A two-color globe that was recently offered on Ebay stirred up a lot
of controversy. The globe was a red-over-clear globe marked "FRR" in cast letters,
shown at right. The marking refers to the Fitchburg Railroad, an early
New England predecessor of the Boston & Maine Railroad. The gentleman
who offered the globe was a non-collector (at least of railroad items)
who made an honest effort to determine the globe's authenticity. Due
to conflicting opinions and controversy, he finally terminated the auction
rather than sell a possibly fake item.
This incident is a good example of the ambiguity that can occur when
odd or unusual items appear on the market. If authentic, the globe is
exceedingly rare and valuable. If counterfeit, it is a rather sophisticated
example of the growing problem of railroadiana fakes. Without taking
a position one way or the other, here are some arguments for and against
the globe's authenticity.
- There are no reports to date of similar fake globes -- typically
fake globes have appeared on the market in some, albeit small, quantity;
- Producing such a globe is no easy task -- it would require some
real glassmaking skill and professional facilities;
- Unusual but authentic artifacts do surface occasionally, for example,
one-of-a-kind salesman samples, test items produced by a new manufacturing
technique, and rare items originally produced for specialized, custom
purposes. Just because an item has not been previously seen by other
collectors does not mean it is a fake.
- The consensus of experienced collectors is that there are no two-color
globes with cast lettering. Rather lettering on two-color
globes is either etched or cut.
- Other characteristics of the globe are suspect -- particularly
the thickness of the glass and the size of the globe. According to
one well-respected collector, "... the glass is thicker than
any legitimate globe. Also, red over clear globes were used in presentation
lanterns, primarily to fire department members. They were also used
by fire department chiefs or assistant chiefs so that they could
be located at night at a fire scene. I can't imagine why the Fitchburg
would need one. Finally, all the Fitchburg lanterns I have seen take
an odd size globe. A standard 6"' globe will fit in a Fitchburg
lantern but a Fitchburg globe is too large for a Dietz # 6 or other
standard frame. "
- The globe was offered alone and not in a Fitchburg lantern frame;
an accompanying matching frame would add to the globe's legitimacy.
The end of this story has yet to be written. If more information surfaces,
we will post it here. For example, here is a comment sent by veteran
collector soon after this page was posted:
- "I disagree on one point. I have had two 6 inch FRR clear
cast globes and both were extremely thick and heavy. I kept the heaviest
one, and it is by far the heaviest globe I have ever seen. There
is no question that they were both authentic. I say that being thick
and heavy is a point FOR rather than AGAINST."
More information on Fitchburg globes including comments on the example
shown here can be found on a separate
web page on the Railroadiana Online Website.
Note.Thanks to all who contributed to this page. The seller gave
permission to use both the globe photo and his name, but all names have
been left out here as unnecessary.