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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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October 2003 Issue
 
ARTICLE
 
Original or Fake?
By Robert McLellan
 

You will not come across counterfeit literature very often, but the brochures that are faked are ones that are rare, expensive desirable and simple. Reproducing brochures is expensive and to make counterfeits you must sell a lot of them to make it worthwhile. And, if you do sell a lot of them, the word gets out and you will not longer be able to do it. The more elaborate the piece is, the more time consuming it becomes to reproduce it, the more expensive to make and the more apt that flaws will show. An impressive, deluxe Rolls-Royce catalog from the 1930's, with tipped-in photographs, would be expensive to reproduce to the original specifications - and then you would have to give it a patina of age. Still, the paper wouldn't be close enough to original, nor would the photographs. Plus, the printing would have to be done on an ancient printing machine. Compared to an original it would be easy to spot by most Rolls-Royce literature collectors. The Rolls-Royce Owner's Club makes quality reproductions without any attempt to fool anyone and the club denotes that they are reprints. Collectors who do not own originals appreciate the service and no one is hurt.

On the other hand, about 10 years ago someone made some first class counterfeits of early Maserati, Ferrari and Aston Martin folders and sheets. The paper was close to original and the printing was excellent. Although good enough to fool many collectors, when compared to originals there was a difference. The scam was quickly exposed and the word got out to collectors through dealers, magazine articles and clubs. Hopefully most of those fakes were destroyed, but there will be some collectors who pass them on to other collectors either through ignorance, or in hopes of recouping their lost funds.

Last month I mentioned a Hershey vendor who was knowingly selling counterfeit Corvette brochures. This is worth closer examination. The brochures fit the fundamental criteria of being easy and economical to produce and desirable enough that they can sell many of them. The counterfeiter hopes you won't discover the truth until you get home and then will have no way of finding him. Since they are modern brochures, the paper can be reproduced reasonably close and, at a swapmeets, you are not too likely to spend time examining the printing quality.

What should you look for? Let's put two brochures side-by-side and look for differences.

Paper - type of paper, thickness, gloss vs. satin or dull finish, smooth vs. "greasy" or "dry" feel, white vs. off-white, etc. The older the brochure, the harder it will be to find modern paper that will be identical to the original.

Photograph quality - Sharp, clear and no flaws, or is it cloudy and the dark colors faded?

Smell - Sometimes freshly printed paper has a chemical smell, or old paper has a particular smell.

Printing - Lettering should be constant in color, with no fading, as well as box outlines. Fakes often show faded lines or lettering in far edges or corners.

To make a good reprint the original must not show any flaws and, if the original is rare and old, it probably had some flaws that needed touching up. Usually such flaws are accentuated when reproduced. I have seen fakes that actually showed original wrinkles or tears. Look for where the original staple holes were. It is hard to get the new staples in the exact same spot - but shiny staples do not mean that it is a reproduction. Fifty year old staples are often dull and some are rusty, but some can stay shiny.

Be aware, too, of originals that look like reproductions. Some original literature was simply poor quality because the company wanted to mass produce brochures for auto shows or mailers. The first year Corvette brochures were pretty cheap looking and are often counterfeited. Although this makes the reprints look even worse than the originals, often collectors question the originals! If you compare 1964 and 1965 Corvette brochures you will notice how crisp and sharp the originals are - beautifully done with good detail. Then look at a 1963 Corvette brochure. At first glance the cover car is dull black, the background is blurry and the driver looks cut out and pasted in the car. Actually, the car looks cut out and pasted into the picture. The car has obviously been touched up by an artist. Strange, and although I like Corvettes, I have never researched the reason for this. It is original, and the photos throughout the rest of the catalog are up to the standards of the 1964 and 1965 brochures, but you might question its' originality.

 
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Occasionally we have collectors questioning whether a brochure is original. If you are concerned, please ask about it. Having collected since 1947 I hope I have enough experience to spot all the fakes and we do not sell counterfeits, or even reproduction literature which is marked "reprint". However, I have a couple of boxes of counterfeits and reprints that I keep for reference. Thankfully, I have seen fewer over the last 10 years.

 
 
 
The Automotive Chronicles, October 2003
 
 
 
 
 
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