Questions & Answers
Buying & Selling
FAQs About Fakes
Here are answers to some FAQs (frequently-asked questions) sent to this website about fakes. For links to more information on fakes as well as fake alerts, see our main fakes page.
Q. Is my item real or a fake?
A. Sorry, but we cannot judge the authenticity of any specific item due to some or all of the following reasons: (1) liability, (2) not having the expertise readily available, and/or (3) the difficulty of making judgments based on partial descriptions or photos. Nothing generates more controversy among collectors than questions of authenticity, and even experts cannot agree on some items. This website is all-volunteer and non-profit; we can't afford to get involved in the middle of disputes about authenticity. We publish general information on fakes and reproductions on our Fakes pages. This information is offered in "good faith" and represents the best that we can offer, but it is accompanied by a strong disclaimer.
Q. OK, so some items like mine are fake. I believe my item is authentic. Can you prove that I'm wrong?
A. Well, actually the burden of proof is on you to prove that your item is authentic, not on other collectors to prove that your claims are false. Think about it. Anyone can make a claim about anything. But if there's reason for skepticism, it's up to that person to back up their claim with proof. Otherwise, skepticism rules. In some collecting categories, for example railroad police badges and Wells Fargo items, so many fakes have been produced that just about everything has to be viewed with some skepticism.
Q. Do you have a test or specific criteria to tell the real thing from a fake?
A. If we have such information, it's published on our Fakes pages. In some cases we only have reports from reputable collectors and dealers that certain fakes exist, so we publish these as a heads-up to collectors with as much information as available. It's the best that we can do. We all wish for a "Carbon-14" dating test for railroadiana, but so far it hasn't been invented. Someday maybe!
Q. Is my Wells Fargo item authentic?
A. Wells Fargo items have become associated with railroadiana because the early express business was closely tied to railroads. Unfortunately, so many Wells Fargo counterfeits and fantasy items have been made in the last couple of decades that this category of collectibles has become infamous. We publish information about Wells Fargo fakes on a separate page, and the Wells Fargo Company itself has such information on their history FAQs page. If you see an "antique" marked for this company at a flea market, garage sale, or internet auction site, there's a reasonably good chance (though not 100%) that it's a fake. Stated another way, there are so many Wells Fargo fakes that collectors should be really, really skeptical. We regularly receive questions about how to tell fake Wells Fargo items from authentic ones, and the only thing we can say is that all the information that we have received is published on our site. We know of no websites that provide additional information, nor do we have any experts available to field questions about authenticity.