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Erotic Netsuke Auction Buyers Beware?

Darryl writes in about some Netsuke up for auction:

Hey, SPS, I found a few naughty Netsuke up for auction and I can’t believe the auction estimates are $10-$20 — I’m guessing they are fakes. But I’m also freaked out that they are not able to ship to California… Is that because there would be legal action against fakes in Cali?

The auction items Darryl is asking about are part of an “Estate Auction Co.” auction at Live Auctioneers (here and here).

erotic Netsuke chinese

Chinese Carved Ivory Erotic Couple Netsuke Signed

I’m not an expert in Netsuke, but as they are a Japanese art form, the very fact that these are stated as Chinese is an indication that they are modern works. (They also state that they are signed pieces, which may even rule out reproductions of antique pieces; though the artists’ names are not provided.) That does not mean they are fake though. The tradition of the Netsuke art form continues and the word “fake” should only be used to describe pieces being sold as something they are not. In the case of these two erotic Netsuke, stating they are Chinese and not Japanese (if not much else) would clear the auction company of claims of passing them off as authentic, antique, or otherwise valuable Netsuke pieces. In fact, they don’t even use the word “Netsuke”; perhaps that is to rule out any confusion.

The company also has other Netsuke offerings (here and here) they state are signed Japanese pieces, which are also sexual.

Japanese Carved Ivory Erotic Couple Netsuke Signed

Japanese Ivory Erotic Couple Netsuke Signed

In these cases, they are described as Netsuke — but no age is given and the auction estimates are only $20-$40. Again, this indicates to me that they are not being sold as authentic items hundreds of years old.

As for the “Shipping to California is Not Available”, this is due to the little erotic carvings being made from ivory; California as a zero-tolerance policy on the sale of ivory. It doesn’t matter how old or new the pieces are, if sale and/or importation was legal, or even the type of ivory (say from from mammoth ivory), California just doesn’t allow it.

(In terms of buying fakes, your protection lies within your consumer powers, i.e. credit card or other payment option, the auction house itself, your local consumer protection office, and even the post office.)

Posted in Art, Collecting, Other Objects.

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