It's Fool's Gold You Fool!

Go ask any person in the antique and collectible business if they have ever been burned buying a reproduction (repro) and the first thing you'll notice is a sheepish little grin start to emerge. Then ask them if they have ever sold a reproduction and that grin will turn to an uncomfortable swallow.

Reproductions are the bane of the industry. Some are obvious fakes, others are so good they can and do fool the experts. I thought it best to start with this subject for a couple of reasons, to keep you from getting burned and to keep you from inadvertently burning someone else.

Question: If these reproductions can fool even the experts how can a novice have a chance? Ah, I'm glad you asked that question, grasshopper. The simple answer is they are not all good reproductions. Only the most expensive items in the trade are worthy of the time and effort it takes to make a good reproduction. The rest of them are for the most part made in China and you can tell it with a few exceptions.

If a person trades in the bread and butter items of the industry, he can, using common sense and a basic understanding of a few things, avoid most problems. I say "most" because everyone will inadvertently buy a repro at some time or another. As long as you paid reproduction price though you can always turn around and resell it as an advertised reproduction and get your money back.

Last summer my wife and I were in St. Louis attending their wonderful once-a-year Gypsy Caravan Flea Market. These larger than life festivals are held all over the country and are great places to wander around aimlessly for days. As we moseyed through the endless array of venders hawking their wares, we stumbled onto one guy who had nothing but old cast iron items. Toys, mechanical banks, wall hangings and door stops. It was the doorstops that caught my wife's eye and stirred her blood with the uncontrollable desire to possess. I on the hand, was not so enamored with the flowering toe stumpers and was only too quick to point out that no one dealer could have amassed such an extensive inventory of hard-to-find items and then turn around and sell them for $20 a piece. Logic told you they obviously were reproductions. An authentic turn of the century cast iron door stop could easily fetch over a hundred dollars. I may have won the battle but I definitely lost the war -- my wife brings up that lousy doorstop every time we argue over a purchase.

So mass produced reproductions are easy to spot but giving ammunition to your spouse to later use on you is not. Both have to be identified and dealt with in the most insightful manner. That one reproduction door stop I wouldn't spend twenty dollars on has cost me thousands in the long run. The lesson is, buy a reproduction only if it is something your spouse wants.

Drum  It's Fool's Gold You Fool!
Here is some other advise on reproductions. Look closely for obvious giveaways such as:

Screwsphillips head screws until this century. -- They didn't make
Paint -- New reproduction paint is of such inferior quality it can easily be scratched off, sometimes with a fingernail. The old flaked paint of a 100-year-old item can't be removed with a blowtorch. It takes ages to wear it off.

Quantity -- Remember, the truly hard-to-find items are truly hard to find. If some guy has 50 for sale at an unbelievable price, a red flag should go up.

I have listed several companies down below that may be helpful for identifying reproductions.
The best way to spot a reproduction is to know the real thing. Become familiar with whatever item or items you choose to trade in and study everything there is to know about them. There is no substitute for real knowledge and no matter what area of trade you choose, rest assured, there is a wealth of information about it on the internet.

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