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What distinguishes a desirable Neolithic or Han piece from a run-of-the-mill one?

I examined some of the pieces you have for sale from your private collection. Among these is a small Neolithic pot.

How common are pieces from this period? I am curious. In the United States it is still possible to find American Indian artifacts (e.g., arrowheads and pots) in the soil of some states.

They are ancient, but do not command an extremely high price. What distinguishes a desirable Neolithic or Han piece from a run-of-the-mill one?

Mostly a question of quality

Neolithic and for that matter all kinds of pre-Ming pottery have been quite common in some "burst" of finds being put on the market. A few years ago seemingly huge amounts of early pottery was sold at Christie's South Kensington in London, and some loads seems now to be reaching the market coming from Hong Kong.

The causes are unclear but the Chinese government is either in on it, or they will clamp down on it eventually, at least to raise the prices. This might seem cynical but is anyway what to be expected based on experience.

The prices on Neolithic and later pottery - let us say pre-Ming are low when buying "at the source" so to speak. The problem being authentication and quality.

For some reason, the genuine pieces are mixed at some proportion with fakes. At another proportion with semi- or heavily restored pieces. The prices asked by the final antiques trade - and paid by the collector who can pick and chose - are therefore another than those when buying from the first hand.

Regarding what distinguishes a desirable Neolithic or Han piece from a run-of-the-mill one are as I see it its rarity, its artistic appeal, the quality in potting and decoration and lack of restorations. Authenticity should maybe also be considered.

Finally there should also be considered if the trade is really ruining a cultural heritage by plundering? As far as I have been able to find out, this is normally not the case. This, actually to avoid taking part in it. But, industrial, roadbuilding and other projects are going on all over China right now. Formerly holy sites are being torn up in tens of thousands of places. If the pot pickers arrive a few hours before the bulldozers I can't feel other than that this is something we should be grateful for, and that collectors of these modest pots are preserving a cultural heritage rather than dispersing it. Some further information and some links could be found in my article on the Three Gorges project.

Opinions, information and link suggestions are most welcome.

Comment sent in by one reader

Comment regarding - What is quality

Thank you all for your comments so far, the complex subject indeed merits it to be dealt with at some length.

Thank you for your interest.

Best regards,
Jan-Erik Nilsson