I could write a column every month about fakes and reproductions because the market is just flooded with items.

Dealers, auctioneers and those who do estate planning today are spending more time verifying the authenticity of collectibles, artwork and antiques to determine whether they are the real deal.

Of course, this is nothing new, as counterfeiters have taken advantage of naive folks for centuries. Even Judas received fake coins from the Romans.


I hear from many folks who are concerned about pieces that are being painted today and that valuable pieces are being destroyed.

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I wouldn't worry about the locals painting furniture. Many of them make it a living by using a unique procedure on a relatively new chair.

The chair is dismantled and each piece is burned to give it that worn look, then bleached to remove traces of carbon and reassembled, and a thin coat of black is painted on the chair. It's coated with a wash coat of water/white glue and, while still tacky, covered in dust removed from a house vacuum cleaner, if you can imagine that.

When dried, the chair is waxed and prepared to be smoked over a steel drum with a roaring fire inside. This gives the chair that "old smell" and also dries and browns the wood that will warp and twist and acquire an aged look.

Some will go one step further and bathe the chair in salt water, and then give it a bleach bath, to show even more damage.

What is gained? This chair could be sold to an antique dealer for about $100 and sold to a final customer for much more.

"As far as reproductions go — or as most people call them, repops — I have been lucky I haven't purchased any thinking they were the real deal," said Melissa Scott, owner of Cherished Antiques, Kasson "The antique furniture, you can kind of tell right away by looking at the craftsmanship and hardware. I look at the backs of hutches, as the older ones have boards and the new ones will have a particle or chip board back. Lighting was also not an option on the older ones.

"For tables and chairs, the biggest clue is they have a stamped manufacturer's mark or 'Made in China' or some other country if they are reproductions," she said.

Karen Knapstein, online editor at the Antique Trader, said a good known authentic piece that recently sold was a unique musical desk that became the main attraction at a recent auction presented by Case Antiques, of Knoxville, Tenn.

The Federal desk, crafted by cabinetmaker J.C. Burgner, of Tennessee, includes a label inside a prospect door inscribed with ink and decorative motifs that reads "Made by J.C. Burgner for William Paton September the 8, 1819."

Crafted of cherry, with tiger maple and a variety of burl veneers, along with yellow pine and poplar, the top of the desk opens to reveal a stringed instrument that can be strummed with a quill.

After an extensive bidding battle, the Tennessee State Museum offered the final bid before the gavel fell. The opening bid on the exquisite desk was $3,500, and the final price was $63,720.


Fostoria is one of the most collected glassware, but one of the most unidentifiable glassware pieces.

Similar to anything that is a high collectible, folks are out to make the lookalikes. Two pattern lines that have caused much confusion are Cube, also known as Cubist, by Jeannette Glass Co., and Whitehall by Indiana Glass Co.

Very similar at first glance, there is a difference to look for that has helped dealers and others tell the patterns apart. The most reliable method, as per Collectors Weekly, is the blacklight test. Fostoria's crystal American will glow a very pale yellow when exposed to black light in a dark room; Whitehall will not. All avocado pieces are Indiana's Whitehall.

"Years ago, I had an estate sale, and this sweet, older lady drove up in a beat-up motor home with Florida plates," Scott said. "She spent her summers up north to get items to sell in the winter down south. She gave me a very valuable lesson about Fostoria glassware, the American pattern which looks like cubes. If you hold up the piece to light just count the seams from the mold, as (with) three seams it was original and two or four it was a repop from the dime store."


Remember, size, shape and maker's mark affect value. A design, or lack of it, can have an effect the value by hundreds of dollars, which has produced more reproductions.

One method is the painting of a design on a genuine old plain stoneware piece. With close examination you can find the fake because the cobalt-blue designs on genuine pieces were created before firing and lie under the glaze, not on top, so you can see the real deal.

For more information, check out the Antique Trader Guide to Fakes & Reproductions, or go to www.antiquetrader.com.