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Treasure  Detectives  in  CNBC   A  Fake  Baseball  Card  and  A  Fake  Tiffany  Lamp  

By  Scott  M.  Haskins,  Art  Conservator  

  Almost  more  interesting  than  the  things  they  collect,  art  collector’s  personalities  and   mind  set  seems  to  be  the  vibe  that  Hollywood  is  after.  I  guess  that’s  why,  at  the   moment,  it  seems  TV  is  awash  with  wild  characters  who  scour  the  countryside   finding  junk,  restoring  things,  appraising  and  bidding  on  supposedly  sealed  storage   units.       If  had  some  personal  contact  with  the  producers  and  production  team  at  Treasure   Detectives  (CNBC  Tues  nights)  and  I  find  this  show  very  interesting.  Its  is  a  very   interesting  show  that  deals  with  the  authenticity  of  collectibles.       In  the  show  that  aired  this  week,  there  was  definitely  a  good  object  lesson  to  be   learned  from  if  you  paid  attention  to  the  psychology  of  the  collectors,  something  I   hope  you  can  relate  to.  I  deal  with  the  mind  set  of  collector’s  all  the  time  and,   coincidentally,  it  turned  out  that  on  the  same  morning  as  the  TV  show,  I  had  three   paintings  to  evaluate  for  authenticity  come  into  the  lab…  all  of  them  before  noon!     The  three  items  that  came  in  were  supposed  to  be  by  Matisse,  Franz  Bischoff  and   Maynard  Dixon.  Hopes  were  quickly  dashed,  however  as  the  Matisse  was  quickly   identified  as  a  print  and  the  two  other  oils  were  far  below  the  quality  of  the   supposed  artists.  The  owners  came  into  my  office  in  hopes  of  having,  collectively,  $1   million.  I  was  surprised  how  lightly  they  took  the  bad  news,  however.  They  must  not   have  been  expecting  a  positive  response.  In  these  three  cases,  all  it  took  a  quick  look   and  the  fakes  were  identified  so  I  didn’t  charge  them  anything.  However,  see,  below,   how  the  bill  can  be  run  up…     How  often  do  fakes  show  up  at  my  door?  When  I  have  reason  to  begin  probing  for   authentication  type  details,  at  least  90%  don’t  pass  the  test.     Tues.  March  12th’s  episode  of  Treasure  Detectives  dealt  with  the  value  of  a  Tiffany   lamp  and  a  potentially  super  valuable  baseball  card.  

Comparing  blown  up  images  of  the  baseball  card  in  question  and  a  fake  card  they  made  on  the  show.  

 

 

The  two  owners  of  the  two  items  were  in  a  completely  different  place  mentally.     1. The  baseball  card  owner  had  inherited  the  card  in  1980  and  had,  over  the   years  revered  it  and  made  up  an  incredible  story  and  value  in  his  mind.  For   him,  the  item  was  absolutely  authentic  and  its  potential  value  of  $3  million   was  tied  tightly  to  his  ego.   2. The  Tiffany  lamp  was  bought  a  few  years  ago  by  a  very  experienced  antiques   collector  who  states  that  he  has  the  largest  and  most  valuable  collection  of   Tiffany  in  the  State  of  Kentucky.     In  the  case  of  the  baseball  card,  it  turned  out  that  several  details  sunk  that  boat  and   it  was  declared  100%  fake.  The  owner  was  devastated,  of  course,  but  made  worst  by   the  fact  that  the  owner  took  the  news  personally.  The  provenance,  the  reverence  for   such  a  rare  item,  the  story  the  owner  had  in  his  mind  all  contributed  to  him  not   looking  at  this  “investment”  in  an  objective  way.  By  the  way,  it  is  my  estimate  that   the  authentication  processes  they  went  through  on  the  show  could  have  cost  the   owner  about  $15,000.00  if  he  were  paying  for  the  work  and  research.     The  Tiffany  lamp  turned  out  to  be  a  1950s  reproduction  and  was  fraudulently  sold   as  a  Tiffany.  In  other  words,  the  purpose  was  to  deceive.  The  owner  was   disappointed  naturally  but  it  was  interesting  to  me  that  an  experienced  antiques   buyer  and  one  so  familiar  with  Tiffany  would  buy  something  BEFORE  having  it   checked  out.  I’m  sure  he  shrugged  off  the  $5,000.00  purchase  price  of  his  bogus   lamp  and  moved  on  to  other  hunting  grounds.  It  is  my  estimate  that  the   authentication  process  they  went  through  on  the  show  could  have  cost  the  owner   about  $10,000.00  of  he  were  paying  for  the  work  and  research.     Here  are  a  couple  of  suggestions  that  could  be  learned  from  this  episode  of  Treasure   Detectives:   1. Have  your  item  checked  out  by  experts  prior  to  a  purchase  or  caveat  emptor   and  suffer  the  consequences.   2. Provenance  or  the  documented  history  of  the  item  is  as  easy  to  make  up  as  a   good  story.  Fake  provenances  are  more  common  than  good  ones.  If  the   documentation  is  made  up  of  physical  papers  etc  and  they  all  look  good…  be   more  wary,  the  more  expensive  the  item  is  being  sold  for.   3. Consider  that  all  experienced  dealers  and  collectors  buy  fake  stuff.  Don’t  take   it  personally…  but  don’t  get  taken  too  often!  #1  on  this  list  will  keep  this  from   happening  to  you.  One  of  my  dealer-­‐clients  hasn’t  bought  a  painting  in  30   years  with  a  fake  signature  because  I  look  at  each  and  every  purchase  for  him   PRIOR  to  buying  if  he  has  the  minimal  question.     In  the  program’s  own  words:  "Treasure  Detectives  takes  you  deep  inside  the  world   of  arts,  antiques  and  collectibles.  Curtis  Dowling  and  his  team  of  investigators  verify   the  authenticity  of  collectibles,  artwork  and  antiquities  using  innovative  technology   and  street  smarts.  Is  it  a  fake  or  is  it  worth  a  fortune?”      

One  of  the  basic  methods  for  inspecting  artwork  prior  to  purchase  is  with  a  strong   UV  blacklight.  See  this  article  and  video  for  more  info:   http://tipsforfineartcollectors.org/blacklight-­‐package/  This  is  not  a  slam-­‐dunk-­‐ easy-­‐to-­‐read  method  for  seeing  previous  restorations  and  other  important  details.  It   requires  lots  of  practice  on  lots  of  different  kinds  of  items.  But  its  fun!         For  a  news  article  featuring  Scott  M.  Haskins’s,  Click  here:   http://www.fineartconservationlab.com/media-­‐room/art-­‐restorerconservator-­‐ scott-­‐m-­‐haskins-­‐featured-­‐in-­‐life-­‐section-­‐of-­‐newspaper/     For  art  conservation,  painting  restoration  and  authentication  questions  call  Scott  M.   Haskins  805  564  3438  or  faclartdoc@gmail.com     For  art  appraisal  questions  call  Richard  Holgate  at  805  895  5121  or   jrholgate@yahoo.com     See  short  videos  by  Scott  M.  Haskins  on  art  conservation  related  subjects  at   YouTube  channel  “Bestartdoc”   http://www.youtube.com/user/bestartdoc?feature=mhee     To  learn  more  about  what  you  can  do  at  home  to  take  care  of  your  stuff,  download   now  a  copy  of  Scott's  book,  How  To  Save  Your  Stuff  From  A  Disaster  at  50%  off!     CLICK  HERE  to  know  more:  http://saveyourstuffblog.com/products-­‐supplies/     See  short  do-­‐it-­‐yourself  videos  on  collection  care  and  emergency  preparedness  for   art  collectors,  family  history  items,  heirlooms,  memorabilia  at  Youtube  Channel   “preservationcoach”  http://www.youtube.com/user/preservationcoach     Follow  us  on  Facebook   Tips  for  Art  Collectors   Fine  Art  Conservation   Save  Your  Stuff   Scott  M.  Haskins    

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