F is for FAKES!
As a seasoned antiques & collectibles dealer, I wanted to spend a bit of time writing about the myriad of FAKE items found for sale on the internet. Pictures often do not tell the whole story about an item, so if you are looking for authentic antiques (or collectibles), it's a good thing to educate yourself about how to spot the differences between the real deals and the ones that are not so real. I am not implying that all dealers who present fake merchandise for sale are attempting to exploit buyers. My point is that I want buyers to be aware that not all dealers know the differences between the authentic or genuine and fakes or reproductions. Some sellers may, in all honesty, present a FAKE or reproduced item as authentic because they don't know the difference, either. This is a major reason why the phrase caveat emptor prevails in the antiques and collectibles business.
First, a couple of definitions:
- Did you know that to be a genuine antique, an item has to be at least 100 years old? A century. That's a long time. Generations.
- A reproduction is a copy of something. There are lots of reproductions offered online, and that's fine--as long as the sellers accurately present them as such. (One of my concerns are sellers who do not do this, either due to inexperience or lack of knowledge. I am disturbed when I see auctions presenting reproduced antiques as being authentic period pieces.
- A FAKE is something that is not real; "a worthless item passed off as genuine." A FAKE is something that was made to intentionally deceive potential buyers. People have been doing this for centuries, so be aware, that sometimes FAKES can be real antiques (over 100 years old), too.
So, the main difference between a reproduction and a fake seems to me to be intent. A reproduction of an item is a sincere copy; a FAKE is intentionally made in order to deceive or exploit someone (usually for money).
There is not enough space in this blog to list all categories of antiques and collectibles and to write about all of the differences between the authentic and FAKE items, thus, I will offer some general advice to the novice collector.
- Educate yourself about what you collect. Talk to experienced collectors and dealers. Go to museums. Visit antique shops. Make good use of your local library, and/or build your own collection of reference resources (there are tons of books about antiques & collectibles). Read history books. Watch Antiques Roadshow, History Detectives, Pawn Stars, and any other educational TV show.
- Examine any item that you are considering purchasing using all senses. (This is where buying online becomes a bit tricky). If possible, look at the entire item. Look for any distinctive maker's marks or signatures, feel it with your hands and fingers, smell it. Remember that it is often the imperfections of an item that indicates authenticity.
- Ask the seller for provenance. Ask the seller if there is a return policy in case you find that the item you purchase turns out not to be authentic.
- Know that no one is perfect, and not all antiques & collectibles sellers know everything there is to know about an item. Most sellers honestly want the folks who buy from them to be happy with their purchases. So if you have doubts about an item, always ask questions.
I hope this blog has helped create some awareness about the FAKES out there. This topic is one of great interest to me, and I will probably be writing more at a later date.
Until then, I wish you Happy Shopping on OLA, the online place where buyers & sellers meet!