When I was young, I went through a phase of buying old funny books. my mother regularly lectured that I was being foolish, since the seller probably just printed new copies of the vintage books! Now keep in mind that these were not high-ticket items. Reprinting an Action Comics number 1 and selling it for a few million dollars is one thing. Reprinting a coverless copy of Sun Girl and selling it for a buck and half is something else entirely. Duplicating signs of aging paper is not inexpensive…no matter what mama insisted…
This started my wariness about “authentic” old artefacts. After all, there are samples of
With the modern Interweb and with modern technology, it might seem that the fear of buying something that is incorrect is out of control. For the most part that is entirely true, since almost without exception, the reprints are clearly labeled as reprints, different sizes and changed in some vital manner. Easy to determine the invalid modern reproductions…and yet people seem to almost deliriously demand to be hornswoggled!
Today, sixty years later, I no longer buy old funny books. Instead, I have atendency to buy actual extant artefacts of the Viking Age. But what I learned from old funny books remains pertinent. And that is the subject of this post. As is appropriate, let us examine the situation more closely!
Use of Terminology
It is easy to find artefacts purporting to be “authentic.” Ads often use the terms “traditional,” “vintage,” “ancient,” “authentic” and the like are danger signals. An ad which uses such terms without defining them are probably trying to take advantage of you. This does not mean that there are fallacious or useless, just that you need to study the ad more closely. Do not take anything the ad says for granted, and regard it—investigate it—more closely. Ask questions, both about what you see, what you have seen and what the ad says, and carefully regard any answer the seller gives you!
If the price of an artefact is too good to be true the artefact probably isn’t true. This simple truism is valid in so many situations and can hardly be made more qualified or complicated.
Check the background of the seller. Read comments and regard how reliable the seller is, both in matters of reliability of fulfilling orders and in regard how reliable the seller is in its description of an object. There is always a chance that the seller himself might be stacking the deck, but repetition of phrases and such can often be a warning signal in itself.
Composition & Appearance
Coins made out of pewter, artefacts of aluminum, canteens of pleather and the like are all obviously incorrect, and you must carefully regard the artefacts before buying them, always a drawback to ordering over the Interweb. Always make certain that returns are allowed, and get that farb off you hands as soon as you determine it is farb. That includes matters of size—most period pendants are rather small and not WWF medals—and aging. Artefacts that have been aged are very different from what sellers often do to their products. Be certain to compare what is offered for sale with photographs of actual artefacts that have not been cleaned up!
Rarity of Artefacts
Almost every museum has more artefacts than it can display. For the most part—but not always—these are the mean, ordinary and common objects. Any rare or unique artefacts that are offered for sale are probably either illegally obtained or counterfeit. I concentrate on buying the mean and ordinary, by I know there are many who only want glittering and attractive bling and eagerly buy it and might eagerly buy what is offered and think it is a miracle that it is available and not kept out of my hands by an elite museum.
A Note on Replicas
After seeing so many ads for “authentic replicas” with no documentation, not showing the originals and being of dubious accuracy, I find it difficult to buy anything for what I cannot find its original inspiration and am hesitant to buy it when they do not show their inspirations. It is not that I want an exact duplicate of the original—in fact, I am rather repulsed by exact reproductions in a pre-industrial era—but I do not want something that is imagined out of the whole cloth either.
Hopefully, you have a method to determine the authenticity—and accuracy—of artefacts being offered for sale. Such methods might not have been included above, and I would love to hear what your method(s) are. Please share with your fellow reenactors!