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Hadrian Coffin
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2020 10:29 am    Post subject: Dodgy Auction, London 04 Oct 2020         Reply with quote

Hello,

I was just made aware of a dodgy looking auction coming up tomorrow in London. Some of the items are outside my area of expertise, but the "Medieval Battle Axe" (Victorian Fireman's Axe), several of the "viking" axes (19th century wood axes), the "crusader chamfron", etc are all complete nonsense.

Auctioneer's Website

Link to the Auction at The Saleroom

I do not know enough about the Greek/Egyptian items, but very little looks right to me. Forgers seem to be getting bolder recently. I do not know if anyone else has any thoughts? I am thinking about ringing the Art and Antiquities Fraud team at the Met in the morning. The prices being asked here are quite high for the low amount of research the auction house seems to have done.

All the best,
Hadrian

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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
Joined: 03 Apr 2008

Posts: 400

PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2020 11:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lot 2: "MEDIEVAL BATTLE AXE AND HAMMER WITH HANDLE”: Fake. It looks to be a 19th/20th century fireman’s axe, with a recent handle, artificially aged.

Lot 28: "FANTASTIC CRUSADERS IRON HORSE CHAMFRON”: Fake. Possibly Persian, but likely Victorian. Certainly not medieval or “Crusader”.

Lot 31: "VIKING IRON SWORD WITH HANDLE”: Fake. The blade shape is wrong, the fitting is wrong. It is not even “Viking” in style, it was probably made in the 1980s.

Lot 34: "VIKING BATTLE AXE WITH INSCRIBED BLADE”: Fake. It was “cleaned” by surface grinding after artificial ageing, probably to hide the fact it is recently manufactured, but everything about it is wrong.

Lot 42: "CRUSADERS IRON SWORD WITH HANDLE”: Fake. The tang and shoulders are wrong, blade shape is wrong.

Lot 69: "LATE VIKING BATLLE AXE WITH INSCRIPTION AND DECORATION”: Fake. Wrong style of decoration.

Lot 70: "LARGE VIKING ERA IRON BATTLE AXE”. Fake.

Lot 73: "CRUSADERS IRON SWORD WITH HANDLE”: Fake, probably the worst of the bunch. Of clear recent manufacture artificially aged.

Lot 76: "VIKING PERIOD IRON BATTEL AXE WITH STAR SYMBOL”. Fake.

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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2020 1:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not come across this auction house before. I don't think I will be bidding on any of the items.
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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2020 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

They’ve been passing off questionable stuff for some time now.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2020 2:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dodgy? More like laughable.

Lot 1: HUGE ANCIENT ROMAN SOCKETED SPEAR--Not even close. Might be a modern flagpole finial?

Lot 3: LONG CELTIC LA TENE IRON SWORD--Actually, I don't know about this one! It looks a lot more convincing than many things I've seen. Though considering all the thrift-shop trash they're selling, it would be weird if this one item was authentic...

Lot 5: ANCIENT ROMAN LEGIONARY PILLUM SPEAR--Nope. I suppose it could be some other kind of ancient weapon, or possibly a Saxon angon. More likely it's much more recent, maybe African or Asian? The dramatic dark photos just don't give a good enough view.

Greek fire grenades?? Seriously??

Lot 18: HUGE ANCIENT BRONZE SPEAR ON STAND--Well, yes, it is, but it's not Greek. And "Archaic era" is *after* the Bronze Age, but middle eastern tanged spearheads like this were very early.

And all the "Luristan" bronzes are probably just "looted from the middle east", the usual meaning of "Luristan". Can't tell anything from those heavy-breathing dark photos.

Lot 19: MAGNIFICENT ANCIENT BRONZE SWORD WITH STONE POMEL--Not Greek, certainly not "Archaic".

Lot 21: ANCIENT GREEK HOPLITE SOCKETED BRONZE SPEAR--*Might* be Greek, though I kind of doubt it. But hoplites are from the *Iron* Age and used iron spears, mostly, so this would have to be quite a bit earlier than that, at best.

Lot 22 through 24, same song, only worse. Some of these could actually be ancient artifacts, mind you. I would expect outright modern fakes to be much less convincing, looking like they came right out of the usual Made-in-India catalogs with some corrosion added.

Lot 43 ANCIENT GREEK "TROJAN" BRONZE SWORD BLADE-- Eek! WTF?! Razz Razz Razz

Sorry, I just can't go any farther. Most of it is wildly misidentified, at the very least. Fake junk mixed with looted stuff, at best.

Matthew
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2020 6:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like these auctions. It lets private collectors buy "ancient artifacts" while giving museums a better chance of acquiring genuine articles. Lots of fakes in the market help to keep private collectors from driving prices up so high that museums don't have a chance. Provided that museum acquisition staff know how to identify a fake.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2020 7:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Like the museum that bought an obvious "Made in India" Roman "trooper" helmet for $55,000? With suckers like that around, I could make a mint just selling what's in arm's reach of my computer...

Matthew
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Ian Hutchison




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2020 9:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are some really obvious fakes listed there. It's embarrassing if they aren't aware of, or even in, on it. Many of their 'Viking' battle axes are clearly 19th-20th century carpentry tools, how did that get past anyone?
'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Martin Kallander




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Oct, 2020 1:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If these are actually sold then it's probably just some money laundering scheme or something.
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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Sun 04 Oct, 2020 5:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have read that the Eastern Romans invented hand grenades in the early Middle Ages. Though, I have no idea what they looked like.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Oct, 2020 6:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan D'Silva wrote:
I have read that the Eastern Romans invented hand grenades in the early Middle Ages. Though, I have no idea what they looked like.


Oh, I don't doubt the concept, just having a hard time figuring out why they would be elaborately decorated!

Matthew
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Oct, 2020 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
I like these auctions. It lets private collectors buy "ancient artifacts" while giving museums a better chance of acquiring genuine articles. Lots of fakes in the market help to keep private collectors from driving prices up so high that museums don't have a chance. Provided that museum acquisition staff know how to identify a fake.


Hi Dan

I suspect you made this comment in a slightly light hearted way. I am not sure that the purchase of fake or questionable objects by private collectors at this level exactly helps the study of the subject. I think museums may have difficulty competing with private buyers right at the top of the market in antiquities. But the sort of items we are looking at in the arms and armour world are normally way down the food chain from that level and a lot of the representative top stuff is in museums. So what people are buying in the lower and mid-range open market is usually comfortably surplus to museum requirements I would think.

I remember one of my mother's friends who was a medieval curator at the British Museum and fine scholar, who passed away this year, talking about how one of the jobs she had was going round trying to persuade elderly aristocrats to donate key pieces to the museum because those people had so much of the good stuff and it was items at that high level which was key to secure, as for the mid-range or low value items many museums had store rooms full of stuff that didn't ever make the grade for the display. And the museums could get assistance with the top items as there could be agreements to donate items to national museums in lieu of inheritance tax for instance.

Also the private collector market in arms and armour could also be described as the enthusiasts who are genuinely interested in the subject and study it and so it's good for them to be able to identify genuine objects and nice for them to be able to own one or two. The private collectors at this level are the people who visit the museum collections with a keen interest and buy the catalogues and books (write them in some cases). Arguably they are the people who the museum collections are for. Most people who visit an arms and armour museum collection think 'Old sword ....... another old sword.... that armour looks old' and go away with an impression of the items and the antiquity but not a keen interest I think. Without detailed interest from enthusiasts, which comprises many of the people who privately collect at a small level, you would not actually need or spend money on curators of arms and armour. You'd just need a cleaner to dust the objects every few years.

I agree that digs should be protected from looters. I agree that museums should always have first bid opportunity through national schemes on items of real cultural or historical importance. But I don't think fake items at this level help museums or enthusiasts. But as I say I think you were not being entirely serious here ?

As far as museums go, I personally think in the case of artifacts of major historical or cultural importance, national collections should also be abolished in favour of a global trust to own or curate these objects for humanity and they would (subject to preservation concerns)constantly travel the world in exhibitions so everyone can enjoy them and learn from them and sever them from the concept of national ownership.

Though these objects are often the subject of debate about ownership, like the Elgin Marbles, because of European museum collections established in the 19th century I think in almost all cases that should be irrelevant and overridden. I don't think a modern Greek person has any closer proximity or rights to the Elgin marbles than a modern Brit or Turk or American or Ukrainian. Equally I don't think I, as a British person, really have any greater connections or rights to the Sutton Hoo treasures or the Lewis Chessmen or Stonehenge than someone from Sudan or Iceland. There is such a gulf in time and cultural change, that I think the arguments for national ownership are often false, often connected to sometimes dubious concepts of national identity and hereditary title, and these objects should be considered part of the global culture of humanity and be used as mobile educational tools. And museums should have first dibs on the good stuff through national schemes I agree, like an expansion of the Treasure Trove laws, where newly found. And use of things like tax incentives (wealth or inheritance or capital gains tax etc) to up the National Museum's effective purchasing power for important things that are privately owned. And it needs to be an important or different item I think, because to the extent museums have sufficient collections to represent an item, a culture, a historical point, they don't need to necessarily own all the items related to it.
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Arne G.





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PostPosted: Sun 04 Oct, 2020 3:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Kallander wrote:
If these are actually sold then it's probably just some money laundering scheme or something.


This. I would wager money on it.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Oct, 2020 4:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Let's suppose that 95% of the stuff on the market is fake (IMO it is higher than that). Now let's suppose that all the fake stuff was no longer available. Because demand remains unchanged, the result is that there are now 20x more people bidding on each item. What do you think that will do to prices?
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Wed 07 Oct, 2020 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Dan,

"Demand remains unchanged" is an unexamined assumption here. The effects would depend on the distribution of fakes in different categories--for example, culture, age, cost--which of course intersect, which makes determining a result less than straightforward. For simplicity, and because I'm not familiar with the market, I'll discuss cost. If fakes are equally distributed at all price levels, then yes, the situation you describe would hold. But if fakes concentrate in the lower price ranges and become rare at the top tier (not an implausible situation), then the effect on prices of museum-display-quality examples would be limited, because people hoping to get a low-cost item would drop out of the market and relatively few would raise their maximum acceptable cost. On the other hand, if the fakers most often try to go for the big score and don't worry about the low-end market, then prices indeed should rise with their removal--but there would be a corresponding increase in certainty about artifacts' genuineness, which itself might be valuable, as authentication costs and uncertainty would drop.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Martin Kallander




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2020 3:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In my opinion, if you are working with like three unknown variables then you can draw whatever conclusion you want. Speculation like this is quite useless
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2020 11:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Martin,

That's a very good way of expressing part of my argument (and evidently I erred in allowing that point to remain implicit). Treating the antique-weapons market monolithically is not likely to be very useful; and trying an analysis without without in-depth knowledge of the market segment in which you're interested is likewise liable to serious uncertainty.

The cost-based view, however, does hold true for each market segment if the analyst has sufficient information to inform the analysis.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Oct, 2020 1:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Let's suppose that 95% of the stuff on the market is fake (IMO it is higher than that). Now let's suppose that all the fake stuff was no longer available. Because demand remains unchanged, the result is that there are now 20x more people bidding on each item. What do you think that will do to prices?


Look this is a friendly discussion and I agree with some of the comments above that we are speculating. In terms of 95% of the lower end of the arms and armour market being fake, I disagree. The time and skill and equipment it would take to regularly deceive even relatively green collectors by copying, producing and aging these pieces plus passing them through a couple of intermediaries to cover your trail and each of those intermediaries would want a mark-up, compared to the end sale price would mean I think you'd make more money flipping burgers in reality.

I agree museums should have first dibs for high end items through the sort of schemes I described above, but don't see lower or mid-range prices troubling museums' ability to buy in our specialism at all. Most of them are in museums already at the higher end.

Plus, as I said, the purpose of museums is to preserve and display for common public interest. It's mostly the enthusiasts who might collect at a small level privately who are interested in the detail of the museum collections. The rest of the people don't much care about the real detail of arms and armour, so having all the items in a museum doesn't really serve the broader purpose of museums. And to be fair it isn't the duty of taxpayer funded museums to buy and collect all items related to a subject to store them away from the eyes of the public or the public hobbyists in order to have them available for a researcher's private use, to effectively fund their private vocation or hobby. I think it is better to have more items out in the open market where enthusiasts can enjoy them more widely together with museum staff and academics. But hey, we all have our different outlooks and at the end of the none of us are 100% right.
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Wed 14 Oct, 2020 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Parry wrote:
In terms of 95% of the lower end of the arms and armour market being fake, I disagree. The time and skill and equipment it would take to regularly deceive even relatively green collectors by copying, producing and aging these pieces plus passing them through a couple of intermediaries to cover your trail and each of those intermediaries would want a mark-up, compared to the end sale price would mean I think you'd make more money flipping burgers in reality.


I also think that a significant part of the market consist of fakes. And a fair part of those fakes may fool also experienced collectors and scholars (look at the various discussions on this topic on this forum).

My personal rule for buying antiques is: if a quality reproduction is cheaper, don't buy it.
Because if the antique is cheaper than a quality reproduction the chance of the "antique" being, in fact, a quality reproduction, is smaller.
And yes, that closes a significant part of the antiques market for me, but that's good for my wallet. Wink
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Wed 14 Oct, 2020 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
Daniel Parry wrote:
In terms of 95% of the lower end of the arms and armour market being fake, I disagree. The time and skill and equipment it would take to regularly deceive even relatively green collectors by copying, producing and aging these pieces plus passing them through a couple of intermediaries to cover your trail and each of those intermediaries would want a mark-up, compared to the end sale price would mean I think you'd make more money flipping burgers in reality.


I also think that a significant part of the market consist of fakes. And a fair part of those fakes may fool also experienced collectors and scholars (look at the various discussions on this topic on this forum).

My personal rule for buying antiques is: if a quality reproduction is cheaper, don't buy it.
Because if the antique is cheaper than a quality reproduction the chance of the "antique" being, in fact, a quality reproduction, is smaller.
And yes, that closes a significant part of the antiques market for me, but that's good for my wallet. Wink


Hi Paul

In what area of arms & armour, in what time period, of what type, of what quality ? You need to be specific.

The rule is not consistent for all areas at all, and unproven for many areas, as some people who take the view don't have much experience with the antiques market., some do.

Certainly nowhere near 95% of rapiers are fake, smallswords and Napoleonic even less as examples are plentiful and cheap. Bronze age stuff, as I said before, hardly anybody wants (I like it but I am rare) so faking it is of limited value unless high end. But for ancient artefacts generally there is an issue.

People need to be specific about what it is they are criticising and why. Ironically I see some reproductions, post medieval period, and Japanese sword reproductions which have no real close resemblance to originals at prices not far off the prices for fairly decent originals. I think it is a lot of lack understanding and experience of the originals market. But if you prefer a reproduction, then that's your choice and different uses and interests of pieces drive that. But a reproduction is clearly different to an original, my area as example, there are not many rapier repros I have handled which really follow the dimensions and characteristics of originals. Most are wildly off and the good ones may feel the same overall but for different reasons, as we have discussed elsewhere.

But whatever rocks your boat. It's all a hobby at the end of the day.
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