Questions & Answers
Buying & Selling
Fake China: Reproductions II
Sometime in the decades prior to 1990, new reproduction railroad china was commissioned and sold by a controversial collector, since deceased. The china was actually made by prominent manufacturers on order from this individual. At the time, this china was clearly being sold as reproduction pieces. However, there is the distinct possibility that these pieces may now be represented as authentic in the collectors market. Therefore, here is a list of specific pieces that were reported in a 1990 article published by Key, Lock & Lantern - a collectors organization. Please note that this is not necessarily an exhaustive list. Collectors continue to have their suspicions about other pieces that have surfaced. See Updates.
Quoting from the original article, "There are two easy ways to determine a reproduction item. The first being that the design is applied over the glaze, rather than under the glaze as was normally done with railroad china. The second is by the manufacturer's back stamp. All of the items mentioned [below] have current manufacturer's back stamps, none of which were in use in the pre-Amtrak era. As very few china patterns have been produced for railroad use since 1971 (Winged Streamliner does come to mind), a knowledge of the current manufacturer's marks can be used to determine authenticity." Current manufacturer's back stamps include Homer Laughlin, Hall, and Sterling China. With the exception of Union Pacific's "Winged Streamliner" pattern which was produced in the post-Amtrak era for business cars, any china with these three back stamps should be considered reproductions."
The list of china pieces known to have been reproduced by this single individual is as follows:
Baltimore & Ohio
Baltimore Steam Packet Co. (OLD BAY LINE)
Chesapeake & Ohio
Lehigh Valley Transit (LIBERTY BELL ROUTE)
Lehigh Valley Railroad
New Haven Railroad
New York Central (MERCURY)
The Pullman Co.
Seaboard Air Line
Western Maryland Lines (UNION BRIDGE)
Once again, this is not necessarily an exhaustive list. There is the possibility that other china pieces were reproduced by this individual as well.
Remember: Anything that looks new and is reported to be 70-100 years old is suspicious! Almost all private U.S. Railroads stopped passenger service in 1971 with the inception of Amtrak. Well before that date, passenger service was a major money-loser, and railroads had long stopped ordering new dining car china. With the exception of some office car china, private railroads have not ordered new china for at least 40 years. If it looks new, it most likely is new!
Updates. (2005) A suspicious pedestal Egg Cup marked for the Boston & Maine in the "Bar Harbor" pattern has surfaced and may be from this same individual's production. One way to tell the difference is that the real thing has both black and brown pinstripes, whereas the suspicious one has only black pinstripes. We don't know what the back stamp is on the suspicious piece, but this would be more evidence one way or another.
Another experienced china collector added the following: "[The deceased individual] applied the WM [Western Maryland] logo to many different pieces of old restaurant weight white china, logo always overglaze, of course... He was quite eager to make this stuff look real "old", and often, apparently, "cooked" the pieces to age them. R.I.P." Again note what was said in the beginning of this article -- the marking was applied over the glaze in these reproductions rather than under the glaze as was usually done with authentic railroad china.
Thanks to the "nshore railroadiana list" for comments.
Comments or suggestions? See Contact Us page.
Source: Key, Lock & Lantern, Spring 1990, Issue #95, pp 1883-1884.