What is the difference between a fake and a reproduction?

A reproduction looks brand new, as if it was just shipped from the factory. No attempt has been made to make it look old. A fake has been "antiqued". The wooden box may be distressed, the brass has been treated with a chemical to oxidize the finish and dull it unevenly. Often the only sign that of a fake is that the lenses are brand-new looking. Sometimes even the lenses have been fogged, as in the case of the Stanley scope below.

Stanley, London Telescope measures 5.5-inches closed and 16-inches fully extended. On the side of the telescope imprinted in block letters: STANLEY LONDON 1885. Includes hardwood case. Case measures 2.5-inches by 2.5-inches by 6.5-inches. Case is lined with felt and trimmed with brass. There is a brass plate on the lid that is imprinted: TELESCOPE STANLEY LONDON 1885. It's the box that gives it away. Most of the spyglasses that are made in India come with the exact same box, with different brass plates on the lid. Often found on ebay, sometimes two or three in one week. Note: there is a reputable firm in Southern California called Stanley London Brass Optics which makes superb brass telescopes. But they are offered as brand new instruments, not antiques.

Barrow, Henry This is a new telescope but looks antique. It has 3 draws and measures 14 1/2 inches when fully open and 5 inches closed. The main lens is 1 inch in diameter,the barrel and sliding sun-shade are covered in brown antique-looking leather and all brass parts have been aged with a chemical. It has new-looking lenses with a good, clear image. It is signed near the eyepiece "HENRY BARROW & CO.,LONDON" and has a fitted lens cap over the objective lens. These telescopes have been previously sold on ebay as antique by some people, and have realized quite high prices. Unless you are a semi-expert you could not tell this from an old one.

Pony Express This scope was sold on ebay for $280.00 to an unsuspecting buyer. The aged green patina is fake and the overall condition of the scope is poor enough to make it pass for real in a photo. Unfortunately, rarely does a week go by without at least one "Pony Express" telescope appearing on ebay along with many other "Wells Fargo" items. The seller usually claims that they bought the item at an "estate sale", and therefore know nothing about it. There is a brass or copper plate on this scope saying "Pony Express Est. 1860 Property of C.O.C.&P.P. Express Company." The label alone should have warned the buyer, since it is highly unlikely that companies plastered their name all over every tool used by their employees. This is reminiscent of fakes marked "HMS Titanic" or "Orient Express." Closed, it is about 3 inches and opened, a little over 6 inches. The new glass objective and the low power both betray this item, but these cannot be seen in the ad.

This brass "harbormaster" telescope appears in large numbers on ebay every day. The sellers do not normally represent it as antique but as a modern reproduction of a harbormaster telescope. Occasionally, however, one sees it engraved with the name of a famous telescope maker and offered as a genuine antique. When these scopes are made in India and labeled with a makers name, there is probably no intent to defraud anyone. The factories are simply making a reproduction of a Becker scope. However, after tarnishing a bit it is difficult to tell from a photo that you are being offered a modern scope. If you were able to examine this scope, you would notice that the glass looks brand new and lacks the fine layer of scratches, the patina of age, of old glass. The presence of brand new glass is usually the clearest indicator that you have a fake.

A surplus garden and home furniture shop (Home Emporium) near my home had a pile of these telescopes in boxes stacked up to the ceiling. They were available with black leather-covered barrels, plain brass barrels, and wooden barrels. There was considerable variety in the tripods as well. You could have any one you like for $49.00. They sold out within a month.

A fake Thomas J Evans scope offered on ebay as genuine. The focusing mechanism seen in the photo is typical of the brass scopes made in India today. The central part of the barrel rotates to focus the scope. It is heartening to see that these auctions often draw no bids, indicating that the buyers are becoming educated about brass scopes from India. The seller usually states "I bought this at an estate sale and know nothing about it." An examination of these scopes always reveals that the insides have not been blackened in any way, nor are there any baffles to block stray reflections. The inside of the tube is often just as shiny as the outside, which of course makes for very poor, low contrast images.

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