Antiques & Collectibles - Info on Fakes and Reproductions
Fooled By Fakes - Know What You're Buying!
Can you recognize a fake or reproduction in the antiques and collectibles you buy? Do you know the difference between a fake and a reproduction?
A "fake" is an item that looks similar to an authentic piece and has similar markings, but was deliberately made to deceive buyers. It was made by another company in a different time period, and no collector wants to spend his or her hard-earned money on a fake. (Note the fake Nippon mark pictured here.)
A "reproduction" will also look similar to an original piece, but it will bear the new manufacturer's mark, and it isn't falsely aged to look like it was made in an earlier time period; it is not made to deceive. It's not uncommon for a modern company to buy and use the molds of older companies that are out of business or no longer producing a particular line of goods.
Sometimes the original manufacturer will reproduce a newly created vintage line or individual piece several decades later, as Fenton and Mattel have done. These pieces are also not made to deceive and many times will bear somewhat different markings from the original vintage pieces. Some people do collect reproductions, especially since they can be less expensive than rare or hard-to-find items.
So how do you know if something is the "real McCoy"? Your best defense against being fooled by fakes is to know as much as possible about your particular area of collecting. If you can recognize the authentic makers' marks within your collection and understand the correct colors/patterns of the time period you collect, you'll be armed with the best defense against fakes and forgeries.
When shopping in antique stores, you have the advantage of using all your senses to determine the authenticity of a piece. You can see the actual color and shape, you can hear if there are chips or cracks in porcelain and crystal by "pinging" the edge, and you can feel the quality of the material it's made from. When shopping online, you have to depend on the descriptions given by sellers. If you're interested in a piece that isn't accompanied by a detailed description, ask the seller for whatever information you need to help you determine if the piece is real.
At Collector's Cottage, we always try to include whatever information a buyer might need and welcome questions from interested parties. Stop by and browse!
News From The World of Fakes and Forgeries
Updates on the latest fake/forgery finds...
New fakes and forgeries are discovered all the time in the world of antiques/collectibles, and the process of distinguishing fake from authentic gets all the more difficult as the forgery process becomes ever more advanced. This section will update you on the latest fake/forgery news and finds, give links to informative articles, and pass along any major seminars you can take on the subject.
Collecting Clubs on the Problems of Reproductions
This piece was taken from the ACC website:
As long as buyers are aware that the piece they're looking at is a reproduction, there's no problem, right? Well, no, not according to a 2003 Association of Collecting Clubs survey. Members of more than 40 Collecting Clubs responded to the survey, with very revealing results.
Collecting Clubs Voice Their Opinion on Reproductions may give you some insights you hadn't previously considered.
Need Appraisals? These Sources Can Help.
A Little Knowledge Can Go A Long Way....
I receive quite a few requests for appraisals of people's antiques and collectibles, but I'm not an appraiser and don't offer those services.
There are a few ways you can find out how much your antiques and collectibles are worth. First, I'd highly recommend that if you collect anything, buy the various Price and Identification Guides associated with your collections. More than just value guides, these books can help you learn what's real, what's fake, and what's in the market that you never knew existed. While many people just buy the latest guides, serious collectos know that earlier editions have information not contained in the newest books, so it's best to have as many different references as you can find in order to keep your collections free from fakes. You can find links to many of these guides listed with the collectibles modules in this lens.
Second, you can speak to an antiques dealer who has specific knowledge in the field in which you collect. No dealer can know everything about everything, so find someone who specializes in your type of collectibles.
Many dealers and experts charge for their appraisal services, but sometimes they'll charge less for a verbal appraisal. If you don't need a written appraisal and want to keep costs low, you might consider asking for a verbal appraisal. However, if the piece is valuable and you either want to insure or sell it, it would probably be worth paying a little more for a written appraisal.
Some antiques shows or collectors' conventions offer appraisals free of charge or at very minimal charge. This can be a generally helpful and inexpensive start; however, unless you know that the appraiser you speak to is knowledgeable in the specific type of piece you're having appraised, you may not get a correct assessment of your piece. It's always a good idea to join collecting groups and go to collectors' conventions in your chosen collecting field to meet like-minded collectors and benefit from each other's accumulated expertise.
You can also contact online appraisers who offer appraisal services; just do a search for the type of appraiser you need. Here are a couple of sites to get you started:
Please note that I am not personally recommending any of these appraisal services, as I have not used them myself. The purpose of this list is to give you a start toward finding the appraisal service or appraiser that suits your needs. Neither I, this lens, nor this website are in any way responsible for any interactions between you and a listed appraiser or appraisal service.
Mattel's Barbie Reproduction
What's old is new again!
If you've had to buy gifts for any young girls in the past 50 years, chances are you've had occasion to buy a Barbie doll or at least Barbie accessories. This timeless doll has evolved with fashion and society through her long life, evoking childhood memories and attracting collectors on no small scale.
We could go on for hours talking about the different types of Barbie dolls on the market, from the simple $10 model up through the elaborately dressed collectible Barbies that can cost hundreds of dollars. But for the sake of this column, we'll just compare apples to apples as best as possible, and talk about the difference between Mattel's 1959 ponytail Barbie and their 1994 reproduction ponytail Barbie honoring the doll's 35th anniversary.
I've seen people at auctions get excited about retro-looking ponytail Barbies with their pointed eyebrows, curled bangs, and classic zebra-striped swimsuit. But in their excitement to acquire the vintage doll they've remembered through the years, they sometimes forget to check the most important things that can either confirm or put to rest their visions of recapturing the past.
(Note: This is an authentic Mattel reproduction, not a fake made by another manufacturer who's trying to pass it off as the original vintage model.)
Here are a few of the differences between the original 1959 ponytail Barbie and the 1994 35th anniversary ponytail Barbie:
1. a) 1959 Barbie has "Japan" marked on right foot.
b) 1994 Barbie has "Malaysia" marked on its back.
2. a) 1959 Barbie's swimsuit is completely strapless.
b) 1994 Barbie's swimsuit has clear plastic straps.
3. a) 1959 Barbie's hair is made of saran (a thermoplastic resin).
b) 1994 Barbie's hair is made of polyester. (The hair is also longer and fuller than the original vintage Barbie.)
4. a) 1959 Barbie has a black pedestal stand.
b) 1994 Barbie has a clear stand.
5. 1994 Barbie has "Mattel, Inc. 1958" impressed into the back of the neck rim.
There's a wonderful website called Doll Reference where you can read more about these dolls as well as other vintage Barbies, and see pictures of them too. The site also includes approximate values for each doll. It's a great starting point for new Barbie collectors as well as a good reference for seasoned veterans!
All You Need To Buy, Sell or Collect Barbies
Distinguished Porcelain That's More Than Just Spaniels!
If I said I was holding a piece of Staffordshire, what would you picture? Most likely, your mind would conjure the image of a traditional Staffordshire porcelain dog, probably a Spaniel, with its very distinguished look. But Staffordshire also made many more things including dinnerware, quill holders and Tobies as well as figurines of all types from aristocrats to fairy tale characters to Biblical figures and more.
Porcelain and pottery has been made in Staffordshire, England since the early 1700s, and the district included many fine makers like Royal Doulton, Spode, and Wedgwood. Although these companies sometimes didn’t use their own names in the maker’s mark, the border designs on the pieces easily identified the company.
Today’s market abounds with fake Staffordshire pieces. Here are a few general ways to differentiate the real thing from a phony:
1. Extreme ranges of color – colors on authentic pieces should be neither too bright nor too washed out.
2. Pieces should not be unusually heavy nor exceptionally light-weight.
3. Poor detail or definition in the piece would indicate a fake.
4. “Made in England”, “Ye Olde Staffordshire”, or “Genuine Staffordshire” can be found on fake marks.
5. Fakes made in China may have an Asian look to the face.
Authentic Staffordshire can carry a hefty price tag, depending on its rarity and the desirability of the subject matter. Therefore, if you see a store carrying pieces with unbelievably low prices, chances are you’re looking at some fakes. Also, if one dealer is selling or has sold multiple identical pieces, he’s probably selling modern fake imports made in China.
See what's new at Collector's Cottage this week!
Great Information On Staffordshire!
For the Love of Nippon
Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on Nippon
I don’t think I know of any antique/collectible that has such a wide appeal as Nippon. Maybe it’s because Nippon has made porcelains to suit just about any taste, from ornately decorated pieces with rich colors, beading, gilt, and portraits fit for royalty to more simply designed porcelain sets. And there’s just as wide a range of pieces, too: vanity sets, regal pedestal vases, planters, chocolate sets, humidors, trivets, pitchers and even dolls – you name it, Nippon’s probably made it.
In addition, the hand painting on Nippon pieces is usually exquisite; even the simpler images are done with extreme care. Considering all this, it’s no wonder Nippon is so highly coveted among collectors. Though you may find a few pieces valued at under $100, most run from the hundreds into the five digits (I’m talking about actual value, not that lucky auction or yard sale find!).
Therefore, it’s also no wonder that fakes are rampant in the marketplace. In fact, there are far more fake marks and designs than I could ever cover here (I’d have to make an entire lens on Nippon fakes, and it would be packed!), but I’ll give you some basic guidelines that will help you on the road to becoming a savvy Nippon buyer.
This will be a 3-part series with enough info so you can get started. First let’s establish a tiny bit of Nippon history for grounding.
Firstly, Nippon is Japanese for Japan. Because of the 1890 McKinley Tariff Act, from September 1921 on the US required that all imports be marked with their country of origin in English. Therefore, no authentic piece stamped “Nippon” was made after 1921.
Looking at today’s Nippon values it’s hard to believe that in 1908, Sears sold Nippon vases for 59 cents! Nine-piece tea sets could be had for $2.29, and game plates were 95 cents a dozen. Still more items, including chocolate sets, could be received free as premiums from companies like S&H Stamps and The Jewel Tea Company.
As beautiful as we find Nippon, the Japanese at that time considered Nippon export items to be of inferior quality and lamented that “foreign influence” had “demoralized aesthetics”.
The next segment will discuss fake marks, and the final segment will cover other ways of identifying fakes. ‘Til next time!
(Historical info and values are derived from Van Patten’s ABCs of Collecting Nippon Porcelain(2005), one of the best books I’ve seen on Nippon today. Far more historical info & pictures are in the book.
For the Love of Nippon - Fake Marks
Part 2 of a 3 Part Series on Nippon
There are over 350 different authentic Nippon marks, so obviously it would be impossible to cover all of the fake backstamps you may find. But there are some that seem to pop up more frequently, one of which is pictured with this article. It depicts an M inside a heart-shaped wreath; obviously fake, since Nippon wreath marks are round.
Here are ten others to watch out for, as identified by Van Patten's ABC's of Collecting Nippon Porcelain:
1. Hourglass inside a wreath; sometimes the wreath is upside-down. (I saw this mark on a chocolate set at an auction; you'd be surprised how many people didn't know it was fake!)
2. K inside wreath; wreath may be upside-down.
3. Sloppy rising sun mark with rays disconnected from sun but connected to each other.
4. Rising sun mark, but the sun isn't filled in.
5. Rising sun mark with unfilled sun and "Nippon" above the sun instead of below it.
6. Larger maple leaf, usually twice the size of an authentic maple leaf mark.
7. Crude RC mark with words "Hand Painted Nippon" forming a circle around the mark; "Hand Painted" should be arched over it with "Nippon" straight across below it.
8. Cherry blossom mark has no leaves and the flower is more like a child's drawing.
9. Maruki mark with "Hand Painted" in a semi-circle instead of straight across.
10. Dolls or figurals with stamped or incised marks instead of gold painted mark.
Once again, your best bet is to compare the marks on items you find to those shown in a good reference book, like Van Patten's. It has saved me many close-calls when a well-painted reproduction almost fooled me out of my hard-earned money. I now carry Van Patten's book with me to estate sales faithfully!
By the same token, there are some very diverse and ... unusual ... Nippon marks whose very designs would make you believe they're fakes. Like the Nippon Tanega symbol with two rooster heads jutting out of a nest; or the T Nippon backstamp with two ho-o birds; or the Kinjo Nippon marks with either one or two fish whose bodies arch over their own heads-all real, all authentic - who'da thought?
My third and final segment on Nippon will discuss fake, reproduction and fantasy pieces. I'll give you a few ways to detect fake Nippon by feel, shape, and decoration. Once you become more familiar with authentic Nippon and get the general idea of what to watch out for, your "radar" will start alerting you to potential fakes before you even open your reference book!
For the Love of Nippon - Use Your Senses! :)
Part 3 of a 3 Part Series on Nippon
Being able to identify a fake or reproduction Nippon piece by its backstamp is relatively easy once you have a good reference book with authentic marks to use as a comparison. But if you forget to bring your book with you, don’t despair – you can sometimes recognize a fake by its feel, pattern, or shape.
Van Patten’s ABC’s of Collecting Nippon Porcelain, an excellent reference every Nippon buyer should own, identifies three types of nonauthentic Nippon pieces: fakes, reproductions, and fantasy pieces. Their definitions:
Fakes: patterns that never existed on authentic pieces, or shapes different than the originals.
Reproductions: pieces duplicating an exact pattern or mold.
Fantasy: pieces that never existed, which may include oyster plates and kerosene lamps.
I had bought a Nippon cracker jar before I discovered the Van Patten book. That cracker jar must be commonly reproduced because the book used it as an example; I held my breath as I compared the features of the authentic piece to the features of the repro, and I was very relieved to find that I had a true Nippon cracker jar. But the repro sample was well done and hard to detect if you don’t know what to look for. The shoulders are higher on the real piece while the body of the repro has a rounder look and the inside of the lid has a much deeper inset on the real piece.
Fakes can have a rougher feel to them or may not have any hand painting on them. Also, the gold may not be as bright and may have more of a luster appearance. I recognized one chocolate pot as a fake because the colors for its type were too vivid and didn’t look like the softer, blended tones I knew to be used on this style of artistry. On the other hand, I’ve seen pictures of fakes and repros that were quite detailed and well done, which underscores the importance of recognizing authentic backstamps and knowing what types of pieces Nippon really made.
Real, Fake or Repro? These Experts Can Help!
Arming yourself with these guides can help you become a savvy antiques/collectibles buyer and keep your collections as pristine as you want them to be!
A highly collectible art pottery with smooth lines of relative simplicity, Van Briggle Pottery was started in 1901 by Artus Van Briggle in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Although the company has had a number of different owners and managers, it's still in existence today under the name Van Briggle Art Pottery.
According to the American Art Pottery Association, Van Briggle is reissuing some of their early tiles (marked VBT) today - these are authentic signed reproductions, not fakes. Fake tiles typically have murky glazes and are unsigned. They have been discovered in the Black Poppies design as well as a pattern with a vegetal cross-section design, but there may be other faked tile patterns as well.
Many of the other fakes on the market are in the forms of teapots, vases, and bowls. There are generalities as to what is included on VB marks in different time periods, but because the marks are all hand incised there is a great deal of variation in the appearance of the marks themselves. In any case, your best defense in determining the authenticity of a Van Briggle piece is knowing the clay color, texture, marks and shapes of original pieces.
Here are a few tips given by various sources to indicate fakes:
1. Crude or rough marks
2. Marks with raised clay along the lines of the mark
3. Sloppy high glaze
4. Ink stamp on vintage piece
5. Two different finisher marks underneath a single piece
You can read an excellent 4-part article about Van Briggle pottery at Art Pottery Blog, where you'll also see samples of VB fakes. And Just Art Pottery gives good info and examples of marks from each decade of Van Briggle pottery. Finally, the American Art Pottery Association has pictures and excellent info as well.
Anyone who collects or just enjoys Van Briggle pottery owes it to him/herself to visit the Van Briggle website. There you'll see not only wonderful new VB pieces for sale, but you can read a fascinating history of the company and Artus himself. You can also join the Van Briggle Collector Society through this site.
(Pictured with this article is Philadendron Leaf Bowl, available from the Van Briggle website.)
Van Briggle Value and Identification Guides - "Must Haves" for every Van Briggle collector.
Sterling Silver Flatware
As far as my research has shown, there appear to be no actual "fakes" or "reproductions" of sterling silver flatware patterns; instead, old patterns are being made by modern manufacturers with less fine detail and no hand chasing (this is a method of decoration done by hand using a fine tool and mallet to "draw" the intricate pattern or background into the silver).
Still, there are fraudulent pieces on the market. Old pieces of sterling flatware are being altered into more valuable pieces of the same pattern. Here are a few examples of what's been found in markets:
~ Teaspoons with newly added bowl piercings, sold as slotted spoons
~ Ice cream forks made from teaspoons; this is happening most often with early patterns
~ Cheese scoops made from tablespoons
~ Asparagus servers that have dinner knife handles
~ Baby pushers made from teaspoons
Warman's Sterling Silver Flatware book advises buyers that their best defense is to know the original forms of the pieces you want to buy and compare that to what's being sold.
Also, some newer pieces with old patterns that are being manufactured in Mexico only have the word "Sterling" stamped into them, whereas the original antique pieces will have hallmarks. If you look closely at one of these new pieces, you may be able to see tiny bead marks left from casting.
Monogrammed pieces are typically less valuable than those without monograms, so some dealers remove the monogram, thereby also removing some of the silver. Watch for irregularities in the surface where a monogram would be (usually at the top of the handle on a piece of flatware), such as a slight depression, flattening, or thinning of the silver.
As always, a little knowledge goes a long way!
(The sterling silver Tiffany Chyrsanthemum shoulder tomato server pictured here can be found at Silver Butler.)
Yesterday's Utility is Today's Art
Once a combination of utility and beauty, vintage and antique beaded purses are now are considered objets d’art. Many beaded bag collectors use their treasured finds as wall dÃ©cor, and they do make for a stunning conversation grouping!
Beaded bags have been extremely collectible for some time now; of course, their prices have skyrocketed accordingly. If you’re going to plunk down a few hundred or even a thousand dollars or more for one of these beauties, you want to know for sure that it’s an authentic original with either no repairs or with very expertly done repairs.
There are many modern reproductions that use authentic antique frames, and some beaders even use the original period patterns or make patterns copied from existing bags. Most of the beading artists who create these intricate works are proud to openly sell them as reproductions, and who can blame them? Crafting a patterned beaded bag is time consuming and requires very intricate skills – these are very talented beaders.
There’s nothing wrong with purchasing reproduction beaded bags as long as you’re aware that the piece is, indeed, a reproduction. Well-recreated bags can, in some cases, cost about as much as authentic vintage or antique beaded bags, but if you’re looking for a particular theme or coloring in perfect condition, a reproduction may be the way to go. However, you can buy a reproduction scenic bag for a few hundred dollars whereas an original antique scenic bag can cost up to $5,000.
Here are a few general guidelines to help you when buying beaded bags:
~ Bags made during the 1800s generally have about 1,000 tiny glass beads per square inch.
~ Beaded bags come in many different and far-ranging motifs, from scenic and floral to romantic and funereal. Some motifs give clues to the bag’s age.
~ Drawstring bags are among the oldest beaded bags and use very tiny glass beads, the ultimate in artistry and workmanship. However, many buyers prefer bags with metal frames because they lie flatter against the wall when used as wall art. To attract more buyers, some sellers altered drawstring bags so that they now sport metal frames. The value of an altered bag is lessened by this alteration.
Some telltale signs of poor restoration work:
1. Dried glue (only thread should be used).
2. Threads that do not match.
3. Some beads are larger than others.
4. Linings made of polyester instead of silk.
Enjoy building your collection!
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The Mystique of Lalique
There's no question that Lalique pieces can command some incredibly high prices. Back in 1992, one of a pair of unique Lalique glass fountains that formerly graced the Galeries des Champs Elysees in Paris sold at auction for $1.32 million Swiss francs.
Just because a piece is signed Lalique doesn't necessarily mean that it is. It's important to know what the correct colors, sizes, and styles of authentic Lalique pieces should be, as well as recognizing an authentic signature mark.
In his book Guide to Fake and Forged Marks, Mark Chervenka identifies the warning signs of fake Lalique. Among them are:
1. Paris France - Included on some perfume bottles, but not on general production pieces.
2. Rene Lalique - Pre-1945 general production pieces usually only have the letter "R".
3. Made in France - Most pieces say only "France".
4. Edition numbers were not used prior to 1945; only design, registry or production numbers were used.
1. Line thickness should be uniform and sans-serif.
2. Should all be uppercase.
3. Should almost always be under 1/4 inch tall.
~ Acid marks are forged most frequently. Signs of forged acid marks include filled-in areas on individual letters that should be open; outlined letters; and etching that extends beyond the edges of the letters.
~ Marks should be in inconspicuous places like underneath rims, on pontil marks, or in the design itself. Forgers like to put the mark in more obvious places.
Chervenka's book dedicates several pages to Lalique fakes and forgeries. If you're planning to invest in Lalique, I highly recommend doing so with his book in hand.
If you've ever seen an authentic Satsuma piece, you know the high-quality workmanship and detail it involves. It also commands a high price, so it's good news that fakes and reproductions practically come with their own calling card.
Fellow eBayer eMall4Antiques has a wonderful free online guide that clearly points out tell-tale indicators of a fake Satsuma piece. Here are just a few pointers, from eMall's guide and other sources:
~ Underglaze marks aren't always a sign of safety! A stamped "Hand-Painted Satsuma" underglaze mark can be found on reproductions of both Nippon and Geisha Girl patterns. According to Mark Chervenka's Guide To Fake and Forged Marks, "no vintage pieces ever included Satsuma spelled out in English".
~ Genuine Satsuma was made in Japan and should not have any labels reading Decorated in HongKong, Made in China, or anything else.
~ Real Satsuma should not be thin and/or translucent. It's made of a heavier earthenware that cannot be seen through when held up to light.
~ Satsuma designs are beautifully intricate and well done; most reproductions are crude or sloppy.
Some Satsuma is signed by the artist and can contain the name of the studio or workshop where the piece was made; many other pieces are unsigned. The presence of the Shimazu family crest (a cross within a circle) does not necessarily indicate that the piece is authentic Satsuma. Many fakes have the reproduced crest on their wares.
Check out eMall4Antique's Guide for more information.
They recommend the book Satsuma Masterpieces From the World's Important Collections by Louis Lawrence as the ultimate guide to authentic Satsuma.
As always, a cautious, educated buyer who spends his/her money wisely can amass a well-documented, authentic collection.
From Repros to Knockoffs to Fakes, A Few Facts You Need To Know
Any time there's a high-end, sought-after item like Rolex Watches, there are always fakes on the market. Obviously, if you're buying from a guy with a collapsable table on a street corner, you know you're buying a fake; the faceplate probably reads "Polex" or some other close knockoff name. But when you're at an estate sale or auction, you need to confirm that the Rolex in the showcase is real before you invest.
The website QualityTyme.net has a wonderful list of things to help you distinguish between a real Rolex and a made-to-deceive fake. Here are just a few of them:
~ Clear casebacks: Rolex did not make production models with clear backs. Only 2 Rolex exhibition models (from the 1930s) with clear backs are known to exist, and these were for exhibit, not for production.
~ Engraved casebacks: Rolex casebacks should be smooth and without logos, hallmarks, or other engravings. EXCEPTIONS: (1)Pre-mid-1990s ladies' watches may have "Original Rolex Design" or similar wording, in an arc on the back. (2)Sea Dweller watches have "ROLEX OYSTER ORIGINAL GAS ESCAPE VALVE" engraved in an arc.
~ Caseback should have a hologram-encoded sticker with the Rolex crown (added in 2002) above the case reference number. Look at it from different angles, making the background pattern change. Counterfeit Rolexes simply have a plain sticker with "Rolex" repeated on them. The background pattern will not change when viewed from different angles.
~ Yacht Master minute hand should be quite a bit thicker than minute hands on other Rolex watch models.
These are just a few pointers to help you distinguish real Rolexes from the fakes. Your best bet is to use The Rolex Report, pictured above, and to visit Quality Tyme for more important information.
Inkwells and Inkstands
For the writer in us all, inkwells and inkstands can be a historical journey. Before communication by e-mail took over, letter writing and record-keeping was all done by hand, and just about every writing desk had an inkwell or inkstand on it. Today we can marvel at the beauty and artistry of these old pieces, and they've become a fascinating source of collecting.
The word "inkwell" is commonly used when referring to "inkstands"; the difference is that an inkwell is actually the glass insert in a desk or inkstand that holds the ink, while an inkstand is a free-standing piece (some inkstands hold their own ink without an insert). In the picture shown here, the glass insert is the inkwell but the overall piece is called the inkstand. (When doing an online search for inkstands, it's best to use both words to find all the available items. Most people don't distinguish between the two terms.)
Of course all this interest has brought a flood of reproductions onto the market. Authentic inkstands, especially of the Victorian era and earlier, can cost quite a bit of money, so if you're going to invest in such a piece, you want to make sure it's real. However, if you can't afford these pricey pieces but love the look, you can always buy an inexpensive reproduction. Here are a few ways to know the difference:
~ Repros are generally a bit smaller than originals, so look to a reference guide to find out what the actual dimensions should be.
~ The design work on many repros is not as sharp and clear as that on the originals, and some details may be missing altogether.
~ Lack of vitrification on the interior of the inkwell - originals were vitrified to prevent leaking.
~ Repros may be made from a different metal than the originals.
~ A free lid as opposed to a hinged lid, or vice versa.
~ Background stippling may be missing or not uniform in a repro.
In addition, use a reference book to know what the glass inserts, or inkwells, should look like and if the originals had any markings. It's common for glass inserts to break and be replaced later on. Of course, if you love the inkstand but it's missing its glass inserts, you can probably find replacement pieces online that were made in the same time period.
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Fenton Art Glass
Since 1907, Fenton Glass has been turning out some beautiful and very popular glass. Because a lot of their older pieces (like old carnival glass and milk glass) was not marked, it can be difficult to determine if a piece is really Fenton or not. Once again, your best bet is to arm yourself with a Fenton identification guide so you can know what the proper dimensions and other details should be.
There are plenty of authorized reproductions and re-issues of the older Fenton pieces, many of which the Fenton company made themselves for other companies (like Martha Stewart in 1999). Here's a little bit of the information I could gather to help you identify Fenton pieces:
~ Scripted embossed "Fenton" inside an oval appeared in 1974, as in the picture above.
~ In 1980, Fenton started dating its pieces to indicate the decade in which the piece was made. So if you see a scripted "Fenton" inside an oval with the number 8 underneath, that piece was made in the 1980s. A 9 would indicate that the piece was made in the 1990s.
~ An X indicates that the piece is irregular - Fenton put these marks on pieces that were imperfect; perhaps the color was off or the piece was uneven underneath. In any case, you know it's a "factory second".
~ The Fenton mark along with an embossed star somewhere on the piece (not necessarily together) indicates that Fenton made the piece for Kaleidoscope Inc. in the 1980s.
Sometimes you'll find a blurred or nearly nonexistent mark on blown molded pieces; this can occur when blowing the glass distorts or otherwise flattens the mark.
Fenton glass collections are beautiful and there are so many types to choose from. I have a little collection of small blue Fenton hobnail vases that I just love; though they're small in size, they're big on interest and catch a lot of attention!
How do you know the Real McCoy?
McCoy - if you're a pottery collector, you'll recognize the name immediately. Auctioneers always seem to raise their voices when they hold up a McCoy piece, whether it's a planter, cookie jar, whatever. And there's almost always a bidding war ... or at least a bidding skirmish.
Naturally, if a company's wares are this popular, can copies and fakes be far behind? Never! But there's a twist to this story, because the use of the name "McCoy" on pottery made by the Nelson McCoy Pottery Company, the original "real McCoys", was never registered. The stylized McCoy signature you see pictured is the real thing, used by Nelson McCoy from 1936 until the company closed in 1990. Since 1989, a number of companies have applied for the right to use the McCoy name in their mark, but so far every single one has been cancelled or abandoned. According to an article by Dewayne Imsand - an excellent must-read for McCoy collectors - an application filed by Jenson McCoy was filed in 2003 and is still pending; the mark Jenson McCoy is currently being used on the company's pottery.
Imsand writes that some pieces with no mark or with only the USA mark look very much like McCoy, but may not be, though the seller may claim differently. He advises that buyers familiarize themselves with authentic McCoy pieces because many of the fakes are in shapes or styles that were never even made by McCoy. So once again, knowledge is your best defense.
Value and identification guides are excellent resources to use, as are websites that are well-researched and written by experts. One of the best I've found online is the McCoy Pottery Collectors' Society. There you can also find Imsand's highly informative article as well as pictures of known fake McCoys and another article by Imsand about authentic McCoy reproductions, complete with pictures.
How do you keep all this information in your head? You can't, unless you're gifted with a photographic memory! When you're on a buying expedition, carry a sheet of thumbnails with pictures of known fakes, and keep your reference guides close by. That way you'll be sure not to waste your money on fakes and look-alikes.
This is one of those areas of collecting where it's tougher to spot fake marks. It's really a matter of familiarizing yourself with authentic Occupied Japan styles, glazes, and shapes that gives you your best defense against post-occupation faked marks. Occupied pieces were made from the end of WW II when the US first occupied Japan until April 28, 1952.
As noted in Gene Florence's book, "Occupied Japan Collectibles Identification & Value Guide", you'll see that the Occupied Japan mark can be found in many different colors, but it is generally accepted that none of these colors is considered to have more value or seems to have any other significance. The marks can be either "Occupied Japan" or "Made in Occupied Japan"; of course, if the mark is underneath the glaze, you're assured the piece is authentic, but I've seen quite a number of real Occupied Japan pieces with the mark over the glaze.
If there is a set with multiple pieces, such as a condiment set, only the largest piece, such as the undertray, may have the full "Made in Occupied Japan" mark; the smaller pieces may be unmarked. This was done because of space constraints and doesn't necessarily mean the pieces were added afterwards (you can pretty much tell by checking that the colors, patterns and ceramics are the same as the larger marked piece). Also the pieces may be unmarked because the mark was on the original box the set came in - it's rare to find the box intact, most original owners threw them away.
Florence also mentions that many times, pieces can be found in several different sizes and that larger pieces usually hold more value. However, in the end, the quality of the workmanship outweighs all other factors in valuing the piece.
Is It Real or Is It Repro? - Fakes, Forgeries, and Reproduction Guides
More help against fakery!
Back in the 1930s, a plastic known as bakelite was used to make jewelry that quickly became very popular. Today real bakelite pieces are very collectible, especially carved and figural pieces, which can be very expensive. Butterscotch and pea green are the most common colors and therefore the least expensive; "end-of-day" pieces (called this because leftover small batches at the end of a production day would be combined to make single pieces) that combine several colors swirled into one piece are another area of collecting for some bakelite lovers.
As with any popular collectible, bakelite has its share of fakes and reproductions, termed "fakelite". You commonly find these at flea markets, but there are plenty sold online and in antique shops by unsuspecting dealers. It's important to no that no part of these pieces contain authentic bakelite at all. But bakelite buyers face very different challenges than collectors of faked or forged porcelain and glass. Instead of someone putting a fake mark on the jewelry or making the piece out of modern plastic, some faked pieces are actually made from authentic materials taken from old bakelite radio cases or other larger pieces, and reworked into bangles, pins, and earrings. And if that's not enough, some authentic plain bakelite bangles are being carved to resemble the more highly-priced vintage carved bangles.
Another thing to look for is a "marriage" - either two real but disassociated bakelite pieces are put together to make a jointed piece, or part of the piece is real bakelite jewelry and part is reworked from another bakelite object.
Keep in mind that if a seller marks a piece as newly carved or as a marriage, this is an honest seller not trying to deceive buyers. There are artists today who specialize in these types of jewelry, and their work is collectible.
Here are just a few tips you can use to authenticate vintage bakelite jewelry:
~ A chalky look on carved areas that won't rub off is a sure sign of fakelite.
~ Run the piece under hot water (or use your thumb to rub the piece vigorously) until it feels hot, then sniff it immediately; there should be a smell like nail polish or formaldehyde; an oily smell would indicate a fake.
~ Put Simichrome or Formula 409 on a cotton swab and gently rub it inside the piece. If the swab turns yellow, it's real bakelite; however, authentic black bakelite can fail this test.
It's best to use more than one test to authenticate bakelite, especially if it's an expensive piece. Get a written receipt from the seller indicating the piece is authentic vintage bakelite with original carvings, and make sure the receipt states in writing that you can return the piece if it turns out to be fake. Always better safe than sorry!
RS Prussia Fake Marks
Beautiful German porcelains by RS Prussia (stands for Reinhold Schlegelmilch) were made from 1869 to 1956. Their elegance, style, and gorgeous designs are among the things that have made porcelains with the RS Prussia mark so highly collectible today. Porcelains marked RS Germany, RS Suhl, and RS Poland are also desirable, but the Prussia mark is the one that usually makes collectors' hearts beat faster.
So it only stands to reason that forgers would want to duplicate this mark in order to pass off cheaper pieces as the real thing or even make deliberate fakes in an effort to collect the high return an RS Prussia piece can bring.
Authentic RS marks were transfers covered with a light coat of glaze; here are a few dead give-aways you can use to detect fakes:
~ The "a" in "Prussia" may be filled in.
~ There may not be a period (.) after the "a".
~ The "i" in "Prussia" may not be dotted.
~ The top of the "P" may not extend beyond the vertical line.
~ The "R" in "RS" may not meet the vertical line at the top.
~ The word "Prussia" may not be present underneath the RS wreath.
~ The entire mark may be hand painted.
~ On RS Suhl pieces, the "L" may be capitalized instead of a lowercase "l" with a period after it.
These are just a few of the more common identifiers of fake RS marks; you can find many more in some of the guides recommended below.
Fake RS pieces can be deliberate attempts to mass produce copies of original pieces, they may be unmarked pieces made by other companies on which someone added an RS mark, and even some old authentic RS pieces without marks can have new marks added.
Comparing the marks on pieces you want to buy with known fakes can save you a very expensive case of buyer's remorse!
Roseville Pottery Fakes and Copies
Probably one of the most recognizable names in pottery is Roseville. Just about every antique store or co-op has a variety of selections, and if you happen to stumble across a rarer piece, it can carry a pretty hefty price tag. I once saw a very old and beautiful unmarked Roseville vase sell for $1600 at auction, and the general consensus was that the buyer got a good deal. But take heart - you can find more common pieces for much less.
The Roseville Pottery Co. originally opened in Roseville, Ohio in 1892, then moved to Zanesville, Ohio in 1898, and finally closed for good in 1954. Roseville pieces have been duplicated since that time, and a large number has been imported from China since 1996.
Some fake marks are easy to spot, but others are virtually identical to the real thing. A mark reading "Made in Japan" clearly indicates a fake piece, since all original Roseville was made in America.
When it comes down to a well-reproduced fake, the best way to know the difference is to learn how to differentiate between a real Roseville glaze and a fake one; there may be a high gloss glaze on a fake that would not have appeared on the original. In addition, most fakes only have glaze a few inches into the interior of the piece; real Roseville interiors are completely glazed. Some fakes have a pebbly finish on what should be a smooth piece.
Not all fakes are well done - I saw one obviously fake Roseville vase that was so poorly replicated that it actually had paint drips on the surface and the color was far too harsh for real Roseville - yet someone had bought it thinking it was real!
Here are a few tips on fake Roseville marks:
~ Crude "Rv" blue ink stamp. Originals had a dark navy or black stamp.
~ Raised "USA" very faint or missing.
~ Unless the piece is very small, "USA" should be the same height as the rest of the lettering.
~ Watch for obvious things like Made in China stickers or remnants of glue that indicate a sticker was present.
Typically, authentic Roseville pieces had the words "Roseville USA" followed by a shape code and size number (ie, 162-7). But every rule has an exception - portions of the mark were eliminated on a few smaller pieces like candle holders, sugars, creamers and a few more simply because the piece was just too small to fit it all.
For great information on understanding Roseville glazes and to see more fake marks, visit The Roseville Exchange. You'll never get fooled by fake Roseville again!
Roseville Repro Update
The Latest Generation of Repros
I was recently glancing through the pages of a circular from a well-known close-out chain store when I came upon an ad for "Roseville Vintage Ceramic Reproduction Pottery". These pieces are being billed as "authentic reproductions of America's most popular collectible art pottery", and their selling angle is that original Roseville pieces sell for hundreds of dollars, while these new repros cost...$6.99-$16.99!
These new reproduction pieces are extremely easy to distinguish from the well-crafted originals. The colors are harsher, the floral designs are less detailed, and although the body shapes are very similar to the originals, they somehow seem less defined. However, they are actually made by Roseville, so they're not knock-offs copied illegally by another company.
Who knows - it could happen that someday, many decades from now, these pieces could possibly become collectibles in their own right.
R.R.P.CO Roseville Ohio Pottery
The question on most new Roseville collectors' lips is, "Is this real Roseville?" The answer is no. RRPCo stands for Robinson Ransbottom Pottery Company, and while it was made in Roseville, Ohio, it isn't part of the Roseville family of pottery. The real Roseville pottery started in the town of Roseville but the moved to Zanesville, Ohio.
RRP marks don't vary much. They're impressed or incised into the pottery in upper case letters: RRPCO, ROSEVILLE OHIO, USA. There may be slight variations in these letters from piece to piece, but you won't find any major differences. I've also seen the mark stamped (rather than impressed) in a square under the glaze of two RRP dog bowls, but I have no reference as to whether this was done in a particular time period or on certain types of pieces. (If you know anything about this mark, please let me know!) RRP pottery is still being made today.
Most RRP pottery is utilitarian in nature except for some cookie jars made between 1935 and 1960. While most sources say RRP is not highly collectible, others believe that the collectibility factor of some pieces is rising. I haven't yet heard of any fakes coming out, simply because the price of RRP remains low.
If you like the pottery, the best time to add to your collection is before any RRP boom begins - this way you'll pay less and watch your pieces gain in value. Every collector's dream!
Reproduction Open Salts - Worth Their Salt?
Open salts, salt cellars, salt dips - by any name, these diminutive beauties are best known for gracing formal Victorian dinner tables, but they've actually been around for centuries. You can find them made from glass, porcelain, or silver with glass inserts; they can be found in just about any color or shape including round, square, triangular, footed, or in novelty shapes.
It's easy to fall in love with these little gems, especially since they don't take up much space as a collection, they have interesting patterns and shapes, and many are very affordable. The salts being made today are mostly glass and are made with the collectibles market in mind. These are not "fakes", they're clearly reproductions - the difference is that although many of these companies are using the original molds, they're marking the salts with their own names and logos - they are not made to deceive. (This is not to say that fakes don't exist, but right now we're just focusing on honest reproductions.)
Of course, if you find a glass open salt at a flea market, estate sale, or auction, you don't want to make the mistake of thinking a contemporary piece is vintage or antique; this makes all the difference in the price. You need to familiarize yourself with contemporary marks, and the folks at Open Salts Info have lots of good information about old and new salts. Here's a partial list they provided of new marks:
~ HFM (Henry Ford Museum)
~ MMA (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
~ MET (also Metropolitan Museum of Art, but this reproduction is from the 1930s)
~ Sandwich (Sandwich Museum Gift Shop) - old salts have "Lafayet"
~ Acorn or SM (Sandwich Museum) - old salts have "B. & S. Glass Co." (Boston and Sandwich Glass Company)
~ BMR (Bennington Museum Reproduction)
If you just want a nice collection, there's nothing wrong with buying these lovely reproductions. But if you're a purist and you only collect original pieces, then it's important to know what you're buying. Happy Collecting!
Treasures at Collector's Cottage on eBay - Find collectible china, porcelain, glass, ephemera, jewelry and more here!
We have antiques and collectibles of all kinds at great prices! You'll find teacups, jewelry, Nippon, silver, inkwells, glass, ephemera, salt and pepper shakers...lots more wonderful and interesting things for your collections. You never know what you may find at the Cottage!