Blog by Dr. Lori

3 Online Research Problems

by Dr. Lori Verderame
3 Online Research Problems

The thrill of the hunt! That is what most antiques shoppers, vintage collectors, and other art, antiques, and collectible enthusiasts report is the main reason for collecting vintage and aging objects. While it is such fun to shop for aging treasures and very exciting to save that diamond in the rough from the dumpster, there is not as much fun in researching your object online and coming to a dead end.

You think that you can find that object that you just bought at a flea market, yard sale, or thrift store and properly identify it using online forums and search engines. Think again. You spend hours trying to find your object, entering in all the search terms you can think of but it all comes up empty. Here are three major problems when it comes to online research.

1. Inaccurate Information from the Buyer

teapot

You may be starting off at a disadvantage because you believed what the buyer told you about your object when you bought it. For instance, you buy a piece of silver repousse teapot with a mark on the bottom. The seller tells you that he thinks it is from a London maker of the 18th Century, but he is wrong. The problem is you don't know he is wrong because he mis-read the hallmarks. Learn about markings on sterling silver. Your piece is actually from Baltimore and you have trouble finding the object or the maker's mark online. You try just matching it up to see what looks the same but you fail because many of the comparisons are incorrect online.

Many discouraged researchers come to me after they have exhausted the online resources. I correct many mistakes and re-route researchers back on the right track when an incorrect webpage has sent an antique lover on the research road to nowhere. Today, there is so much inaccurate information on the internet relating to art, antiques, and collectibles and their history and current value, that antiques lovers have to spend valuable time researching the actual source of the information provided about an antique right along with researching the antique. And, that's no fun. Have you been a victim to 3 researching wrongs?

2. Incorrect Online Forum Comments

Many people use online forums, social media groups which are hopelessly incorrect, and other online resources to try to identify art and antiques. This is like the blind leading the blind. Many of these helpful forum commentators are no more informed about your object than you are. And, these so called "experts" who are telling you that you have an authentic Civil War slave tag, unrestored child's pedal car from Belgium, or fine Impressionist painting may have no evidence, experience, or education to offer any opinion whatsoever. And when it comes to value ... they are way off when it comes to making a market analysis of current value. And comparing pictures online is not very accurate either when many images are mistakenly captioned, photographs, identified or described. Understand antique values and what they mean.

You have to question the motivation and background of the people who are posting or dare I say trolling such online forums. Are they trying to obtain your object by convincing you that it is a fake? Are they "haters" who just want to tell you misinformation and lead you down the wrong path for sport? What is their agenda? How do you know that their information is credible at all. Read researching tips for works of art.

3. Research the Information Source

It is fine to do research and to try to make decisions yourself about your art, antiques, and collectibles but whose information are you relying on? Be sure to find out the background of that expert who is giving credit or discrediting your object. And good researchers question those people who are telling you what you want to hear, too. Education and experience are both necessary to properly identify and evaluate works of art and antiques. Ask an expert about your antiques, works of art, or collectibles, but first ask that expert how they obtained their expertise. Some people may be trying to steal your items just like people online who may be trying to steal your identity information. Be careful what you post online in an effort to conduct research, too.

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