Life in the jungle: Reproductions, fakes and other scams.
by Les Hughes
© by author 2003
The issue of authenticity is one with which collectors of insignia must continually grapple. The reality today is that reproduction and fake insignia are everywhere in the market place, where often they are identified – implicitly or explicitly, mistakenly or intentionally – as original items. And other deceptions await the unwary. What is a collector to do? The following sections do not provide a definitive answer to this question; rather, they serve to provide useful tips, foster an awareness of the pitfalls confronting collectors, and promote a thoughtful, cautious approach to collecting.
Why do reproductions and fakes continue to be sold as original items? Three reasons come immediately to mind. First, there is money to be made. As the values of military collectibles has risen over the years, so, too, has the incentive to make and sell copies. Second, there is a market for reproductions and fakes. That is, there are enough individuals whose expertise or judgment, or both, makes them potential victims to make the the enterprise worthwhile. Third, there is little, if any, penalty for selling such items: in practice, the worst the purveyors of these items face is having to return the buyer's money. One reason that harsher action is rarely ever taken is the fact that often it is impossible to prove that an item is a fake or a reproduction, leaving the seller free to respond to an adverse assessment with "that’s your opinion."
In the sections listed to the left, I illustrate a few of the dangers that await the unwary collector by offering examples of items that, in the opinion of individuals whose expertise I respect, are reproductions or fakes, are misidentified, or merit close examination. If these opinions differ from those of others, then the reader should weigh both sides and draw his own conclusions. (Note: Images are thumbnails: click to enlarge; use your browser's BACK button to return to text.)