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COA's (Certificate of Authenticity) Mostly Worthless

 

     Certificates of Authenticity per­haps meant something at one time, back when only one or two people were doing it, worthy people too, trying to provide a service in an honest and forthright manner. There are still a few that do this, but most you haven't heard of. The ones you have heard of, the ones with their names on every­thing floating around today? Those papers would best be of use in the hunting camp outhouse. The genre has been so polluted with fake papers, and fakes being papered, it's hard to wade through the mess.

     It's a shame that there is no main data information center for people to access for the latest news, informa­tion, etc. IAM does this very thing, but those that need this information the most are often the ones who feel they don't need it. In that regard it's almost tempting to say that some of these deserve what they get but then, that's just what the fakers and con artists use as justification for their actions.

     Last year in Vol. 31-4 we showed some fake bannerstones that were making the rounds. We knew they were fakes because Paul Frey had wit­nessed the guy making some and saw others he had already made. These were fashioned after the forms from the Koens Crispin site in New Jersey. Later, in Vol. 32-2 we again mentioned the fake bannerstones and also showed some fake Adena points. These were also mentioned in Vol. 32­3.

     An initial scam with the banner-stones saw a collector/dealer here in PA purchase a number of these, only to find out that he had been taken with the modern reproductions. I'm not sure how that turned out, if he got any of his money back or not, but it caused a lot of anguish and this guy later passed away.

     Meanwhile, we attended Bennett's Collector Rendezvous in 2012, and three showed up there, but now they had COA's! I alerted Jim about them and he pulled them from the auction. When the consignee was informed on why they were not sold, there was no fuss and no muss, for that guy already knew they were modern.

     I wrote about this then and opined that many offering COA's are selling out, and/or are in cahoots with each other. Some bad things are papered, and this is backed up by a COA from someone else! How many stinking COA's does a piece need? So, if these fakes are getting by these people, the ones who handle more than anybody else, are they really competent to be offering COA's???

     These same bannerstones then went through another auction house, with more COA's, and some people paid good sums of money. Keep ship­ping them around long enough and finally they will reach someone who is out of the loop, was never in the loop, or doesn't care to be connected with any loops. More's the pity. So the fak­ers and con artists get bolder.

 

     To wit: As noted, in Vol. 32-2 and 3 we showed some Adena points that were coming on the market, suppos­edly from the DelMarVa Peninsula, particularly from a site that produced the material that noted collector Earl Townsend ended up with. That assem­blage was well documented. Flint Ridge flint as a material used for this assemblage was very rare.

     But, all of sudden, there's a num­ber of these being offered for sale, with Townsend collection attribution, and even Townsend-like writing on them. Recently 7 of these were shown on the cover of a forthcoming auction brochure for a major auction house in Ohio. I did hear that these were pulled from that auction. But, as seen above, that just means they will be shopped around elsewhere until they reach someone who is out of the loop, was never in the loop, or doesn't care to be connected with any loops. And get this, later in that same auction, what else should be offered? Yep, those darn fake bannerstones from PA, with more COA's.

     These authenticators set them­selves up as experts, and believe me, most are. Once again, they've pretty much seen and handled it all. Yet, time and again, they paper bad things and then claim they were fooled too! This doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. If they're getting fooled all the time, they're no more expert than anybody else.

     But rest assured, they're not being fooled. The profit margin between sell­ing a modern fake and a good old piece with a verifiable history is, quite literally, astronomical. With no one stepping up and taking someone to court, this will continue. The problem there is that it becomes a case of he says, she says so to speak, with each side rounding up their 'experts'. As most of you are aware, much of the 'justice' in this country isn't about right and wrong. It's about who can put up the most persuasive argument while following 'procedures'. All this takes $$$$$$$. The more money one has, the more 'justice' you get in our court system. For most, such an experience more or less ruins your life. Some, not wanting to face it, commit suicide. Some endure, like Art Gerber, but then suffer financially, socially and health-wise.

     Thus, for those that do get burned, it's easier to try and re-sell to someone to re-coup the loss, or take the loss and shut up. And so it goes.

     People take a liking to artifacts for various reasons. They come along at various stages of their lives. Most of us are fascinated with finding remnants of prehistoric cultures that inhabited this land before us, and learning how these remnants were made and used, and when. Some are, quite literally, minia­ture works of art in stone, and we appreciate that as well.

     Some take a liking to the value of things and a way to make money and some as a means of investing some money. It's a recipe for disaster when someone without knowledge jumps in with both feet and begins buying things up. They go to auctions and just buy, buy, buy. Naturally they end up with lots of stuff, some good, most mediocre or worse and they can never hope to recoup the value of what was expended as they overpaid in their eagerness to acquire.

     The worst scenario of all is when a person with no connections hooks up with a shyster dealer. And I've seen this; some will actually have cabinets or rooms full of bogus things, the most fanciful and sometimes gaudy things you can imagine. These were fed to them over the years as the seller became bolder with what he could get away with and what he could charge. The 'mark', being unconnected, ferrets things away and never finds out, or his heirs do, that the stuff is all modern.

     So, the best I can leave you with from this, and I've emphasized it before, is that you have a circle of friends to share things with and get opinions from. Try to get to artifact gatherings and shows. Visit historical societies and museums and other col­lectors. Get books appropriate to your area of interest.

     There's no reason you shouldn't buy some of these things. I realized early on there were things I would probably never find. I began by aug­menting from local collections and col­lectors I knew. This helped build knowledge of the local artifact assem­blages.

    Your area of expertise can be expanded from the local knowledge base into other areas. But always, gain some familiarity and knowledge of that/those areas before buying things.

 

 

Reprinted with Permission of Gary Fogelman, Editor of Indian Artifact Magazine.
Originally published in Indian Artifact Magazine, February 2014, VOL.33-1 page 20-21.
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