Antique Auction Condition Terms

Antique Auctions – Condition & Description Terms

While there are pretty good standards for what constitutes ‘mint’ or ‘near mint’ regarding collectible coins, there appears to be no such standard when it comes to describing antique pottery and porcelain.

We have therefore, detailed below, a list of the different words and definitions used in the descriptions of the antique items offered for sale in our antique auctions.

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  • EXCELLENT / PERFECT / MINT: Very few antique pottery or porcelain items can claim to be in the same condition as when they left the kiln. It appears that the great majority of pottery and porcelain wasn’t even perfect then. Most ceramics were also meant to be used in some way and the fact that a bowl may have been stored inside another bowl or a vase may once have held flowers, will surely have left some marks or scratches in the glaze. So, the term ‘excellent or perfect’ is not to be taken literally but more as a suggestion that there is no or hardly any physical damage to be found.
  • VERY GOOD: Shows less wear than would be expected for its age. Minor surface scratches, minor fritting to the rim, minor glaze blisters that probably need to be felt rather than seen. Some wear to the decoration can also occur. Nothing that needs to be restored.
  • GOOD : Shows normal wear expected for its age but nothing that, from a professional standpoint would benefit from being restored. Original kiln imperfections such as original firing cracks, grit stuck to the glaze, normal stuff for antique ceramics. European porcelain has typically been in use since it arrived, and its normal condition is with quite some wear along the rim as in minor chips, flaking enamels, broken glaze blisters, scratches to the glaze etc. Hair line cracks could be present if they don’t detract from the visual value. All flaws will typically be mentioned in the description.
  • RESTORED : Defined as something has been added to the ceramic structure. Where a section has been off and glue is added to put it back, this is restoration. When a chip has been filled with some material that was not there to begin with, this is restoration. When paint has been added to hide a repair or replace some part of the original decoration that is also considered restoration.
  • CERAMIC RESTORATIONS : Today pieces can arrive on the market that have been repaired by ceramic materials which might be picked from a different item (grafting) or newly made and added. We will not normally sell this type of item as there is little possibility that the restoration can be reversed or improved. Unless rarity or condition warrant offering it to the market.
  • NOT RATED : When the item is interesting but damaged it is typically not classified at all but instead described in detail. If in doubt, email us with a specific question through the contact link available on all item information pages.
  • FAKE, COPY, IMITATION or REPLICA : One factor that complicates matters is the availability of fakes and copies that are normally in much better condition than the real or antique items. For collectors buying online, genuine antiques might compare unfavorably both in price and in apparent condition, with replica or imitation items, however replicas and imitations do have a place in new collections, if only to fill temporary gaps until the genuine article becomes available. If we offer a replica or imatation item, we will describe it as such.
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  • Hairline : A crack that is so thin that it almost disappears at certain angles. No material losses.
  • Crack : A fracture with material loss and or visible in any light and from a distance.
  • Chip : A material loss typically on an edge. Minor or minute chips are used when the material loss is limited to the glaze. Also described as a glaze chip.
  • Star crack : A fracture with more than two ending points. Star cracks typically appear on the bases, inside the foot rim on anything and on the walls of round wares.
  • Firing flaw : An original flaw caused during the firing process, typically some grit stuck to the glaze, brown stains caused by impurities in the clay, shrinkage cracks that have opened during the drying or firing process.
    • Firing flaws are not generally considered damage but may reduce the value of an antique depending on the position and appearance.
    • One important flaw worth mentioning is if a ceramic vessel is skewed or of an imperfect shape. Genrrally if it is uneven, oval instead of straight or round. This is a typical feature of handmade provincial pottery wares and should be expected and is part of their charm.

Remember, all our descriptions are our opinion only and are based on our own knowledge and experience, and as such are honest and genuine. Limits in our knowledge or our mis-reading of a mark can happen and if we are genuinely at fault, we will rectify the situation.

Please feel free to browse our antique marks reference, to check the comprehensive information available on all sorts of antiques; including makers marks, manufacturers history and our full antiques glossary.

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