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Forming a Collection

Forming a CollectionStanding at Quality Antique Fairs and talking to many people you hear and see so much, but when I am told, quite often,“Oh I love this blue and white, but I don’t understand it and wouldn’t know how to begin to collect” I decided to try to explain and give people confidence to collect.Forming any collection is based on ’love’, as all good collections are based on aesthetic qualities. No collection can be based on anything that you do not like, I am always telling people to follow their eye and their heart, if you do then your collection will grow along a passionate line and a shrewd one. This will then lead to a great collection and one that has also become a good investment. Porcelain is not a risky or fragile investment in any sense of the word but as in all areas of collecting beware a lack of knowledge and fakes. Buy from reputed dealers who deal only in Oriental Antiques.Beginning a CollectionSome collectors become experts in their field before starting out on a collection, others do so while collecting, others allow themselves to be advised and some are combination of these. But at all times you should only buy what you know you like and not what you think you ‘ought’ to like or what you think ‘ought’ to be in your collection. When shown anything that could be a possible purchase only chose it if you really like it. Only this will allow your collection to reflect your taste and personality and adds real value to your collection.All collectors enjoy the hunt for that special piece and the thrill of purchasing it but it is important to be disciplined. When as a young collector before dealing I was told by a since retired dealer that ‘a bad buy in 1960 will still be a bad buy in 2060’ and to avoid that, it comes back to passion and following your eye.Quality is always important in collecting Chinese porcelain as is subject matter. If this sounds daunting then watch a dealer. A good dealer is known and always has many clients with much chatter between all, watch how the dealer guides and how the clients guide the dealer and which pieces cause interest and find out why. Good dealers are also passionate about what they sell and will always talk endlessly about their pieces and will explain anything to genuine people with interest.Condition, Restoration and QualityUntil the 1990’s condition and age was always a prime consideration in buying a piece. Since the late 1990’s this has become skewed with the opening of the Far Eastern market which has caused the prices of Chinese porcelain to gallop into the stratosphere. Desirability, rarity and quality have caused condition to take a back seat. A collector of mine has a wonderful collection and has always collected chipped and cracked pieces, but they had one thing in common they were all quality. He would always joke that his collection had cost him little but would be worth thousands. He was right his collection is now worth tens of thousands and did cost little in comparison but he can no longer add to it with out a major outlay compared to what he has paid in the past. If buying damage hair cracks, frits and small chips do not have the affect on price as they did, as the amount of pieces coming to the market are decreasing. But the quality of the piece is the underlying factor. My own position on damage is, if it comes in damaged it goes out in the same condition.Restoration has two sides to it. Collectors like the view – ‘what you see is what you get’. If a piece has been glued back if broken but not hidden this is more desirable than damage that has been disguised by much over spraying and over painting. An exception to this preferred ‘museum quality restoration’ is a small discreet area of repair which aids to the overall appearance i.e. to a spout or handle of an object. Where ever possible hold the piece to bright lights so that the extent of the original damage may become visible.AreasWhen you decide to collect give some thought to the areas where you want to start from. If you base it on a reign or dynasty you may find this restrictive at the start as it may become difficult to source enough pieces to make a collection grow as quickly as new collectors want. Often it is easier to have a cut off point, i.e. concentrate on quality on pieces up to a certain reign or date. That way you will develop a collection that although all encompassing allows you to experiment and develop knowledge in all areas and then slowly you will see what exactly you want as a collection. Space is also another criterion that has to be thought about. If you are collecting as a purist you will know where the pieces are to be displayed and how large they can be, but if you are collecting to enhance furnishings or another collection of antiques then more thought has to be applied.FinallyBuy from a specialized dealer who only sells oriental antiques, as they really do understand their area of expertise, and not a mix of other antique areas, unless you are certain of your knowledge. If all the dealers are unfamiliar to you ask the fair organizers, if you are at a fair, or watch the dealer and see how potential clients and buyers re-act to the dealer. A good dealer will become a trusted contact and friend.