Falsifications and Forgeries

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Jeremy Rowe ©2000 


The increasing activity in the market for photographs has increased the likelihood of false attributions and has caused some forgeries to appear. In addition to simply adding incorrect notations about subject or location on the mount, more sophisticated efforts to mislead have appeared in recent years.

For Arizona related material, false attributions for photographers such as Henry Buehman and Adam C. Vroman have been placed on images with rubber stamps to identify them as Arizona or Western photographs and improve salability. Some of these images have even found their way into institutional collections in hopes that they could be used to "prove" the correctness of other forgeries in the marketplace.

Other examples of forgeries and attempts to mislead include:

Images have also been removed and remounted on more interesting mounts to increase value. Use a loupe to view the edge of the image and mount to look for indications of slight embossing of the mount in either side of the current image edge remaining from the mounting of the previous image.

Photographic postcards have been falsified by adding rubber stamping logos and stamp boxes onto vintage and contemporary photographs to make them appear to be historic images.

Photographs of military subjects taken at reenactments have also been portrayed - and sold - as vintage. Material from the 1960's ad early 70s are particularly troubling as they can have surface rust and can appear to be vintage. Under a loop note anomalies such as riveted Levi's to help identify recent images.

Reproduction tintypes of famous subjects such as Lincoln, Custer, and Sitting Bull in paper CDV sized mounts began to hit the market in the 1970s. Tones are muddy and surfaces often show dust,  dirt and surface ripples in the emulsion.

Ambrotype copies of 19th century paper images and stereo halves are surfacing. Images are primarily ethnographic and emphasize plains Indian images, including images of Wounded Knee that are clearly not period. Tones are a bit flat and often image borders are visible under the mat. Surfaces often show dust,  dirt and surface ripples in the emulsion.

Laser and inkjet copy images mounted on period or reproduction card stock. Popular forgeries include cartes de visites of civil war soldiers and personalities, and cabinet cards of ethnographic subjects.

Tintypes on aluminum backing - 4 X 5 and whole plate reproduced en mass about 10 years ago. Backing is black paint and any abrasion shows silver metal underneath. Images include saloon interior, paddlewheel steamer interior, exterior view of the Ferris wheel at the Colombian exhibition in Chicago (several have been sold on eBay).

Falsified images are sold as individual images, and inserted into albums. Be careful, look at as many images as you can to get a feel for contrast, tone, and surface textures. If the price is too good to be true the image may not be right.

Unfortunately, as time goes on, and competition and value effect the market the number and creativity of forgers will continue to grow. The best protection is knowledge, either your own, or that of an expert.