Making fakes has been popular as a way of making money for more than 1,000 years, perhaps even since anybody started collecting anything. We also need to realize fakes are probably going to be around forever. Therefore, each purchaser of an antique or collectible can choose to either learn what the fakers know or simply ignore the whole problem.
I recall a speaker's comment at the national convention of the International Society of Appraisers several years ago about fakes and reproductions. That comment was true then and probably even more so today. He said there was a general rule that applies in determining whether fakes have been made for any particular item. His comment was the following: "If somebody can make money by making a fake or reproduction of that item, it probably has been faked or reproduced."
Sometimes people ask what the difference is between a fake and a reproduction, because occasionally one hears the two terms being used interchangeably. Technically, a fake is made to deliberately fool the buyer of that item. Fakes are made in varying degrees of quality and likeness to the original item. Actually, a well-made reproduction should look identical to the original in all respects. Reputable makers of reproductions identify their items as reproductions.
Confusion can arise when an item with an original maker's mark gets removed or altered by someone before you purchase the piece. A reproduction can be totally legitimate and marked with a label. Problems develop when someone removes that label and passes the reproduction on as an older, original item by another maker.
Other times, fakers add a mark of some other famous maker if the unsigned item appears to have exceptional quality or appearance. In some cases, that can significantly add to the item's selling price.
A rather common example in the area of ceramics (in which a maker's mark has often been added to a piece) is the crossed swords mark of the famous Meissen factory. I'm told there is a published booklet of more than 12 pages of identified fake marks that have been found on various ceramics items that are imitations of the original Meissen mark. Also, Flow Blue ceramic pieces are comparatively easy to fake because blue pattern bleeds into the white areas, which can give a rather naturalistic "old" and attractive look.
Another situation that can cause confusion is some original makers didn't put any mark on the items they produced while others marked some of their items. Other manufactures clearly marked each and every item they produced. Obviously, if you choose to be a knowledgeable purchaser, you need to study and do some homework on the category or categories of antiques and collectibles that you enjoy.
If you would like some direction or assistance on how to become more knowledgeable in some area of antiques or collectibles that particularly interests you, feel free to contact myself or someone else that you feel is knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Marvin Mann, Plainville, is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers. Send questions to him in care of The Hays Daily News, P.O. Box 857, Hays KS 67601.