Fakes – How can You Tell?

How to Identify Fake Antiques

August 2nd, 2012 by

As antiques aficionados, most of us appreciate authenticity and are drawn to items that have provenance or –at the very least– are as old as they are purported to be by the person trying to sell them. But now and then an item may be sold under a false pretext, and it can save us money and heartbreak if we recognize this before bringing it home.


“Fake” versus “Not Very Old”


There are two ways one may be led into buying an antique with a lower value than advertised. One is the circulation of an actual “fake”, a counterfeit “Tiffany” lamp, “Chippendale” chair, or “1923 Rolex” watch, for example. These kinds of fakes (except for the watch– more on that later) are actually very difficult to create and pass off as the real deal. It takes an intense degree of craftsmanship and attention to detail to pull off a scheme like this, especially when it comes to wooden furniture, so you don’t see these kinds of things very often. All the same, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Some deals are too good to be true. If the price of an item seems way too low, feel free to buy it, but don’t count on being able to resell it as an authentic piece.
  • If you’re trusting a label or watermark to tell the truth, it’s best to have some experience with that particular maker so you know exactly what the correct version looks like. Joining collectors clubs or similar social groups can expose you to experts and help build your knowledge and confidence.
  • Sometimes pottery and ceramics have minor defects and are sold as “factory seconds.” In this case, the maker will often strike out the signature. If you believe you’re looking at a factory second, buy at your own risk. The manufacturer has disowned the item, and you can’t prove the authenticity of the piece when you sell it, but you may still find pleasure in owning it.

“Not Very Old”

Some misleading items are simply recently-made pieces that are passed off as old. An item sold as a colonial table or an 18th century German cuckoo clock may have been made in a factory last week. Here are a few ways to tell.

  • Over time, wood changes shape along the grain. The length stays the same, but the width varies. If a round table is still perfectly round, it may not be very old. Square shelves that fit imperfectly in cabinetry, gaps, slight buckling, and a general misshape are all good signs.
  • Check the woodworm holes and the joining pegs. Tiny cracks should not radiate from the wormholes, and the joining pegs should stand out slightly from the surrounding wood as it shrinks back with time.
  • Dovetail joints should be a bit rough. Uniform cuts suggest a 20th century factory.  Rougher, uneven cuts suggest handwork.
  • Check patterns of grime and wear. The piece should show more distress in the places where it’s been touched most over the years, like on the arms of chairs and the handles of things. Uniform wear is a bad sign.
  • Read the description carefully. Items sold as “in the style of” or “inspired by” are not claiming to be antique. These are perfectly legal and legitimate imitations of antique items.

A Few Additional Tips

Remember that “authentic” can be a purely philosophical distinction. Antique items have been popular for thousands of years. “Fake” antique tables were bought and sold during biblical times. If you come across one of these, I’d hold onto it.

By the same token, if a wooden table is made from the boards of an old barn, is it old? As the buyer, you are allowed to decide. But it’s harder to dictate these terms when you become the seller.

When an item becomes appealing to speculators, fakes abound. Show caution when buying something at the peak of popularity.

Use your nose. Real silver has a very distinctive smell. So does old wood in the enclosed space of a drawer or cabinet.

Repair and patchwork are also subjective matters, but they diminish official resale value. Be especially cautious of patchwork when it comes to items with many small parts, like watches and clocks. One modern replacement spring mechanism may render a watch inauthentic, and may be very difficult for non-experts to detect.

By Erin Sweeney

for Antiques.com

SPIDERS, TEA CADDIES & LOTS OF MONEY… Box lot of Tin ware turns into a valuable shiny treasure

April 21st, 2011 by

Contributed by www.Marks4Antiques.com – a membership-based service specializing in providing identification & appraisal advice on antiques & collectibles.

Tricia Evans could not wait to get home and rummage through the box-lot she had just won at her local auction in Boston.  It looked like a bunch of old tins and empty metal containers, but she had a good feeling about it.  After all, this is what’s it’s all about when it comes to treasure hunting and she had only paid $40 for the lot  –  what could go wrong?

Somewhere near the bottom, she quickly noticed a heavily tarnished metal box in the shape of an almost perfect cube with a hinged top lid.  ‘That’s odd’ she muttered, ‘what a weird shape for a tin box’.  She took it out and opened the lid.  She is not sure if she screamed because of that huge dead spider – or what was left of it as it was barely hanging from a dusty tattered cobweb – or her excitement from seeing the shiny interior lining of this box and recognizing that it was a Tea Caddy.  She had seen others before, but this shape was certainly news to her.

After the initial shock and with her heartbeat still racing, she spent a good portion of the next two hours cleaning and restoring the appearance of her mystery find and examined it carefully to see if there were any makers marks or Hallmarks.  From years of experience of enjoying and dealing with antiques & collectibles, Tricia knew that these marks have a way of speaking to you and can provide lots of information.

With loupe in hand, she finally noticed three tiny punch marks.  They looked British – oh! wait, perhaps French – she couldn’t tell for sure.  Her personal library has about six reference books on silver marks that she had bought for some serious money several years ago, but they seemed too difficult to use these days and she wanted fast and accurate information.  Where do you begin?  At the British section?  The French section?  Maybe these marks are American after all?  Is it Sterling or Silverplate?  How old?  Any value?

Tricia is a member of an online marks identification & appraisal service, www.Marks4Antiques.com.  She quickly entered her password and begun her quest for more information.  It soon became obvious that these marks are neither British nor French and definitely not American.  She used the Gallery Search feature that displays all marks in shapes or letter categories and found two of the marks on her Tea Caddy, but the third looked like a small fish or dolphin – it just didn’t add up…

As a member, she knew that she could ask the specialists on the site at no extra charge.  It is part of Marks4Antiques.com’s Help Guarantee feature that allows members to send questions if they cannot find a mark or have doubts.  Before she knew it, she received a reply:  her Tea Caddy was Sterling Silver and was made by DINGELDEIN GEBRUDER in Hanau, Germany.  It dates ca late 19thC and the marks she could see were “pseudomarks”, in common use by Silversmiths in that region.  Tricia was elated!

She then clicked on the Values4Antiques section and searched for “Silver Tea Caddy”.  Images of hundreds of auction records on Tea Caddies popped up and she could select the ones that looked like hers and then view them in more detail.  Tricia relished the thought that she may have stumbled upon a true treasure this time and, more importantly, she now had a fair estimate of what she can expect to sell it at auction.  She contacted her local auction house again and consigned it for sale.

Next Sunday, her Sterling Silver Tea Caddy sold for just under $1,500.






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February 14th, 2011 by

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Happy Birthday To Us!

February 3rd, 2011 by

Antiques.com turned a year on Feb 1st 2011!  Thanks to all of our vendors for helping us to build our site into one of the best antiques sites on the web!  We’ve had more than 15oo dealers join in the fun so far, and we’re always looking for more.  We’re excited to offer over 80,000 items for sale on Antiques.com, but that number increases every day as more and more vendors sign up to be a part of our growing family.

To all of the people that visit Antiques.com looking for the perfect gift, trying to spruce up their home with a beautiful antique, or simply out of curiosity, thank you for coming!

And for everyone, vendors and antique aficionados alike, we’ve recently added a few features to our home page that we think you’ll enjoy!

– First, check out the Deal Of The Day – Each day we’ll offer a new deal from a vendor that is eager to give you a beautiful antique for a steal!

– Next, feast your eyes on the Cool Antique Of The Week – Each week we’ll show you something interesting from the site that is available to be purchased and fawned over by it’s new owner!

– And finally, have some fun with What Is This Antique? – Each week we’ll choose a new and interesting, if not a bit obscure, antique to feature for this game.  Take a guess, or several guesses, at what you think it is, and then each Monday we’ll publish the list of guesses submitted by everyone, along with the actual name and description of the antique.

Antiques.com strives to offer a wide variety of beautiful and interesting antiques, collectibles, and fine art pieces.  We’re looking forward to another stellar year where we add to our already impressive list of vendors and push our inventory to over 100,000 items!  So Happy Birthday To Us!  We’re looking forward to another fantastic year!

Shakespeare said … To be or not to be……antiques ??

June 11th, 2010 by

Submitted by Marko Karinen

1. Real antique Finnish renaissance chair, which is manufactured in the 1600s. It is made of wood nails.

2. Renaissance chair manufacturer’s signature (DS = Daniel Snikker )

3.Wood nails, we know that the chair is really old.

4.Brass screws will tell you that the Art Nouveau coat rack is old .

5.New and old screws and nails ( one drill pin)…..rusty screw is always better than a shiny screws, when we talk about antiquity.

Fakes and the Fools Who Fall for Them – by Rosemary Trietsch

January 14th, 2010 by

PabloPicassoBustOfAWoman Every collector has occasion to wonder if the item they just got a great deal on is the real thing or a clever fake. Face it, as much as we all love a bargain, we’re haunted by the ‘too good to be true’ motto. Much of this fear can be alleviated if you buy a book or two about your chosen collectible, and if you keep up with what’s going on in the market – Collector organizations work very hard to maintain databases of the fakes that are out there.

Of course, books and data bases aren’t any good when you’re standing in a wet field with a flashlight at 5am, trying to figure out exactly what you’re looking at. What’s a collector to do? Well, here are a few questions to ask yourself before you spend any money.

Continue Reading…

How to Spot a Fake? By Reyne Haines

January 6th, 2010 by

Fake…a word no collector or dealer ever wants to hear.  Fakes run rampant in the antiques and collectibles industry.  Many people think fakes are only for expensive items such as Monet paintings, diamond jewelry, and Rolex watches.  Not so!

During the beanie baby craze, counterfeit Beanies took the market by surprise.  Who would have thought a new plush animal would be reproduced?

There is no easy way to answer the question, “How do I know if an item is a fake?”  If there were a few quick, simple answers, fakes would not exist.

Some fakes are of poor quality and easy to spot, others are of such good quality they have fooled museums and major auction houses alike.

So how do you keep from being taken?  If you are a beginning collector, make sure to buy from dealers you know and trust until you become familiar with the different types of fakes being made.  Always make sure you receive a written guarantee stating the item is authentic, and that the dealer will refund your money should you ever learn otherwise.

Depending on what type of item you collect, there is often information uploaded to the Internet that gives great detail about reproductions as they begin showing up on the market.  Some of the reference books have a section describing the differences between the original vs. the new items.

Look closely at the item you are interested in.  Does it appear to be quality work?  Was there great attention to detail used in the decoration? Does it measure the correct size as an authentic one?  These are the types of questions you should ask yourself as you examine potential acquisitions.

One of the first things I notice inexperienced collectors doing when looking at merchandise is checking the signature of an item first.  Truly, this should be the final thing you look at.  The signature is the easiest part of an item to fake.  You should be able to recognize an artist’s work because of the item itself, and not because who signed it.

Not only are fake signatures placed on fake items, but signatures are also added to vintage items made by another maker.  These are things you need to consider when acquiring pieces for your collection.

No matter what you collect, there will always be someone out there making things that never existed, and looking to take advantage of new and seasoned collectors with quality reproductions that the market has not been alerted to yet.  Sometimes the giveaway can be the price. It’s not so low it gives itself away, but priced just fairly enough you think you are getting a great piece at a bargain price.  Remember, the longer you look at it, won’t make it right.  The more hands on time you can have with the type of item you collect, the lesser the chance you will be taken by a forger.

Recognized 20th Century Decorative Arts Expert and Appraiser.  As seen on CBS “The Early Show” and NBC’s “The Art of Collecting”. Haines has written numerous articles and books on collecting. Her most recent pubication is “Collecting Wristwatches” for Krause Publications which comes out April 2010.  Reyne is a frequent appraiser on PBS Antiques Roadshow.