Where Yesterday Meets Tomorrow
It's been a while since we warned you of the various recent counterfeits that are circulating, but they are out there, in ever growing profusion. Among recent alerts:
People are actually going to the expense of producing and shipping fake phonographs.
We suspect they must be made in south east Asia where labor costs are minimal. We received an e-mail from a local customer, who wrote "I want to alert you to a new and very troublesome variety of fake antique - the "reproduction" antique phonograph.. they are EVERYWHERE in web auctions. Some dealers claim to think that these are authentic; some say they are reproductions with original parts; others call these reproductions and great accent pieces which will increase in value. The terrible thing is that for the money asked for one of these fakes, you could buy a.. genuine period phonograph which will increase in value. They used to ask about $800, but are down to about $110. This is still too much."
Antique and Collectors Reproduction News (October 2000) reports that the market is being flooded with fake mickey mouse 1933 world's fair knives. Mickey is stamped on the handle with the caption "World Fair/Chicago/1933." There were no mickey mouse knives from this fair so any knife is a fake. The same company is also producing an opening day Disneyland 1955 knife and a 1933 world fair Coke knife. There have also been a flood of fake knives with space heroes such as Buck Rogers and cowboys such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy. ACRN did a search on eBay and found about 50 such knives being offered. "Of all the listings we read over a two week period, only one seller plainly stated his knives were of current manufacture." One seller was offering his knives as "made in 1983 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1933 world Fair." (Not true.) The seller labeling his knives new was getting $2.50 each. The sellers claiming the knives were original were getting $25 to $50. Some have sold for as much as $175. eBay, of course, continues to take their cut of the scams instead of throwing these thieves off their site.
Remember we have an almost full run of Antique and Collectors Reproduction News in the reference library and many of the fakes wholesale catalogs. You should leaf through them every few months. This is an essential tool for any serious antiques buyer. It monitors the marketplace for new counterfeit antiques and alerts its readers on a monthly basis. A single issue can easily save you hundreds of dollars. The subscription cost is $32 for 12 monthly issues. Write
Come and look our issues over, but then subscribe for yourself and give them the support they need to continue their good work.
Antique Week reports that there has been an flood of fake jadite on the market. Jadite is a pale green glass made from the 1930s through the 1960s. It has always been a popular collectible but has exploded in the last few years as Martha Stewart began to feature it in her magazine and on her TV show. Prices skyrocketed and it has become almost impossible to find.
Martha responded by marketing a line of modern Jadite. When she announced the line she said it would all be marked, avoiding the counterfeit problem. Unfortunately, it is not. Some pieces say MBM (for "Martha by Mail"); some are marked with an "S" for the L.E. Smith Glass Company, a major modern producer; and much of it is unmarked. This stuff hasn't been a big problem because Martha priced it higher than the antique originals. (Presumably, she believes that her cachet is worth more than authenticity.)
Unfortunately, in the collectibles field, you can be sure that once the price of an item approaches $20 or more, it will spawn counterfeits. Now, the Cracker Barrel restaurants are peddling a line of unmarked jadite, selling for a few dollars per item. It has the "easy-peel" labels that counterfeits importers put on their items to allow quick removal by their unscrupulous wholesale customers. The Cracker Barrel pieces are unmarked. They are already flooding the flea markets and antique centers.
In a way, the last laugh is on Martha: it is Martha's expensive unmarked fakes that are most easily confused with cracker barrels cheap unmarked fakes. Authentic Jadite is almost always marked "Anchor Hocking", "Fire-King", or other companies. The safest way to avoid the thieves and cheats is to buy marked pieces.
Halloween items are being heavily counterfeited. The "paper mash" toys such as pumpkins, candy buckets, cats, witches, ghosts, etc. are easily counterfeited. Hang up paper moveable decorations such as skeletons, witches, cats, etc. are also easily faked. If you're buying at auction or shops be very cautious.
Look for signs of usage such as wear on the paint, loose joints on fold up pieces, etc. If you find wear, examine it carefully to make sure it is "logical." Exercise great caution. This is one of the most abused collecting fields.
We stop at the deceptively named "Timeless Treasures" store in Duanesburg several times a year. The store is about 98% counterfeit antiques, none of them labeled as repros. (Actually, it's a clever name and it's half true. The stock certainly is timeless. It's age can be measured in weeks and months rather than decades. But there are no treasures.) We find it a very convenient way to view the newest fakes without having to make a trip to Castle or AA Importing.
This last stop produced some new examples of counterfeits. The most startling was a hand painted chocolate set with a counterfeit RS Prussia mark. The mark looked like a good mark but was too large. A careful look at the hand painting showed a lack of quality and the china body was heavier than authentic RS Prussia. There were also many examples of modern glass fakes. One we hadn't seen before was a cobalt blue salt and pepper shaker shaped like a girl and boy with their arms as handles.
Actually, we believe that "reproductions" are a legitimate and worthwhile thing in the antiques business. It is the "fakes" and "counterfeits" that cause us all so much trouble.
There is great confusion, because everybody refers to fakes as "repros" (including us, most of the time.) The difference lies in the ability of an item to deceive. Can the item deceive an average buyer - not an expert collector but a novice collector. It is NOT up to the buyer to be informed enough to recognize fakes. We do not say, as some dealers have, that if people are so stupid that they bought it, they deserve it.
A legitimate reproduction has several attributes. First and most important, it is indelibly marked as a reproduction with a maker and date prominently displayed. Second, it needs to have enough quality workmanship to resemble closely the item it is copying. Ideally, it should be made with the same materials, tools, methods and craftsmanship as the original. We've had a number of Metropolitan Museum of Art reproductions (marked "MMA" but not labeled as reproductions and not dated.) These are right on the edge of unacceptable. They are beautiful pieces, clearly marked, but they could still fool a novice.
Why do we allow the fakes peddlers to get away with calling their wares "reproductions"? Perhaps it is because we are too genteel and polite to want to provoke controversy. We are too afraid of offending to call a spade a spade. Who wants to march up to the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and accuse them of peddling counterfeits? Or perhaps it is because too many of our acquaintances and business associates are peddling them. Auctioneers that we like and rely on as sources of merchandise are also peddling these counterfeits. If we confront them, we risk jeopardizing a source of merchandise. Or perhaps we go to flea markets and see people we do business with selling tables full of fakes. If we confront them, the next time we want a good price on something, they may not give it to us. And, as a society, we have a tendency to use euphemisms to avoid issues that are uncomfortable. The result is the current epidemic of fakes which is only swelling with every year and will eventually destroy the antiques business.
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