American Artifacts asks you: "Is it Real or Fake?"
No. 9 in a series; Col. John F. Berner/director
“Fake artifacts and their perceived value.”
Probably the most reproduced artifacts of the 21st century are Flint artifacts replicated to mask as ancient prehistoric North American projectiles. The late Gregory Perino of Idabel, Oklahoma who authored three major books on the subject of authentic North American projectiles, stated as many as 80% of the flint projectiles in the marketplace were fakes. Many achaeologists concur with similar numbers which now reside in private collections and museum inventories.
But newly made replicas are not something new. The late Dr. Stanley Copeland of Worthington, Ohio was responsible for nominating myself to the Board of the G.I.R.S. in 1970 and later when I become Editor in Chief of the “Redskin”, he submitted newspaper clippings from the 1850's that discussed the manufacture of artifacts entering private and museum collections. I was astounded. That began my quest to learn more, to determine how I could distinguish modern from ancient and culminated in a 40 year career in writing about such things.
Unfortunately, modern reproductions are not limited to flint projectiles. Since the 1920's; birdstones, pendants and gorgets became a popular manufacture. Then in the 1940's, bannerstones and other rare forms became replicated. Nothing has escaped the modern maker including pottery vessels. With current pricing, sufficient time can be invested to produce and create nearly accurate replicas of anything which brings profit. Persons who specialize in artificial aging processes have vastly contributed to the proliferation of marketing fakes through nationwide dealers, artifact stores, auction houses and the popular ebay. Throughout the midwest in particular, nearly 30 artifact auctions are held annually and ebay may list as many as four to five thousand similar items every day. If an item properly identified is determined to be modern, most venues require a refund to the buyer. But what about the many thousands that are acquired and never examined?
The title of this article deserves an answer and I intend to qualify it. If you own fake artifacts, you own objects with NO VALUE! If you dishonestly try to peddle an artifact which you know to be fake, you may find yourself in civil court or enjoying the wrath of the postal service for attempted fraud.