Curtis Dowling's top tips for spotting a genuine antique

Hello all. I'm Curtis Dowling, best known for all the British daytime antiques shows I used to do like Cash in the attic, put your money where your mouth is and Beat the Bank but more recently my TV has taken me to the USA to film my own TV show in Los Angeles, Treasure Detectives for CNBC PRIME.

Curtis Dowling and his co-presenters

When I'm not on TV however I have a proper job authenticating and investigating art and high end antiques which my partner in crime Andy Smith and I have done for coming on thirty years.

We have worked with forgers and fakers to be able to learn the tricks of the trade to stop people getting caught out. And now it's time to start to pass these stories and this knowledge on to you, as you will see with my top tips later in the post.

You couldn't make up half the things we have seen over the years so if some of these stories seem straight off the pages of a Hollywood film just think how we have felt actually being involved in them. Stories that have taken us all over the world and co tinge to do so.

One of the most important things I have realised in the past 30 years is that Great Britain is and always has been one of the best places in the world to buy antiques, with our long glorious history people flock from all four corners of the earth to buy a genuine piece of our great nation....and we still do have more genuine antiques per square mile than anywhere else but a large percentage of what you see will be a fake or a forgery so 'caviat emptor'...buyer beware & hopefully that's where I come in for & with you over the months.

Well this antiques dealer and part-time antiques detective has been scouring the murky sales rooms, auction halls and stately homes of Britain, always on the lookout for a fake or a forgery and its time to tell you the tricks of the trade...oh! and more importantly how to avoid them getting you.

After years of working with fakes i would like to think i am now the one who can spot a genuine antique almost at a glance - a great advantage in a business full of thieves, swindlers, forgers and opportunists. For a good cause, I've have been known even to fake a few items of my own to warn the public, which i have done on BBC1 Inside Out when I faked some Churchill papers to show even the experts can't tell most of the time....Here are my top tips to get you started. Remember though there are no fool proof methods, as some claim...every day an expert or auction house is getting conned too! It seems a bit basic but lets start our relationship at the beginning

1. Always check out the seller first as much as the item

2. Only buy from reputable places. Long established dealers, dealers who are members of recognised trade associations or auction houses as examples

3. If you can't see a video of the item online then ASK

4. Never pose as a trade buyer, you will not get the help as assumptions may be made about your knowledge already and more importantly you may loose your consumer protection rights

5. Always insist on a full receipt

6. Do not buy for any other reason than 'you love it!'

7. Get learning! education, education, education, its your best defence, the more you know the less chance there is of getting caught out

8. If the price is too good to be true, it normally is. There are very few sleepers out in the world now

9. Ask the seller as many questions as you possibly can

Next month I will tell you more about a painting we are just starting to look into. It is a rare and possibly unique image of King Henry VII which appears to have been overlooked. There are only three tools in our tool box provenance, technical testing and professional opinion but we have a vast knowledge of where to get what we need to authenticate paintings like this

Its possible that it may well have a dateline between c1509-1543 and may well prove to be painted by Hans Holbein The Younger which is going to make it a very valuable item.

If you have any questions about our work feel free to email via the website; or email me direct on

See you next month