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How to tell if something on Etsy is actually handmade?

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

It's no secret that Etsy has become a popular marketplace for small business owners, artisans, and vintage collectors. However, with the rise in popularity, it's become increasingly difficult to find truly handmade and vintage items on the site. Many sellers are importing items from overseas and passing them off as handmade or vintage, making it difficult for genuine artisans and vintage collectors to compete. It's important to take a close look at the item descriptions and shop policies before making a purchase.

Here is some advice on how to distinguish authentic handmade and vintage shops from fakes. Most important hints to recognize imported and mass-produced items on Etsy are the following:

Photos in search results

Always pay attention to the search results. If you see almost identical photos when you search for something, have a look at the shop names below. If the names are different, watch out. If there are many shops using the same photos, it’s almost certain that we’re dealing with imported items, or ones sold directly from a factory. However, there are some cases of one shop copying another. But a quick look at the shop assortment should clarify your doubts.

Uncanny variety in one’s shop

My shop has some variety, I sell handmade pottery, ceramic bee hotels, handmade earrings and vintage jewelry. But if a shop is selling a range of products in various materials, from ceramic bowls through fabric pillows, metal sponge holders, fancy sculptures to… drones! You can be sure that it‘s not made or designed by a single person.

“You may also like”

Like in case of photos in search results, this section can give you hints. When your open a product page and scroll down, you will find “You may also like” section and like in the search result photos this gives a hint in case the product is repetitive.

Impossible volume of sales

Something might look very handmade, but how one creator can sell 2000 items of something that takes a week to make by hand? It might be ok if we talk about printed T-shirts, but not handmade cardigans or ceramic mugs or hand-crafted earrings.

Still in doubt? Do a quick search on wholesale sites.

You might find out that the item you were already putting in the basket is available there for a fraction of the price, which can make you question not only the authenticity but also the quality of the product.

The other way around?

It is also true that often overseas manufacturers copy items and ideas of real artisans and even steal their photos to show the quality they don’t offer in their counterfeit merchandise. Again, having a look at the shop as a whole will help to understand if that’s the case. Remember that by buying copied items not only you risk low quality but also hurt the artist that came up with the idea.

Why not just check the shop location then?

Well, doesn’t really work. First of all, the shops sometimes use fake locations and once you get your package you only discover where it was sent from. Secondly, you can’t really exclude a country, you can only choose one country or the whole continent, like Europe, and then you wonder how come ALL the cardigans with strawberries come from Turkey. Last but not least, it doesn’t help with resellers who might have ordered. thousand rings from a factory and sell it with their giant margin and not necessarily drop-ship, they may as well ship locally.

To sum up, be careful when shopping on big sites if you value quality and authenticity. If you find important supporting true artisans and vintage collectors you can do that by buying directly from their shops.

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