This example may be one of the clearest we can ever offer to collectors for illustrating just how far the clever makers of outright fakes may be willing to go in order to fool buyers into believing in the false goods they have produced. While belt collectors may already know quite well about this particular hoax, those who collect only items related to other niche markets, such as railroadiana or advertising, may never have heard of the escapade. And so we offer this example.
When they first began to appear in the 1960’s make-believe advertising related and Western themed brass belt buckles managed to sell to collectors for very high prices. This was because they often bore the name of ‘Tiffany’ in a specious maker’s back-stamp, though other past makers of note were also suggested instead. By the late 1960's, however, big ticket sales had begun to be stymied by the effective counsel of expert collectors against investing in the buckles. A primary argument effectively used to discount buckle authenticity was the complete lack of early reference materials to document manufacture or prior existence.
As if coming to the sudden realization that collectors tended to rely heavily on references in print and that prices for the buckles could once again be bolstered should such a reference be made available, like magic the book shown and described in this listing appeared on the scene. Although it had never been seen before about 1970 the book sported a 1950 copyright date.
For a time the book, like the buckles it chronicled, managed to fool collectors. But a Smithsonian Museum adviser, J. Duncan Campbell, came out with his own book, "New Buckles of the Old West" in 1973 in order to expose the complete fakery of both the buckles and the '1950' book written about them.
The "Tiffany & Gaylord Express & Exhibition Belt Plates" book is, quite clearly, a fake that was specifically created to provide supposed authenticity for other fakes. As such it is a rare contemporary example of the skill of the con-artist. It illustrates well their understanding of human nature and our tendency to respect and automatically believe what we read in books.
The reputations of publishers and authors have always relied upon the accuracy of the 'facts' they publish. What many people do not realize is that anyone can pay a 'vanity' press to print a book meeting their exact specifications, just as a suit can be ordered from a tailor.
Rather than attempt to explain in too great of detail here what makes this particular book recognizable as a fake, we will only enumerate a few of the reasons and then direct the reader to consider other information available on collector websites which give additional information on both this book and many of the false buckles it 'documents' which can be reached through our Favorite Links page. See also the December 1995 issue of Antique Collector and Reproduction News, which gives an excellent overview of the deception. A link to the ACRN website is also provided in our Favorite Links.
Oddly enough, for collectors this fake book and a catalog-like companion fake that appeared a bit later, have now actually become very useful as reference material for a reason surely not intended by their maker. They make it possible to to identify any buckle in them as a fake from the same source. Anyone who may be considering attempting the same type of hoax would do well to keep this detrimental rebound effect in mind.
Although England is believed to have been the original source of the buckles (and this book), today copies of them are still being made in other countries. The later copies would be reproductions of fakes.
Vanity publishing has the potential to adversely affect other collecting areas if claims and statements in print are not subject to healthy scepticism and authors of books not held to high standards of scholarship. With the easy availability these days of better printing technology self-printing of false documentation remains a possibility. Both to give bogus substantiation for authenticity and to suggest unrealistic prices for collectible objects. Vigilance on the part of the collecting community is advised to help prevent such abuse.
Information identifying this book as a deception:
1. Some text supposedly written by Percy Seibert in 1950 plagiarizes word for word Smithsonian bulletin article #235 written by military expert J. Duncan Campbell, which was not in print until 1963.
2.. The book was never offered for sale anywhere prior to 1970. That is when it was offered by a company in London, England. Collector Frank Fish, owner of a small museum and who supposedly penned an introduction for the book, died in 1965, meaning he would not be able to refute any plagiarized quotes attributed to him. Words given verbally by Mr. Fish in order to quote them in a post-1965 book, of course, could not have been obtained at all without supernatural assistance.
3. According to J. Duncan Campbell a search of copyright registrations by the U.S. Copyright Office found no such work registered with them between the years 1946 and 1971.
4. Joel & Arnoff is a company specializing in embroidered emblems, not metal belt plates and they published only a single book on military insignia in 1945.
5. There was no 'Reeses Press' in Baltimore in 1950.
6. The background of 'author' Percy Seibert cannot be substantiated in any way and his biographical information appears to be a total fabrication.
7. The Francis Bannerman surplus catalog advertisement illustrated in the Tiffany & Gaylord Express & Exhibition Belt Plates Book book on page 79 is a fictitious cut-and-paste composition. The original Bannerman ad is entirely different. After alteration the Bannerman catalog appears to have been offering remaindered Tiffany belt buckles in 1889, which is ludicrous.
Note: Look closely at the ad pictured in the book in this listing. The different coloration and shape of the inset areas of text can be noted, as can a few stray letters from the original catalog page text peeking out from behind the new addition.
8. Tiffany Studios never made belt buckles, despite what is stated in the book to suggest they did.
Illustrations and Characteristics for Help in Identifying Many Confusing New Items
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