Dear Lee:

You and I both like a good April Fool’s joke. When it comes to collectibles, though, we don’t want people to be fooled by fakes—and there are loads of them on the market. Here’s just a small sampling of fakes to watch out for:

  • Coca-Cola signs. Some things to know: Coca-Cola never produced pub style mirrored signs, or pocket watches with “Coca-Cola” faces. Wooden signs are fakes, as are the easy-to-spot black, red, green and blue porcelain Coca-Cola signs manufactured in India.
  • Designer handbags. Louis Vuitton and Chanel are two of the most commonly copied bags. Clues for fakes: price is too low; zippers and hardware are not consistent and high-quality; stitching is uneven, sloppy or replaced with glue; low-quality leather; labels are not perfectly stamped, printed or embossed.
  • Tiffany glass. Copies of pieces made by Tiffany are all too common. Most often encountered are fake lamps. Tiffany’s glass scarab beetles are also well-known and many look-alike Tiffany scarabs are now on the market. These Tiffany-style scarab paperweights should be clearly marked as copies. However, if they are being sold as authentic, beware!
  • Wells Fargo belt buckles marked “Tiffany, New York” (pictured). These are well-known fakes from the 1960s. They’re not old and not made by Tiffany. More recent copies have been made and also turn up at flea markets.
  • Cut glass. The American Cut Glass Association has suggestions to spot fakes: How does the piece of glass fluoresce under black light (ultraviolet)? Are the shape, dimensions and weight of the piece, correct? Does it have the expected wear and minor damage from years of use? Are the signatures correct? Cut glass is popular again, so these tips are important for anyone thinking of starting a collection.
  • Chinese ceramics. There have been many stories lately of blue and white Chinese vases found at garage sales and being sold for thousands of dollars. If you think you have or may buy a vase with a blue and white design, do some research first and talk to a reputable dealer. If possible, photograph the vase. Examine it carefully for flaws. Feel the texture on the bottom. Remember, the mark on the bottom could be a fake too!
  • Rolex watches. Rolexes are legendary as subjects for counterfeiting. Serial and model numbers, lens feel, clock hand motion and other characteristics all factor into identification of authentic Rolexes. But one of the best rules of thumb? If the price is too good to be true, it’s probably a fake.

Don’t be fooled. Go to for information on these and other fake collectibles, including advertising items, musical instruments, toys, pottery, jewelry and lots more.

Terry Kovel

Wells Fargo belt buckle fake

Fake Wells Fargo Tiffany belt buckle


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