What about auctions? Admittedly, this is where the trade buys. But it is also where the trade sells its mistakes. Every dealer makes mistakes, and a reputable dealer will not want to add a mistake to stock....so off to auction it goes. Similarly, an item that has languished on a dealer's shelf for too long also must go to auction. When you buy at auction, you have no comeback. When the hammer goes down, you own the item, for better or worse. The small print in each auction house's terms of sale enforce this. So you REALLY have to know what you are doing when you bid at auction.
A few weeks ago, a new collector contacted me about this New Marriage arbor group he had bought at auction. He feared it was a reproduction.
In this instance, the buyer had not paid, and the auction house backed down. This happens, but only rarely. Usually, the purchase becomes the buyer's, for better or worse.
Potential problem purchases abound at auction. Looking around today, I note this figure described as "A VERY RARE EARLY 19TH CENTURY STAFFORDSHIRE FIGURE OF SHAKESPEARE by Ralph Food, modelled standing beside a column upon a square base. 1ft 10ins high."
As I write this, I note the spill vase group below, which is at auction this month. The description correctly describes it as a bird nesting spill vase. Lovely is it not...but do you know that it is missing two vital components?
At the end of the day, if you "win" at auction, you have to ship your item home. This can be very, very bothersome and expensive and it is risky. Collectors write to me routinely about their auction issues, but one collector's experience many years ago is seared onto my brain. This then-new collector bought a "Sherratt" Courtship group at auction and used a professional shipper. When the box arrived, it rattled ominously--a death rattle, you might say. See for yourself.