The battleflags, and the garrison flags used by Union and Confederate troops in the Civil War were more than just pieces of colored cloth. They represented the unity, and fellowship of the soldiers that fought under them. In the fog of battle, these flags were a rallying point, and they were a focal point of enemy assaults. Capturing the enemy's flag was a major accomplishment, and many a fierce hand-to-hand struggle was fought over a flag's possession. Being selected to carry the flag was considered a great honor, even though it often meant sure death. The flags of the Civil War were testaments to the soldier's love of their cause, and each other. This guide is designed to help beginning collectors avoid the pitfalls of buying flags on e-bay, because the fakes are EVERYWHERE!!!!
Owning a real Civil War flag is a rare honor that only a few lucky collectors get to experience. There are VERY few available on the market, and the prices for them are astronomical. Confederate flags are anywhere from $75,000 to well over $100,000 each. Reunion flags, scarce but more plentiful than battleflags, are over $1,000 MINIMUM. Yet if you scan e-bay, you will see a half dozen purported Confederate flags listed at any given time. Are they real? Lets take a look.
This is typical of the so-called Confederate flags on e-bay. Most come from a maker in the Bristol, Tennessee area, and all can be distinguished by several characteristics:
The stars tend to have a frayed look never seen on originals.
The "battle honors" are done in stencil, and if you scan enough of these flags, you'll see that the stencils all look alike.
The ends tend to be ripped, to give that "used" look. Real flags will have a shredded look on the ends that can only be attained by wind-damage. The torn look is easy to spot, as it is in the photo above.
Anybody with half a brain would know better than to thumb tack a historical artifact to a garage ceiling. Thumb tacks equal RED FLAG!!!
Stitching is also important. The sloppy looking hand sewing done on most of the fakes is to add a feel of authenticity. Look, the South was poor, but their flags were not sloppy. These flags had HUGE symbolism and were made with great care.
If a seller cuts and pastes about a page and a half of unit history, then has a sentence or so of description.....RED FLAG!!! That is a trick to get your mind off the flag and more into the ambiance of the Civil War.
Always scan the e-bay category heading that a flag is in. Many sellers of fake flags will actually list them in reenactment and repros. Why? They figure you won't pay any attention, and once you figure out you got zapped after the junk flag arrives, they are covered with e-bay.
If a seller offers NO REFUNDS.....common sense would say, DON'T BID!!!!
If you find yourself tempted to buy a Confederate flag on e-bay, do some fast research. Type the regiment that the flag claims to represent into a search engine. There will be much information on the unit, and you can usually find a photo or description of the regiment's flag. Most, you will find, are in museums. That kind of puts a hole in the chances that it is there on e-bay for $300.00. 9 out of 10 Confederate flags are in museums. And if you think you can snake a real one off e-bay for $500, you need to say hello to the Wizard for me because you are living in the land of Oz. E-mail the seller and demand provenance, or documentation of where the flag came from. On a real flag, you will find many receipts of sale, and pages of documentation. Demand to know where the seller bought the flag. Demand a WRITTEN certificate guaranteeing authenticity, not verbal. If a seller balks on any of these normal requests, or gives you the "Duh, I dunno if'n its real" routine, DON'T BID!!!! Remember, you are not a charitable institution. Your money is hard earned, and should be well spent.
Above are a few more of the typical fake flags. They get faded, dragged behind trucks, anything to make them look old and used. None of these is over 5 years. Do yourself a favor. Go online and type "FAKE CIVIL WAR FLAGS" in any search engine and begin to glean the loads of information available. There are more than enough reputable dealers, and websites that will educate you on flags, and all Civil War relics. Oh! And one more thing! NEVER bid on ANY Civil War relic that is in a private auction. That is a trick to hide bidders information, and it makes it very easy for a seller to "shill" or drive the price up. Reputable relic sellers NEVER use a private auction.
I hope this crash course in Civil War flags is useful. The reproduction and fast-aged flags you see being sold as real on e-bay are great for displays and teaching aides, but that is about it. I just hope it makes you think before you bid. I have been burned by fakes. Learn from my mistakes. It is cheaper than learning from yours.