By my estimation, there must now be 100s of items of lustreware (not to mention cow creamers) that have been over-painted by the eBay seller mentioned in my last post, who I'll refer to as Edmund for simplicity's sake. The majority are in the collections of those he's conned through eBay. However, there's evidence he's off-loaded some through auction houses and private sales.
I contacted an eBay seller last year who tried to sell the 'Thou god...' plaque in my previous posting, unaware of its flaws. He returned it to the auction house where he bought it. They said they knew of 'Mr Edmund's activities of old', but this one plaque had 'slipped through the net'. A reputable dealer recently reported that other over-painted items appeared at Newark this year.
Once Edmund had been exposed, he removed his additions (with paint stripper) from the more valuable items in his stock, and sold them legitimately as original. However, for the next few decades, over-painted items will resurface on eBay, at auction houses or fairs, and perhaps the secondary seller won't be aware of Edmund's embellishments.
I've much sympathy for those who've bought Edmund's items in good faith, only to realise they are aren't what they seem. That's why I've held off, for 24 hours, writing about another plaque on eBay, which bears all the hallmarks of Edmund's handiwork. I contacted the seller and set out my case, asking whether he acquired it from a Mr Edmund B Edmunds of Torfaen, Wales. His response was, perhaps understandably, less than sympathetic. The seller writes:
Wary of conducting a witch hunt, I showed the listing to Dick Henrywood, who also collects plaques, before writing this post. He agrees that the plaque is more than likely overpainted. I include three pictures below to help you make up your own mind. The plaque on the left is guaranteed original. The plaque in the centre is the one currently listed on eBay. The plaque on the right is one of Edmund's over-painted items. Click on the images to enlarge, and use the arrows to move between images.
As the seller says, if you're unsure whether the item is over-painted, please don't bid.
If, like me, you've purchased an item with fake over-painting, you have real choices. Firstly, deny any knowledge of the over-painting, and try to rake back a few quid by selling it as original. Or secondly, scream from the rooftops that you've been conned. It all depends on whether you'd rather be part of the problem, or the cure.
As always, I'm happy to provide advice to anyone concerned about an item they've purchased which might be over-painted. The complaints I've had so far are now in double figures.
Stephen Smith lives in London, and is always happy to hear from other collectors. If you have an interesting collection of plaques, and are based in the UK, he will photograph them for you. Free advice given regarding selling and dispersal of a collection, or to those wishing to start one. Just get in touch...
This website is indebted to collectors, dealers and enthusiasts who have shared their knowledge or photos. In particular: Ian Holmes, Stephen Duckworth, Dick Henrywood, Norman Lowe, Keith Lovell, Donald H Ryan, Harold Crowder, Jack and Joyce Cockerill, Myrna Schkolne, Elinor Penna, Ian Sharp, Shauna Gregg at the Sunderland Museum, Keith Bell, Martyn Edgell, and Liz Denton.