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Sunday, July 17, 2011

A little knowledge, Part 2

When does a genuine attempt to be helpful come across as know-it-all-ness and poking your nose where it doesn't belong?

I recently read a listing for a vase that was somewhat more ornate than is usually considered "mid-century modern" design, even though it very likely was produced in the mid-1900s. The vase retained the Rosenthal Netter paper label, so the seller got the name of the distributor right, but the maker was listed as "Bisotti," rather than Bitossi. The seller had obviously heard of Raymor, another major distributor, and Aldo Londi, the well-known Italian ceramics designer, pulling together these fragments of information to claim, "...the designer is most likely Raymor Londi."

As I often opine, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, especially when listing something on eBay, Craigslist or Etsy. Nothing says "I really don't know what I'm selling or how to price it" like including incorrect information about a piece. That's why my motto is "Check, check and check again."

As a buyer, I usually shy away from items with listings like this, because the seller has just enough knowledge to put a huge, unrealistic price tag on a piece that has been incorrectly identified in the first place. I've found I'm much more likely to get a bargain on a "real" piece if the seller knows nothing at all or knows a great deal...and more likely to get burned if the seller knows just enough to be wrong.

Still, I hate to see a seller floundering. It's either the teacher in me, or I have co-dependency issues that I need to deal with, because it brings out the caretaker in me. :) I'm always tempted to drop a quick email that says something like "Thought you might want to change your listing..." and then supply the correct information.

I usually don't though, because some people don't take kindly to unsolicited advice. I'd want to be told if I had a listing up that was incorrect, but I'm sure some people would resent the intrusion.

So what do you do when you run across a seriously inaccurate listing? Do you tell, or do you mind your own business?

At the other end of the spectrum are excellent sellers like these, who really know their stuff and accurately identify and describe the pieces they have for sale. This is the kind of seller I love to buy from. Take a look at these beautiful items:

Accurately identified as an Italian vase imported by Raymor - ten22home

Accurately identified as an 1865-C Adrian Pearsall chair - scoxx30

Accurately identified as an Italian vase imported by Rosenthal Netter - ClubModerne

Accurately identified as a Peter Hvidt table for France and Sons - artebella

Accurately identified as a Paul McCobb design for Jackson China - SmugglersCoveVintage

Accurately identified as 1960s Rid-Jid outdoor furniture - hausproud
Accurately identified as a Tapio Wirkkala Pollo vase - modernrelicsshop


  1. I have been wrestling with this as well Dana and have taken to poking my nose in a lot less of the time now.

    My favorite recently was the Ebay vendor who swore to me that Raymor distributed Thonet...

  2. @Jonathan: You and I have talked several times about how misinformation is perpetuated, and this is one of the ways. I've shared information with several people who were appreciative of the heads-up, but a few have acted like they thought I was the one who was misinformed, so I have decided to let people do their own research...or they see fit.

  3. Dana, I see them, the mis-identified items, but I usually pass them by. I scroll through hundreds of auctions, so don't want to take the time, to be honest.

    I'd profit off them too if it was in my favor, but too often other collectors see the mistake too lol... Doesn't matter. :)

  4. @1950sarh: My SIL teases me about feeling compelled to help people identify items. A few months ago I identified a table for someone locally, and later my SIL met her while out looking for things to buy. Thanks to me, that was one piece he didn't pick up on the cheap. :)

  5. I would gently tell them. I will admit - I don't always like when people point out I have made a foolish error (I make enough errors that I can categorize them) but mostly because I am embarassed. However, it is far more embarassing to go on making the same mistake. Learning should be embraced and I think that sharing what you know is something you should feel comfortable doing. If a seller doesn't appreciate it, they need not reply.

  6. @Tanya: I agree that I'd rather be told than for more people to see the error. I think it's a natural reaction to feel a little embarrassment when someone points out a mistake, but I wouldn't want false pride to keep me from learning.

    I once posted something from 1st Dibs, only to find out that their listing was incorrect, and I had inadvertently passed that along. It didn't bother me at all for someone to point that out to me.

  7. Dana,
    Feel free to correct ANY of my listings...or even feel free to give me additional info! I'm all for it! It can only help my shop in my opinion.

  8. @richelle: That's how I feel too. I'd much rather someone correct me than to let me keep looking like I don't know what I'm talking about! Like you, I understand that it's better for our store if I'm come across as knowledgeable.

  9. Just found your blog and realized I have an entire rid-jid patio set in my attic left by the previous home owner! I would never sell it - I love it too much - but how much would you think it's worth? Also I would appreciate someone telling me my listing is incorrect.

  10. @Lindsay: We've only sold Salterini outdoor furniture, so I don't know how Rid-Jid prices compare. I'd guess your set is worth several hundred dollars if it's in good condition.