All collectors, if they have an idea of the number of counterfeit sycee circulating in the market, will agree that the ability to tell a fake sycee from a genuine one, or vice versa, is the most important lesson to learn.
In my experience, I have never seen a collector who always avoided the mistake of buying a fake sycee. All the collectors I know, including me, have done this before. This is really painful, and we call it "paying tuition". Sycee is a kind of artifact which is rare, yet, full of historical value, as well as having a potential investment value. If a novice pays a high price for a specimen, so long as it is a genuine, the appreciation of sycee resulting from the growing demand and limited supply, should compensate the buyer in the long run, perhaps even with a considerable profit. However, if the specimen is a counterfeit, it will always be a loss, no matter how low the price.
So, every collector should be disgusted with counterfeit sycee and forgers. For me, they scare away beginner-collectors who find out too late they are being cheated. They confuse the market value of the genuine specimens they imitate, and perhaps most importantly, fake sycee containing wrong messages, such as abnormal weights, strange calligraphy,and phony inscriptions, disrupt or distort our learning curves, which already are very limited. Despite all that, I don't think a buyer can file a lawsuit against the seller who sold him or her a fake sycee and win the case, because, there are no scientific measures or objective criteria to authenticate sycee. All we rely upon for authentication are experience, eyesight and knowledge of Chinese history. It is one of the realities that many experienced collectors can simply see through a counterfeit at the first sight.
Is it difficult to authenticate sycee? Well, I don't really think so. If a collector has seen enough genuine pieces, and learnt about the characteristics of the specimens of different time periods and regions, representative shapes, standard weights, the typical inscriptions and calligraphy, even a novice can tell most of the counterfeited in the markets after studying for a few months. On "Sycee-On-Line", I have established a database of sycee specimens which are shown in chronological order, according to Dynasties, and also shown by Regions throughout the Ching Dynasty. I believe I have included most of the sycee types that have ever existed, and this database will continue to grow. The purpose is not only to provide collectors a quick guide or method of identification, but also provide a rich source of genuine pieces to train their eyesight.
Many beginner-collectors have a common weakness-- they frequently make quick decisions to buy the sycee they find that fit their budgets, because they feel that these artifacts can rarely be found and don't know when they may come across the next one. This hasty reaction leaves them vulnerable to becoming a victim of forgers. It is also another reality that, once a beginner-collector has acquired a sycee he or she wants to believe it is genuine, and will use a lot of effort to defend this assumption. I'd like to point out that the "tuition" as previously mentioned might be minimized if beginners are willing to stay rational and make every penny of the tuition worthwhile. Here's the mindset I would like to suggest to you when buying a sycee - Pretend It is a Fake First and Find as Many Faults as You Can. If, having seen enough genuine pieces as reference, you can find no discrepancy, then continue the trade.
I have been a conservative buyer in the market, and up to now, I don't believe I have too many fakes to share; only one or two pieces, and I will introduce them to readers later on. I am looking for more counterfeit examples to be discussed here, and, as a courtesy, I will not reveal specimens other than mine, unless I have the permission of their owners. I welcome any volunteer contribution from readers.
Sycee Talks should be a forum open to all readers, so if you have anything to discuss or share, just send me an email. Thank you!
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