Restoration vs Fakes

This article originally appeared in the Let’s Talk About feature on the M-WTCA Internet site, August 1996

Restoration vs. Fakes

William Rigler


Eric Peterson
Sat Aug 24 22:29:22 1996

What is a fake? What are the criterions? Where does restoration stop and fake begin?


Bob Callahan
Wed Oct 23 22:48:21 1996

It has always been my opinion that an item is a fake when it contains a part or parts that did not originally come with it. The question comes to the person selling the misrepresented item. Should that person be detained and held for the authorities to be charged with fraud, or should it be overlooked.


Bill Rigler
Tue Nov 26 11:35:10 1996

Since Stanley Planes were made in production runs and x number of all of the component parts were laid out for assembly. If a part is lost and replaced by an identical part or a newly made identical part does that make the plane a fake or is it a restored plane. Prime Example is the plane sold by Phil Whitby?


Todd D. Kissam
Tue Nov 26 20:49:11 1996

In my opinion the line between restoration and fake is crossed when the restoration is not fully disclosed. A tool with all original parts is worth more than one restored even with “correct” or “proper” or actual “factory” parts. When a part or tool is called original and it has been “restored” then it is fraud. I think a lot of our current problem is that the facts of the restoration are omitted (sometimes conveniently). I wrote a letter to CRAFTS about a plane that was sold in the April auction where I suggested that CRAFTS on the tool submission form indicate that they expected all modifications etc. to be fully disclosed. No answer yet in 4 months. The money and ethics involved with fraud bothers me, but I am also concerned with the destruction of the historical value of many tools, particularly when they are rare.


Eric Peterson
Tue Nov 26 21:07:30 1996

Definition of a FAKE. Either in commerce or display, in my opinion, an antique tool is a fake if any of the following are present. [1] It is represented as older than it is. [2] The tools is misrepresented as to what it is or how used. [3] The tool is “promoted” in price or rarity by some change. (Example: adding a handle to a sabot spoon and selling it as a breast auger. I bought one once.) [4] A restoration to original status and then offering the item as such (original) is deception and constitutes a fake. Note: Restorations made only toward the original status and so noted, are not fakes, BUT the tools are not originals either. They are REPAIRED. Another category, the $27,500 plane under mention is a “repaired” tool. This is a fact and not a criticism. When offered as what it is, the marketplace will determine its current price. To be a fake: Deception and/or unwarranted increase in “value” are involved. Ignorance by either party does not alter the fact it is a fake. Deception can be unwitting and/or from ignorance. Equally important is what is NOT a fake, these include [1] Reproductions of antique tools, which are signed and currently dated or otherwise clearly marked by the maker. [2] Miniatures, and items never existing, and also clearly signed, dated or marked by the maker. [3] Artistic representations of tools as art forms, also signed, dated, or marked by the creator. Some of these show wonderful insight on the part of the maker, but usually are art objects only. Comment: Buying a fake is often as much the buyer’s fault as the faker’s. It very often certifies the buyer’s ignorance. It can be a costly learning experience. Upsetting, because in the end it may well be much your own fault. I knowingly collected “fakes”. Some are very beautiful tools and show great craftsmanship. They still are fakes. Displayed, they are quite educational.


Bill Rigler
Wed Nov 27 17:09:52 1996

Years ago when I lived in Illinois I went to a farm auction near Salem IL, Abe Lincoln’s home, and Bought an axe that reputedly was Abe’s original axe. The auctioneer did explain that because of the heavy use that Abe and others made of it, they had replaced the handle a couple of times. He also stated that, because of the number of times the head had been sharpened over the years, the head had been replaced at least once. He then went on to sell Abe Lincoln’s original timber axe


Gary Roberts
Fri Nov 29 10:51:48 1996

Most elsewhere in the antiques world, any item would be considered to be fraudulent if it was represented to the buyer as something other than what it was. Age, materials, provenance, maker, previous restoration, added or altered parts, etc. But, of course, the whole antique biz is rife with sleaze and subterfuge. It behooves (what is the past tense of behooves?) us to provide accurate and honest descriptions of tools for sale. If in doubt, you can always say “possibly” and describe the problem or questionable item. It’s sad to say that I don’t buy via mail auctions much anymore due to the inadequate descriptions and poor follow-through from the auctioneers. It seems that some auctioneers and sellers/dealers have forgotten that “old tools” is a specialty area. It is difficult to pass on a fraudulent piece to a knowledgeable buyer… but easy to defraud a novice.


Todd D. Kissam
Thu Dec 5 21:27:55 1996

I would like to hear from folks on what should be done when “fraud” or inaccuracy in tool descriptions is discovered. I am a little uneasy about this. Many of the 18th century planes had problems not detailed in the catalog (obvious) problems. Replaced wedges, shaved sides, profile changes, “beavered” mouths etc. Should I have taken Mickey or Bud aside and detailed what I see? Should this make a mail bid invalid? It’s not exactly fraud but it’s not right either.


Bill Rigler
Sat Dec 7 21:42:23 1996

Inadequate descriptions in mail order catalogs. When I receive an item that is not as described I send it back. It is my opinion, Todd, that as a customers we should challenge the description when inaccurate. If enough people raise cane on this subject Catalog dealers will have to do a better job. Considering that 25% commission is a lot it is not too much to demand accurate descriptions


Gary Roberts
Fri Dec 13 09:50:37 1996

Often I hear auctioneers complain that they don’t have time to write up a descriptive catalog. Yet I receive monthly and bimonthly catalogs from booksellers that are clear, concise and yet cover 300 to 400 items. I think some auctioneers simply don’t want to describe the item in detail for fear of losing a sale. Doesn’t it make sense that if you are selling to a specialty audience, that you would respect their intelligence and knowledge and provide a proper description?


Mel Ring
Sat Dec 14 09:59:10 1996

I recently bought a Ring plane with the boxwood nicker wedge missing. I never throw anything away so I had one and was able to replace it. The replacement is so noted in my computerized inventory but may be sold sometime as original and complete. What is the status of that plane now?


Bill Rigler
Sat Dec 14 11:44:44 1996

Mel, in my opinion you have a restored Ring plane properly identified by entries in an inventory. The only thing that can go wrong is when it is sold the person selling it does not convey what was done to get it into its present shape,


Sun Jan 5 20:10:31 1997

Early in life, I learned that everything was evaluated by a standard, the question was whose standard? Isn’t it about time that some sort of sanctions were instituted by the organizations that we all respectively belong to? Or, is this yet another arena in which we invite a third party to set up external regulations? After all many of these transactions cross state lines and do fall under the scrutiny of various enforcement officials.


Eric Peterson
Thu Jan 9 19:53:24 1997

I’m afraid that I don’t understand just what Mr. Yates is suggesting in his comment of Jan 5th. I’m not disagreeing, just asking for a little more specifics in his suggestion.


Bill Rigler
Fri Jan 10 15:55:12 1997

I have a level that was manufactured in about 1910-1930 and it used just plain glass cut in a circle to protect the workings of the level. These were easily broken and also easily replaced. How do we tell?


Bill Rigler
Fri Jan 10 16:02:09 1997

I guess my concern is we want to have everyone selling a tool to advise of all of its known defects. What if there are repairs and the current owner doesn’t know or realize that fact? The other question is, are we, as sellers, as scrupulous as we want other buyers to be?


Bill Rigler
Fri Jan 10 16:05:27 1997

I believe that all of the discussion of restoration vs. fakes boils down to what we, as purchasers want to know about a tool that we are purchasing. Is the wedge original, what has been repaired that is not obvious. We want to be told or do we?


Bill Rigler
Fri Jan 10 16:07:37 1997

In the case of manufactured items like Stanley do we have to become an expert of every bolt etc that was used to build each model? Is it possible that that they had model one bodies and model two bolts and accessories? How do we say it is not original as it came from the factory?


Eric Peterson
Sat Jan 11 16:14:33 1997

Perhaps we are missing the essential issue. Since we can not control the actions of others, we can only set group standards for our own actions. We can say what the generally agreed standard is to be, and when this is not met, say so. Any breach of this should be sanctioned, but just how is difficult to say. In the past it has been effectively done by widely telling members and collectors that so-and-so’s tools were fakes. Simply by “bad mouth”, but this is the lawyer’s best friend. Laws, rules and regulations have never stopped fraud and will not. Standards of behavior and an informed body of purchasers can limit the damage. A good reason to belong to tool collecting organizations. These tool-collecting organizations should set standards.


Eric Peterson
Sat Jan 11 16:17:52 1997

Concerning the Standards for what is a fake. First we need to define our needs. Collectors have differing interests. The Standards proposed by the M-WTCA should accommodate all of these interests. The collector doing research on a tool needs to know if the cover glass on a level was replaced. (There actually is a considerable variation in glass.) The replacement of a missing bolt with another can be important to some collectors. A metric bolt was hardly used in colonial times (an extreme example). The point is that if an M-WTCA member offers a tool as “original”, then, to the best of his knowledge, it should be. Otherwise it is knowingly misrepresented. That purchaser perhaps could care less concerning a repair, but it does not change the fact that it is no longer original. The next owner may care a great deal. The Standards set by M-WTCA (if any are set), should accommodate the spectrum of collectors needs. This will be more significant as these artifacts continue to pass through evermore generations’ hands.


Eric Peterson
Sat Jan 11 16:20:42 1997

Regarding terms related to this discussion. Which if any of these terms should be used in the description of a tool? How should they be defined: fake, original, repair, restoration, treatment (as cleaning), and missing items. I’m sure there are additional terms. The dealer in making a description has one goal; the potential purchaser has another. There needs to be some standard terminology.


Don Bosse
Tue Feb 4 10:11:15 1997

Technically, there are no fake tools-they are what they are. The issue of course is how the seller or the presenter represents the tool. If the seller has made an effort to describe or type a tool to the best of their knowledge or abilities I find no fault. After all, if you are ready to spend your hard-earned money on something you know little about then who’s at fault? If a purchase can’t wait for an educated buy then that’s the price of your education. What should not be tolerated is out right fakery by a knowledgeable dealer. We all, at sometime, draw our own line on what’s acceptable in cleaning, repair, and restoration, and that’s a personal preference. And most of us redraw that line several times in our collecting careers. I think what’s most important here is not to try to classify the tools but to share our knowledge readily with others so that we all may become more knowledgeable.. This in turn will eliminate the fakes, dishonesty and missrepresentation cannot hide from those who wield knowledge.