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How to tell a Fake

How can you tell if an arrowhead or Indian Artifact is a fake?

Pg.109, Vol.VI, No.4, 1969 “The Redskin”

Fakes come in two kinds, those that are sold; and those that sell them. And sometimes you can’t tell the last kind anything. Experience is the best way to tell a fake from a fine genuine relic, but then not everyone has such expe­rience with the relic in question.

Is there much faking going on? You bet there is and it didn’t start last week either! In fact, it started about 120 years ago when pioneer fanners began collecting those unusual stone items being brought to the surface by tilling the soil. Yes, the minute some­one starts to treasure something that is not abundant, someone else will make a copy of the same. Contrary to what some people think “that the fake business has died down, the fake business is bigger and better than ever, its just that the fakes are better made and more people are fooled”!

Right now, south of the border, hand craftsmen are manufacturing to specification reproductions of American Indian relics that would fool 99 out of 100 collectors. They are patterned from genuine relics now in museums or private collections. These reproductions are made by hand from the proper materials mined in this country and artificially aged and believe you me, you just can’t tell at a glance!

Fortunately, the good old fakers always slip up on a seemingly unim­portant detail somewhere and this is where the genuine is separated from the fake. So far all you’ve read is about what is happening. The follow­ing is common sense judgement on Indian relics; first if you don’t have experience in depth, secure a relic of the same kind and make a compari­son, but of course make sure you choose one that has been authenticat­ed and there is no doubt it is a genuine piece. Compare the workmanship, design, shape, material age and weight. Fakes never agree 100% with genuine relics, so somewhere there will be some differences. Don’t be mislead by too perfect a piece; you know that genuine hand made stone relics of the ancient Indian were never truly perfect! History is not totally valid proof either; some of the fakes now on the scene were in collections 50 years or more ago. There are pieces that won’t prove out that had labels back before the 1900’s. Remember that today’s new fakes will be pieces with history some 50 years from now. I sat in on an Indian Relic auction that had been owned by a collector who passed away in his 80’s and the first 18 lots were labeled and sold as Fakes. Some dozen col­lectors bought and paid good money for these items and not one piece was donated to our(GIRS)fake table. Do you suppose they are starting their own fake collection? Telling a fake isn’t easy, but if we take our time and learn what we are buying, we sure make it tough on the fakers and that’s what it’s all about anyway.

“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.