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The Authenticators

Pg.10, Vol.XXXI, No. 4, 1997, “Prehistoric American”

In the beginning there were no fakes. When collecting began to take shape and museums sought examples for displays, the devious ones began in earnest, and so it began.

“assistance detecting frauds”

In 1902, a group headquartered in Dent, Texas and called the “Archeological Society” published a pamphlet which offered assistance in the “detection of frauds” and named spurious dealers.

“local societies started in 1936” 1936 saw the beginning with the founding of the early Illinois Archaeological Society and in 1940 the Greater St.Louis society, now both part of the Central States Archaeological society. Ohio began in 1941, now the largest in the U.S.

“arrival of fraud conunittees” Early on these societies recognized a need to sort out good from bad. Committees were appointed to inspect displays and give opinions. Offenders were admonished, but this did not stem the tide. An avid group of collectors started a new society.

“enter the G.I.R.S. in 1964” Thirteen dedicated collectors founded the Genuine Indian Relic Society with the purpose of educating the public about fakes,and hosting oppor­tunities to view authentic artifacts. The original publication called the “Redskin” is the predecessor of “Prehistoric American” now in its 31st year of publication.

“certificates of authenticity” Gordon Hart, an avid collector intro­duced the idea in May 1970. This pro­gram continued through 1983. It was reinstated in 1987 and continued through 1995.

“private authenticators begin” Today several private authenticators offer service of examination and pro­viding documentation of artifacts and state their opinion as to genuiness.

“papers a must by 2001”

I have often predicted that by the year 2001, “papers”to accompany the transfer of ownership of artifacts will be a must. Many collectors insist on multiple papers on important arti­facts. Makes sense to me. Some are now seeking advice prior to finalizing their investment.

I wish that when I started collecting someone would have been available to validate my acquisitions. Best you could hope for was a verbal “I think it looks OK!” Later you find out you bought a fake. Great. Some friends relied exclusively on published mate­rial. Many published items are fake. Some rely on auction catalogs. Ever read page 1? ” Where is, as is”!

“credibility is a key ingredient” Who is giving you answers. Paper is only as good as the signatory. What about recognition by peers. What about experience? No credible authenticator will sign a paper with doubt. Credible written opinions are paramount for the next future owner.

“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.