freud, J. Paul Getty and Doris Duke to name but a few.
Some of the greatest artists were also inspired by, and collected ancient art; Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Henry Moore are notable examples.
How are these items found and how do they become available for sale?
Ancient art is generally found during excavations, this makes it special and distinct from other antiques and artworks, that pass down from collector to collector.
In some countries such as the United Kingdom, ancient objects can be excavated and, provided the correct procedures are followed, these items can be bought and sold privately.
The majority of archaeologically rich countries prohibit this however, and so the material on the market is largely limited to objects from old collections, much of which was acquired by antiquarians in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Are there any import restrictions in my country, do I have to pay any taxes?
Antiques pass duty free to most western counties, including most US states. You are advised to check with your local customs department. Many of our customers are based in the United States, Europe and Australasia.
Is there anything special I should know about antiquities compared with other antiques?
You may wish to read our article on provenance, as the ownership history of antiquities is of particular importance and every collector should have an ethical approach.
Are antiquities a good investment?
One should always collect for the joy of collecting rather than because one feels something will accumulate in value. Please read our article, which contains more information on this frequent question.