Careful – Be aware of the imitation

(an extract from "TELEPHONEtalk")

Whether we are looking for antique telephones, furniture or other items, if we are deceived into buying an Imitation (Fake) and paying the price that an original item would be worth, then we have been cheated and not received fair value.

This interpretation of some of the terms is not necessarily the same interpretation that one might see "in the marketplace" –

Imitation; a copy that is represented as the original

Fake; something that is a counterfeit; not what it seems to be – intended to deceive

Replica; an exact copy that is not the original; something that has been copied – not necessarily meant to deceive

Copy; in the context of an antique, would usually mean a "Replica"

Reproduction; copy that is not the original. Something that has been copied – again, not usually meant to deceive. Often a new mass-produced item with some of the characteristics of older items

So, it follows then that the same item could be a fake and reproduction depending on the way that it is described. As an example, we have a reproduction "Jacobean" furniture setting in our home that is good quality and it would be reasonably valuable, but if it were genuine, it would be worth fifty times more. Identifying the difference between genuine and reproduction furniture is reasonably easy because more modern cabinet making tools and techniques are now used to make the article.

Usually it is as simple as checking the backs, turning chairs over or pulling drawers completely out of an item.

Other special items such as glassware silverware etc can be almost impossible for the novice to detect the difference between genuine and imitation – their best protection is with the reputation of the seller.

Antique telephones fit somewhere in between the two extremes, but even an expert may have difficulty in spotting a good quality copy.

Some indications of a replica might be –

  1. �� Bright colouring on new cords
  2. �� Transfers in perfect condition – it just doesn’t happen with an original.
  3. �� Perfect paintwork – indicates that it has at least been restored.
  4. �� Any plastic wiring
  5. �� Any bright brass – it was usually plated or painted
  6. �� Some obvious replica parts like reproduction bell receiver type earpieces
  7. �� The price - if the deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is.

The price may also give a good indication, but again the best protection is with the reputation of the seller. We will see some pictures of replicas of some of the most rare of the early Ericsson table handsets. These were all made in Australia by "average Joe" collectors who would not be able to justify the 10’s of thousands of dollars for the genuine item (even if one could be found at all).

These replicas are made using quite a number of genuine components that were used on other, more common Ericsson gear, and the rest of the parts made using exact dimensions and shape taken from the real thing; so, it would be difficult to tell the original article from the replica.

These (replica) phones would be typically sold through a Telephone Collector avenue so, there is not a great deal of danger, if a buyer makes a few simple checks. Even on the eBay auction site, most sellers will honestly declare these items bona fides, but only to the best of their knowledge; and like all marketplaces, there will be those few dishonest traders.

As long as we haven’t been deceived in to buying an imitation at an inflated price, then a replica can fill an important place in the collection, and particularly when there is very little likelihood of ever obtaining the genuine item.