Many American collectors are shifting their attention from European and Japanese antiques to Chinese historical relics, as they look to tap into the value and potential of the Chinese market.
Over the past decade, the prices of Chinese cultural antiques have soared in the US and many of the top sellers at auction are Chinese. Auction houses and antique shops dealing with Chinese antiques have sprung up all over the country, attracting not only Chinese who seek treasures in the US, but also confident American collectors.
Tony Chia, head of the California Asian Art Auction Gallery, said that the popularity of Chinese antiques in the US meets the demand of many rich Chinese who take advantage of such collections to improve their own awareness.
Chia also said that he was only a collector and opened his antiques shop in 2005 after seeing a bright potential future in collecting Chinese antiques.
Ten years ago, the prices of Chinese antiques were often set by auction houses, and some priceless objects went for rock-bottom prices. But now, the situation has changed and sellers check the value of antiques before they hand them over to buyers. The increasing popularity of Chinese antiques has led to more investment flowing into the market, Chia said.
However, the exchange market for Chinese antiques has been flooded with both high-quality treasures and fakes.
Take Ebay for example. The world's largest online trading community has the largest group of members for such dealings, including bidding on Chinese artifacts. Genuine masterpieces are being bidded on with no minimum price, limited bronze Xuande Stoves can be sold at no more than $100, and Tien white jade and other precious goods also go for far below their value.
Dezhao Zhou, president of the American Association of Chinese Collectors, said that some online buyers, who are capable of evaluating and identifying objects, wish to find genuine collectors, but others just buy high-quality imitations at low prices.
Though fake products are scattered across the market, some national-level treasures are still shown in auction, said Zhou. He added that American laws can help keep the relics market in order. Moreover, the American legal system favors consumers, who can fight for their rights legally when they are cheated.
Zhou noted that buyers have to be very cautious when bidding or buying cultural antiques while Chinese collectors and bidders have to protect their reputation overseas as some Chinese buyers refuse to pay after winning an auction. Auction companies thus often impost a role that bidders from overseas must pay a deposit before entering the bidding.