When I first started buying at auction, I did so through a dealer. I needed experienced eyes to guide me. And today I often still use a dealer, paying a premium for the expertise. Please be wary of Internet sites selling antiques. If you want to buy, check that the seller is a bona fide dealer rather than an amateur with a hobby.
A collector recently bought an item from a UK Internet site. Many weeks later, the item still hasn't arrived. The seller says the buyer will have to await the outcome of a claim filed with the UK post office. He adds--and this gets me!--that he will no longer sell to the US because he has heard of other parcels going missing en route to the US. Hold on here: why is this a US problem? We have lots of problems in the US, but postal theft is not one on them. And theft of Staffordshire pottery is definitely not an issue in the US because our thieves are dumb. I could put my whole collection on my doorstep and any self-respecting US thief would push through it to steal my television. The same cannot be said in the UK, where thieves are aware of the value of antiques. Instead of blaming the US, why does this seller not refund the buyer and claim from his insurance company? Proper dealers carry insurance, they track the parcels they mail, and they refund promptly for breakage or loss.
A sure way of getting into trouble is buying a reproduction figure. The arbor figure group below is The Real Thing, and that's because dealer Roger Deville knows the difference and wouldn't stock a reproduction. The plaque reads THE NEW MARRIAGE ACT JOHN FRILL AND ANN BOKE AGED 21 THAT IS RIGHT SAYS THE PARSON AMEN SAYS THE CLERK.
This arbor group was made circa 1823 to commemorate the passage of The New Marriage Act. Among other things, the New Marriage Act made it no longer possible for couples to annul their marriage on the grounds that one or other of them had lied about age at the time of marriage--meaning that the marriage should not have been allowed to take place. After passage of the New Marriage Act in 1823, things changed. Thus when John Frill and Ann Boke attest to being aged 21, their marriage becomes final, whatever their age. Amen!
Reproductions of arbor New Marriage groups abound. Some of them were made in the earlier part of the last century, but they lack charm. They are nasty objects, and the modeling is very wooden. From a picture, the later color palette is not always apparent to an amateur. One tip: look at the lettering. On repros, the letters do not have serifs (the little lines at the ends of the strokes that make up letters). Then look at the faces of the figures. On The Real Thing, the expressions are so life-like. Sometimes, the anguish on the little clerk's face is comic and the vicar can look so bored.
I don't have a large picture of Roger's group, but I expect the characters to be every bit as delightful as those below. Look at the blue-tinted glaze that has puddled in the indentations of this figure. Any doubt you are looking at The Real Thing?