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Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing

How can you tell if an arrowhead or Indian artifact is fake or real?

Pg.142, Volume 46, No3,1999, “Central States Archaeological Journal”

Wolves abound everywhere and while you may not readily recognize them, they prey on avocational archaeologists and artifact collectors alike. These wolves have been known for their cunning since their introduc­tion to mankind. Their stealth and ability to survive is why this species has endured. The pack feeds on profit and their ranks are overpopulating the internet.

I am virtually a newcomer to Web browsing, I am amazed at the upstarts with Websites and the crassness of the opportunists. Within the past few days, I have seen the offering of some nine blades for $100,000 with pur­ported documentation and reported COAs. (Certificates of authenticity as it is stated on the net). Now the story that accompanies this offering relates the discovery, yet nobody in the local area has ever heard of these artifacts which have been around for 16 years. Who in their right mind would spend six figures on a group of items on the internet auction, or consider making a bid? Because of the plethora of bad stuff, obvious fakes and skillfully made reproductions, a few good peo­ple have joined hands in pledging themselves as sellers of authentic and genuine artifacts.

The obvious is not always obvious, some say they do not know and give you ample opportunity to make a decision. Three day deals don’t cut it no matter how much paper or guaran­tees accompany the item. Ten to four­teen days is more reasonable.

Do you wonder why I call them wolves? There is an old ancient American method of stalking prey by garbing oneself in a skin of a like kind. Don’t you think you could sneak up on an unsuspecting grazing sheep in you approached wearing one of their coats? I think you could. Once in range, the prey is meal …and that’s what the crooks on the net are doing. They know the browsers are amateurs. Remember last year how the 17 year locusts enjoyed ever piece of greenery. For wolves on the net, its a banquet 7 days a week.

The other problem is one of value. Things on the net often have ridicu­lous values. At the best show in the country, some points would bring 15 to 25 dollars, the same crude pieces bring 75 to 150 dollars on the Web. And the buyers express exuberance over the fast delivery and the great values. What’s Mr. Web buyer going to be told if he brings these great acquisitions to your show?

Another concern is the new “paper boys”. With the internet, tons of new “authenticators” have set up shop offering services of appraisal, authen­tication and claim membership in every society from California to New York City. Membership in one of the Central States 13 societies doesn’t mean membership in all of them, or the GIRS, or any other organization.

Most serious is the fact that these credulous COA’s show up on the monitor screen and many are depict­ing obvious fakes so the new novice buyer gets it two ways! Credibility must be earned, and buying and sell­ing a few points; an expert does not make! A final word of caution, if you think a wolf may be wearing sheep’s clothing, better get yourself a club!

“Used by Permission of the Author” and originally published in American Indian Artifacts; Genuine or

Reproduction by Col. John F. Berner. Copyright © 2000 by American Antiquities, Inc.