A painted porcelain miniature plaque signed Wagner.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, small or miniature painted porcelain plaques from the 19th century were hot antique collectibles. They looked properly old and appeared to be painted on ivory as well as porcelain. Sometimes, the backs were even covered with what seemed to be 18th-century newsprint.

It is likely that your mother or grandmother bought one. Was it worth as much as she paid for it?

These days, the painted porcelain pieces could be worth thousands of dollars or only a few hundred. If you have one, check the following facts.

Were these painted items what they appeared to be? Unfortunately, many are fake.

Choice, authentic pieces are marked “KPM” for the Köngliche Porzellan Manufacktur, which translates into English as “Royal Porcelain Manufactory.” They were made in Germany. The earliest such marks were painted on Meissen china (1723-1724) with crossed swords.

However, the KPM signature may be etched on a blank or an inferior porcelain plaque from Austria or Germany. As for the painting itself, it may be a decal of a painting, instead of the real thing. The use of decals around the 1830s was a revival of earlier styles. Reproduction of those early decals has never stopped.

When considering a purchase, or sale, of a miniature painted porcelain item, use a strong magnifying glass or a jewelers’ loupe. A decal will show a small dot matrix. Another trick of fakers was to place transfer print plaques under convex glass. This gives the effect of a hand-painted piece. Details such as jewelry or a hat are touched up with paint. These will be raised areas if viewed under a magnifying glass.

When the small plaques are supposedly framed in ivory, they are actually plastic. The decals are glued on plastic frames.

By the early 19th-century, factories on the continent and in England turned neoclassical paintings and portraits of beautiful women and famous people into decals. Napoleon was a favorite subject.

Pass up a piece when the back is covered with felt and you can’t see maker’s marks. The seller may not even know what is behind the felt backing.

Most faked are the porcelains signed “Wagner.” However, when a piece actually is hand-signed and hand-painted by Wagner, a recognized artist, it could sell for thousands of dollars.

You now have the clues, so do the research if you plan to buy or sell.