Fakes and Reproductions
by Johanne Yakula
Collecting antiques is a rewarding pastime – from the personal pleasure you feel when finding a special addition to your collection to the monetary pleasure you find when you got a good deal or sold an object at a good profit. Buying antiques without some prior knowledge can also be fraught with misrepresentations, assumptions and fraud. The world of antiques and collectibles abounds with reproductions and fakes. So what is the difference and why does it matter ?
How do they differ
REPRODUCTIONS: For the purposes of this article, reproductions can be defined as objects that are created to copy or mimic another. They may be “inspired’ by a similar item from the past or a line-for- line copy of an original.
For example, Colonial Williamsburg in the USA offers the public exact replicas of furniture pieces that grace the halls of their own museums. Access to the original makes this possible. These pieces are created with all the care and attention of the originals and as such can be extremely expensive. The pieces are clearly marked as reproductions. However, even reproductions become antiques. It is when unscrupulous persons remove the labels that identifies the piece as a reproduction that fraud may result.
Reproductions are generally created for the buyer who likes a certain look but is not inclined to seek out the original the way a collector does. The uses are predominantly decorative even though the piece may be just as useful as the original.
Today, “Morris” recliners can be purchased at furniture and department stores. Let’s assume that you have this chair for fifteen years and due to one reason or another you decide that you would like to sell it. If the chair was an original antique you could sell it to a dealer or a private collector because it is now another 15 years older, and hopefully (although not always) more valuable.
If you bought a reproduction Morris chair you may find it difficult to sell. Here’s why: Furniture that is 15 years old is “second hand” regardless of its style. People who buy second hand goods expect to buy them at super – bargain rates (if they want your chair at all). The collector does not want it because it is not original or antique, and the decorator / homeowner does not want it because it represents an object that is no longer “in style”. The chair’s upholstery may have to be updated. The dealer does not want it because he / she knows it will be almost impossible to sell. So, options are far and few between. To add more insult, today’s chairs are large in scale compared to the smaller homes and condos that are in many baby boomers’ futures.
FAKES: Fakes are objects that were created with the intent to defraud the buyer. Great care and attention is lavished on the items to ensure they look as close to the original as possible. This includes copying the size, shape, colors, and any identifying marks such as country of origin, manufacturer and artist where applicable. Glazes can be crackled to show wear and distress.
Fakes attack the pocketbook of the collector. Companies will go to extreme lengths to reproduce items that are: 1) in style – like chintz ware about five years ago, 2) are expensive – such as high quality, rare porcelains and exotic furniture and collectibles, 3) are bought in multiples - such as plates, goblets, etc. What is the point of reproducing something cheap that is easily accessible?
Fakes may be found in all categories: art pottery, bronze statues and accessories, glass (very hard to tell – depression glass is especially onerous), furniture, lighting fixtures, silver and other metals, musical instruments, toys, - the list goes on and on. Companies such as Fenton and Royal Winton are dusting off their original molds and are reissuing them as new product.
So why does it matter to you if you know how to tell the difference between the real thing and a fake? Fakes and reproductions undermine the trust buyers and collectors need to have in order to continue buying and collecting! When reproductions and fakes flood the market it also gives the impression that the real objects are in fact readily available and this affects the value of the originals by lowering demand.
So, how do you protect yourself?
Take the time to learn – after all it’s often the best part of collecting!.
Written by Johanne Yakula
From Times Past
12403 Stony Plain Road
Edmonton, AB T5N 3N3