Collectors may search for years for the most coveted rarities in their field. For some, the urge to top off their collection by buying that completer piece could leave them prone to believing they've struck it rich when it's really fool's gold.
Whether sales take place at antique shops, flea markets, online, or at top auction houses, no marketplace can completely protect buyers from sellers who are unscrupulous or simply unaware they're peddling fraudulent items.
Here's a roundup of commonly faked items in popular categories of collecting.
Toys: Rocket-Firing Boba Fett
Just before the 1980 release of "The Empire Strikes Back," packaging for Kenner's "Star Wars" figures featured an exciting mail-in offer: Boba Fett, the "new evil villain in the Star Wars galaxy," which could launch a rocket from its evil and villainous back.
Concerns over possible injury from the projectile prompted Kenner to redesign the product before it reached the public, however, and thus the ultimate collectible was born.
"A handful of pilot samples and test runs have surfaced over the years from Kenner employees," said Randy Falk, senior director of product development for the National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA). "When documented and legit, they sell for $2,000 and more."
He added: "They get faked or bootlegged so much because the demand is so high and someone with minimal skill can replicate them fairly close. ... Also, some people don't mind buying the fakes, since they can't afford to obtain a real one for their collection."
Another commonly faked "Star Wars" figure is the vinyl-caped Jawa. In the first-ever run of "Star Wars" figures, Jawas were outfitted with vinyl capes, which were later changed to cloth, so the rare figures with vinyl capes ones bring in the big bucks on the secondary market.
In a survey from ARTnews, experts were asked to name the most faked artists of all time. Almost every expert cited the 19th century Barbizon landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, whose work has been knocked-off so frequently that jokes about Corot's impossibly prolific production have run in print since 1940. In 1990, Time magazine said: "It used to be said that Corot painted 800 pictures in his lifetime, of which 4,000 ended up in U.S. collections."
Other frequently faked artists, according to that same survey, include Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali, and Auguste Rodin.
Autographs: Elvis Presley
Each year, the third-party Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA)/DNA services issues a list of the "10 Most Dangerous Autographs."
Last year, the No. 1 most commonly faked entertainer's autograph was Elvis Presley. An Elvis signature can sell for as much as $1,500, and a signed contract or letter could go for $35,000, according to the PSA. The organization said a large numbers of forgeries are found in Europe, specifically Germany and the Netherlands. Coming in second for the most frequent forgeries is the band The Beatles.
For those wondering, the Elvis autograph pictured at the left is the real deal, and the one on the right is the forgery.
Sports Memorabilia: Babe Ruth's Autograph
The PSA, which annually ranks the most commonly forged autographs, includes a list of the most common athlete forgeries and Babe Ruth, "The Babe," came in at No. 1 for 2012. The second most-forged athlete signature is that of Lou Gehrig, and in third place is Mickey Mantle.
A legitimate Babe Ruth signature can fetch from $3,000 for a signed cut to up to $60,000 or more for an autographed baseball, according to the PSA. Ruth signatures are determined to be fakes about 60 percent of the time. Many weren't forged for malicious purposes, however, the PSA website noted. A number of fraudulent signatures were made by secretaries and Babe Ruth's nurse as he lay dying.
The autograph pictured here on the Babe Ruth headshot is the fake, while the one shown on the baseball is legit.
Furniture: Barcelona Chair
If the cool seat pictured here, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Chair, looks very familiar, it's likely because, as one blogger points out, it is one of the most popularly knocked-off pieces of mid-century modern furniture.
It's not even close to the only one of its peers getting the knock-off treatment, however. Numerous iconic furniture pieces from the midcentury modern era have retained their popularity, or are even more popular today. Although they rose to fame with their designer's name attached—Arne Jacobsen's Egg Chair, Eames chairs, the Noguchi coffee table—knock-off versions are reproduced with regularity and sold in retail stores and catalogs. Danish furniture maker Fritz Hanzen recently addressed the phenomenon by making a series of videos demonstrating the flimsiness of copies of their Series 7 chairs.
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