Don’t Get Burned by Reproductions

Written By Steve

Most serious collectors and resellers have all sorts of stories about being taken by someone selling a reproduction.

It happens on occasion and each time it does, we feel cheated for some period of time.

Reproductions are the scourge of the antique and collectibles business.  And people who knowingly sell a reproduction without disclosing the fact that the item is a reproduction  should be avoided.  Never buy from them again.

After over 50 years of serious buying, I was the victim of a reproduction last week.

I’m telling my story here so I can provide tips on how to avoid being taken by a reproduction.

I was seeking a Red Goose Shoes store display of a big red goose made of plaster.  Many didn’t survive because they were made of plaster.  You rarely find one at a flea market or antique show.  When you want something now, the best place to head is eBay.

Sure enough, I found two for sale on eBay.

One had an opening bid of $29.95, the other was a “Buy it Now” for $60.

The lower-priced item was being sold by a seller with well-over 5,000 positive feedbacks.  The other seller was new to eBay and this was his or her 4th item being sold.  Normally, in situations like this, buyers tend to put much more faith in the long-time seller than the newbie.

The lower priced listing included only one fairly poor photo.  The “Buy it Now” listing included 4 clear photos.  This should have been my first clue but I ignored it.

I studied the photos for a few days trying to determine if one or both were originals or reproductions.

At this point I should mention that there are occasions when some lucky seller comes across a case of original items still in the box.  We call these NOS or new old stock.  They are mint condition originals.  With rare exception, when this happens the seller is more than happy to tell you the item for sale is NOS.  Neither of these listings mentioned NOS.

At this point my gut told me the higher priced item had a much better chance of being an original as the other item just looked too new.  But, the lower-priced item was about to expire with no bids while the “Buy-it-Now” had many days to go.

So, the desire for a lower price caused me to put in a bid a tad-bit over $29.95 and I won the bid as the only bidder.

Later in the day I began having second-thoughts about the goose I had just purchased.

So, I went back to the original listing to read it again.

At this point I saw something that really bothered me.  Next to the word “Condition” the seller had put this:  “Used: ?”  How did I overlook the question mark the first time.  To me this is a red flag that I ignored.

But it gets much worse — much worse.

Next, I did what I should have done much earlier.  I clicked-on the seller’s eBay name so I could take a close look at his or her feedback for the past several months.

My heart skipped a few beats and my blood pressure rose as I came across several buyers providing feedback about their purchases of the identical goose.  Not only did I encounter these feedbacks but other buyers had purchased a smaller-sized red goose.

I immediately knew I had purchased a reproduction and I was mad at myself for failing to do my homework BEFORE buying the item my gut told me was probably a reproduction.

Of course, I tried convincing myself that it was possible that the seller had found a case or two of originals in mint condition and was selling them one-at-a-time.  But this was highly unlikely because a seller with this many feedbacks would know to mention that these were “found in some basement or barn in the original box.”

So, I stewed for the next 3 days until the red goose arrived.  Opening it, I held it close to my face and “yes” I could smell what seemed to be new paint.  The bottom was like new with no scratches.

It entered my mind to provide negative feedback to the seller but I didn’t.  Why?

Because, although the seller was not forthcoming and totally honest, he or she gave me a clue with the “Used:?” notation.  And, I failed to check his or her recent feedbacks.

Bottom line, I cheated myself by not doing more research before bidding and I failed to trust my gut.

After reluctantly providing positive feedback  (after all, it arrived quickly and was well-packed), I went to the $60 “Buy-it-Now” listing and studied it again.  I sent the seller a note asking for a photograph of the bottom.  Several more photos were added to the listing.

I pondered the $60 listing for 2 more days and finally convinced myself I was being “penny wise and pound foolish.”

I wanted an original red goose, the listing said it was “original” and I had been communicating with the seller and was convinced he or she was being 100% honest.

So, I clicked on the “Buy-in-Now” link and made my purchase.

Much to my surprise it arrived in 3 days.

Upon opening it, I was one happy guy.  It was, indeed, an original red goose.  Sure, I now had almost double the $60 cost but I was happy and had learned my lesson over again.

To me, getting burned by the first seller is simply part of the experience of buying antiques and collectibles.  Doing this occasionally ensures that we pay closer attention in the future when making a “buy” decision.

Okay, take a look at the first photo below.  Which goose is the fake and which is the original?


Now, take a closer look at the lettering on the front of each goose.  Which is the fake and which is the original?  Here’s a hint:  The neck on the fake is not perfectly rounded like that on the original.  It is a bit wavy, causing the letters to be wavy.



The reproduction is on the left in the first photo and is the second, or bottom, photo above.  Note the better definition in the words on the top photo.

Now take a look at both beaks.  The fake has new paint.  The original is darker due to aging over the years — what we call patina.  Look at the eyes.  The original has all black eyes while someone painting the reproduction saw fit to border the round eye with a bit of color used for the beak.


Here’s a photo of the webbed-feet.  Again, check for aging or patina and better definition in the feet.


This helps make the point.  Look at the bottoms.  The original shows wear and has green felt circles to protect the surface it was on.


Finally, here’s a side view of both geese.  Note the definition in the feathers and the patina on the original goose.


I’m sure that the fakes were made from a casting made from an original goose.  The problem is in the finishing work after the reproductions are taken from the molds and painted.  These reproductions were most likely made in China and shipped to America to be sold to unsuspecting buyers like me.

Please note it is just as easy to get burned buying reproductions at the flea market or the antique show.

The problem is that you rarely have an opportunity to see both an original and a reproduction side by side.  So you simply have to think long and hard before buying an item if your gut tells you it might be a fake.

Oddly enough, one week earlier I spotted a Red Goose Shoes metal sign at a local outdoor flea market with over 300 sellers.  Fortunately, I had my Apple iPhone with me and was able to spend almost 30 minutes doing online research to determine if the sign was a reproduction.  It was priced right at $150 which was one sign it was a reproduction.

But the size was wrong and the company name on the sign appeared on several signs online.  This is a sure give-away that the sign is a fake.

So I passed on the sign and was able to buy a near-mint original for double the cost online.

The takeaway from this blog is that reproductions are out there and they are being sold by both unsuspecting sellers and unscrupulous sellers.

You must take your time to determine if something is an original or a fake.  The higher the price, the longer time you should take to avoid being scammed.

And when scammed, take your medicine, learn a lesson, and move on.  It happens to all of us from time to time.

And remember — haste makes waste and caveat emptor.

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