ARE THERE FAKES or FORGERIES OF ANTIQUE PRINTS AND HOW DO I TELL THE DIFFERENCE?
As for forgeries of antique prints? Oddly enough, there are virtually NO forgeries of 19thC engravings. Or, to put this another way, there are NO ''well done'' forgeries. Some sellers sell computer scanned and digitally printed copies of engravings and prints. These are "sort" of forgeries, but the sellers I've encountered doing this state that the prints are copies, and so they are not really trying to pass off prints as real -- so they are unfraudulent forgeries (which are fine for people who do not care if they are displaying fakes... I don't sell such reprints but some sellers do). However, NO digitally or photomechanically recreated print will EVER have the clarity, detail, and allure of a genuine antique print -- and actually, MOST 1850s-1880s antique prints (engravings and etchings) are plentiful enough that they are affordable ... so any potential forgers aren't likely to spend time and materials and effort creating a 'fake' worth only a few dollars. There are also VERY very few 'repressings' -- in my 12+ years of collecting, I've only seen a couple repressings (which were easily distinguishable from originals in that they were on unusual paper, and from rather worn plates)..and for the most part, re-issues of engravings are typically of banknotes.
You can tell a real intaglio (copper plate etching or steel plate engraving) from a fake intaglio fairly easily, providing you have got halfway decent eye sight. For steel engravings and copper plate etchings, the linework is always 'raised' - sometimes slightly, and other times dramatically -- and by this, I mean the if you take a magnifying lense (8x photo loupe works best) and view the artwork, you shall see there's an aspect of 3D to the actual line, which is higher than the surface of the paper. In photomechanically reproduced prints, the linework is not raised. It is flush with the surface of the paper.
Further, reprints of intaglios would most likely be offset productions...examined up close, the lines and art of the piece would have tiny tiny pixels similar to a newspaper photograph or magazine illustration. Genuine intaglios are not offset printed and will never have the appearance of magazine photos upon close, magnified examination. On a real one, if you gently (and I mean GENTLY) drag your fingernail over the surface of the artwork, you will notice a slight roughness in the printed areas, and over thicker lines you will actually feel a bump. On fakes, the ink is deposited on the surface of the sheet without the intaglio method, so if you drag your fingernail across the surface, you will feel no difference between printed and unprinted areas. Wood engravings and typogravures are another matter -- they will have no texture 'feel' to them (but we're discussing intaglios here).
You can avoid buying fakes very easily:
1. LEARN what to look for in a genuine engraving or etching. And then
2. ONLY buy from established, reputable sellers.
3. ASK questions! There are probably 10 or so 'big' sellers on online auctions of antique prints and engravings. And nearly ALL that I have come in contact with are really decent folks, who enjoy dealing in prints and are quick to answer questions. Most are also collectors, specializing in one thing or another (my own personal specializations are David Roberts lithographs, female portraits produced by Finden/Fisher/Virtue, and engravings related to Byron and Moore). If you ask a question such as "what is the difference between an etching and and engraving?" or "I saw your listing on eBay, are you sure this is an etching?" or another similar question involving a knowledgeable reply then gauge how the seller replies. If they explain it all thouroughly then you can be pretty sure they know what they are selling. If you get an "I don't know" or "I'm selling this for a friend" type of answer then you may wish to think twice before investing any significant funds in whatever artwork they are selling.
4. Ask if the seller will provide a signed statement attesting to the age and vintage and type of print. Naturally such a statement should be free as such a statement is merely the seller promising his integrity in writing. A good seller will either offer such a statement for free or provide such a statement for free when requested. But it never hurts to ask (and if the seller is 'offended' by such a request, then think twice before dealing with them. An antique print seller should always be willing to supply their word in writing when selling an antique print. If they can't supply their word in writing it is possible they don't know much about antique prints and the various types).
Have fun with your collection! ...RRParks