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The collecting of antiques can be a fun pastime. Found at specialty stores, flea markets, rummage sales, and even grandmother’s attic. Almost anyone on any sized budget can find something to his or her liking. Antiques range from under a dollar to astronomical figures.

If shopping for the latter, you would be best to have an item appraised and buy only through reputable dealers. There have been cases where items sold, with supposedly authentic appraisals, were still fakes. So be aware of who you are dealing with. It is never wrong to be too careful in your research of both the item and the seller. Higher priced items are reproduced solely for the fact of misleading the buyer.

The everyday ‘antique’ can also have recent copies filling shelves, sometimes right alongside the real McCoy.

Receiving authentication in writing is common practice from large dealers of fine art and antiques. However, what if we are just shopping for the average priced item? There are many tips and safeguards you can take yourself to avoid being ripped off. Be warned though, that even the most perceptive antique buyer can be fooled.

The first step you should take is to become familiar with the type of item you are looking to purchase. If your liking leans towards old tin toys or a certain pottery, see if you can find someone that has a collection or even a piece or two for you to inspect. Town museums are an excellent place to view the real thing. Purchasing a book of markings is necessary. The simple omission or adding of one line or letter can be the difference in hundreds of years. An example being Henry Bonnard and Henry-Bonnard. The ‘-‘ on these bronze sculptures meaning a difference in the manufacture date of over a hundred years.

Paper, such as calendars, postcards, and books, are copied on a regular basis today. Look for yellowing and fading. If a paper item looks new, it most likely is. Unless paper is stored in an acid free environment, it will start to deteriorate in just a few short years.

Many early postcards are being copied and sold as reproductions. Once into the public’s hands though, secondary buyers are not aware that what they are purchasing is a copy. Postcards, if copies, should have a new copyright date on the back. When dealing with any paper items, always look for the copyright date. Books should be marked on the inside. Picture calendars should have a copyright date by the artist’s name. Do not assume that you can tell a calendar by the year. Still look for the copyright date to assure yourself that it is not a reproduction. Wedding certificates, baptismal records, titles for antique cars, even old picture catalogs, have all been reproduced.

Tin advertising signs from days gone by are another item sold commonly as a reproduction, but once out there, many times being re-sold as the original thing. Again, look carefully for copyright dates. Become familiar with how the tin edges fold on an original, and how the reproduction edges differ. A good rule to always carry with you is “if it looks too new, it most likely is”. Never assume that if it is rusty, it is old. Rust can occur in very short periods.

In determining a copy or fake, look for wear on an item, called ‘marks of time’. Even the most cared for items will most likely have wear. Linens would have fold marks from being stored, paper products, again, commonly yellow or fade. Tin toys, which are exceedingly becoming a more commonly copied item, should not look too new. Are the colors too bright? Use your instinct when all else fails you.

While not an antique, at least yet, but a collectible that is a good example of how fakes can work their way into the market, are Beanies. When these became popular, copies with minor differences started cropping up almost immediately. Beanies bear a very distinctive tag, and some fakes were recognizable by the different ink on these.

Always be aware of minor identifying marks or peculiarities on items if possible. The more familiar you become with the type of antiques you are looking to acquire, the less chance you will have of being ripped off. Remember, when purchasing antiques, with the exception of buying from a dealer who gives guarantees, there are no guarantees. So buy what you like, never buy for value, and that way, you will never be disappointed.