SAVAGE-STATION Fake Buckle Spotting Guide

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If you are a collector of Civil War militaria, then you are aware of the proliferation of fake and fantasy items that pollute the market.  A reproduction item is an accurately depicted recreation of a Civil War piece for use in displays, or by reenactors.  Reproduction Civil War items have their own category among Civil War auctions.  A fake item is a reproduction item that has been altered to appear Civil War period, and is being sold as such.  A Fantasy item is one that never existed during the Civil War.  This small guide is designed to help the beginning collector navigate the Civil War buckle auctions on e-bay.

There are several makers of reproduction buckles in the United States.  Most will put their initials, or some defining stamp, in the back of the buckles they make.  This is an example.  Look at the small GW stamped in the top and bottom of the buckle. 

There is no way to remove that mark unless you file it, or use a dremel tool.  Either way, you leave an obvious indention.  The only way to hide the new flaw you created is to Age the buckle, or make it look Dug.  This is done in a variety of ways, and it can make a buckle look as if it just came out of the ground from a 150 year hiatus.  A friend and fellow dealer said, Dirt hides a lot.  So watch for fake patinas on buckles you see. 

This is a simple patina-in-a-bottle you can get from any craft store.  Note the too blue look, and the inconsistancy of the patina.  Real patinas are not spotty like this.  If you are thinking of bidding on a dug buckle, or any buckle for that matter, go online and do some basic research.  There are dozens of legitimate dealers, and websites that can assist you in learning the good from the bad.  If you are willing to spend the cash, then be willing to do the reading first.  Something to remember is that Confederate buckles START at around $2,000.  The only ones less than that are the frame buckles which go from $400 to $1000 depending on rarity.  If you see 2-piece or rectangular Confederate buckles on e-bay going for way less than market value, or going at $500, there is a better than average chance that they are bad.  There are very few deals on Confederate buckles.

When a seller wants to auction off a fake buckle, there are several tricks used to throw the unwary bidder's off.  There is first, the blur shot:

This is the back of a fake Confederate egg-style buckle.  See how the picture is way out of focus?  This is done to help obscure telltale flaws in a fake buckle.  If a seller can't get clear photos, they don't need your money.


This is a distraction shot.  The fake relic is photographed in the company of a few legit relics in order to make it look more authentic.  If you are selling a nice, legit relic, you don't need props.  The relic is the focus.

These are both fantasy buckles.  The Confederacy never had a buckle that looked like either.  The one on the left is a common 1960's centennial buckle, the CSA is just the product of a maker's imagination.  Note that both have patinas.  Both were sold as real.  Confederate Belt Buckles And Plates, by Steve Mullinax is a great reference book on Southern buckles, and Repro Buckles of the Civil War by Howard Crouch is a must-read as well, as well as American Military Belt Plates, by J.Duncan Campbell & Michael J. O Donnell.

This is the famous bullet-struck buckle.  These junkers are all over e-bay, though they have been seen less and less as people wised up.  They come in both US and CS, and all are 100% fake.  Real bullet struck buckles are VERY expensive, and would not be on e-bay at $25.00 and no reserve.  The one pictured above is a fake US with a dropped bullet stuck in a hole that was punched in the buckle.  These are the jokes of the collecting community.

This guide is meant to get you thinking, and questioning buckles you might buy.  Always ask for more photos, especially close-ups of the front and back.  If the buckle is listed as Dug, ask where it was dug, or by whom.  Also, where it was purchased.  A reputable seller has that information and will be happy to share it with you.  Also ask for a written guarantee of authenticity.  If a seller isn't sure an item is real, or offers no refunds, keep going.  There are many other fish in the sea.  Also, avoid Civil War relics sold in private auctions.  This is done to hide bidders information, and to allow a seller to shill bid a price up.  No reputable dealers use this tecnique.  And lastly, but most important:  buy reference books!  The $60.00 you drop on a reference book is better than the $500 you might drop on a bad auction.  There are many books on every aspect of relic collecting, and they are worth their weight in gold. Make relic collecting fun, but always beware of the risks.  There are a lot of good relics out there, but you have to do your research to find them.  Go to the American Relic Hunters online and enter their e-bay Fakes Forum.  There is a lot of information there for a prospective buyer including a list of e-bay sellers that routinely sell fake or misrepresented items.

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