Framed Gold Miners Prospectors Photograph

This example is a new fake that pretends to be an old photo. To make a new fraudulent item like this a genuinely old photograph is first carefully lifted from its heavy, dark cardboard support. The removed photograph typically will be one that was damaged or perhaps of an unidentifiable family group which, despite its age, had nominal value. Then a modern printed picture of a more desirable image is cut out of a book or magazine and pasted onto the old support where the original old photo used to be. VoilĂ , a fake 'old' photo worth absolutely nothing is now ready to be sold to an unsuspecting buyer for real money.

The picture pasted to an authentically old 8 by 10 card stock in this case was a sepia-tone photograph of eleven prospectors that had been color printed in a modern magazine as accompaniment to their article on the gold rush. The magazine printed the antique prospector photo in color, perfectly copying and preserving its original sepia tonal qualities, an area of age browning, and hand colored features, like the pan of gold on the far right. The faithful coloration of the illustration picture in the magazine enhanced its usefulness for the purpose of creating the fake.

When a picture is as busy and interesting as this image a potential buyer's eye can be more easily distracted away from the obvious signs of fraud. A buyer may be able to see it's mounted on the same type of embossed cardboard matting typical of genuinely old photos. The picture was placed in the frame without a back cover, too, so a potential buyer turning it over to examine it from the rear will be treated to a view of the entire back side. What they see there is the obviously old cardboard stock on which the photo is mounted. This further enhances the illusion the photo mounted on the card must also be old.

Though the wooden frame is not as old as the cardboard mount the frame seems to have some honest age of its own. And the few judiciously rusted nails placed along the back edge to hold the old card stock in makes it seem as if the photo of the prospectors has been held undisturbed within this frame for many, many years.

It is very easy to tell this item is not really an old photo when you have it in hand. To the unaided eye the thinness of the magazine paper it's printed on is unmistakable, as is the rippling where that very thin paper met the wet glue that attached it to the board. The scratch mark visible across one of the figures is not an actual scratch to the surface of the picture mounted on the card. It is flat and clearly was copied when the rest of the image was printed. Look closely, too, at the imperfectly cut edges, not a typical feature on antique photos, where the white of modern paper glares out at you. Lastly, the dots of the modern photo-mechanical printing process used to print the picture are so large they can almost be seen by the naked eye.

No reputable dealer would offer an item like this as a genuinely old photograph. But items like this all too often are offered for sale, especially online where it is all too easy to mask their false nature by marketing them with small and distant or slightly blurry pictures. Beware of this kind of sales tactic by on-line sellers. If interested in an item always ask for good clear pictures to be added to the listing, or request they be sent to you. Though the picture is behind glass in the frame don't accept an online seller's suggestion the glass makes taking good close up photos of the item too difficult. Requesting a written guarantee of authenticity for your photography purchase is an excellent way to help ensure a good buying experience.

The print measures approximately 4 3/4 inches by 6 1/2 inches.

Item ID: 2007RP000321


For more information about faked photos see the link to the PBS Antiques Roadshow article Historic Photographs: Real vs. Fake on this shop's Favorite Links page.

Modern Reproductions, Fakes and Fantasies


Ruby Lane, Comparisons, CA   

Illustrations and Characteristics for Help in Identifying Many Confusing New Items

Ruby Lane Shop Rating
Unrated Rating Unrated
Member since 2007

Item listings in this shop are intended to be viewed for educational purposes, only. Items in this shop are not for sale.

More from Modern Reproductions, Fakes and Fantasies