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Go Back   The Soviet Military Awards Page Forum > Soviet Awards Forums > Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics > Fake Alert! > Miscellaneous Questions

Miscellaneous Questions Anything else that doesn't fit into the Fake Alert Titles, Orders, Medals, or Documents sub-forums should be posted here.

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Old 05-22-2002, 03:27 PM   #1
Nota Bene
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How to NOT Buy Fakes - Collector's Guide

There are more fakes on the market today then ever before and their quality is getting much better. With the collecting community in Russia growing and supplies drying out even less expensive Orders and Medals are getting faked. Fake manufactures will stop at nothing to make a buck without realizing that they are seriously hurting this wonderful area of collecting. I have recently purchased a large collection of Soviet awards that a person brought from Russia several years ago - all the expensive, and even some fairly common awards in this collection were fakes. I am sure he will never get back to collecting again. Sad, isn't it!

This hobby can become a source of intriguing discoveries, and exiting knowledge about a different culture, as well as a good investment, or it can be a very frustrating experience if certain precautions are not taken. Beginning collector are bound to make some mistakes, but they can be minimized by following some simple rules:

- Buy from a reputable dealer. Ask around and buy only from a dealer who offers unconditional money back guarantee for authenticity and gives a reasonable period of time for inspection. A "three days inspection privilege" is probably not enough to get a second opinion. Even an experienced dealer is not safe from an honest mistake, so before making a purchase always ask about the return policy. I think it would be unfair if you have to pay return postage or auction fees for a fake. Like I always say, the only thing I can't buy back is my reputation, everything else is just money. Make sure you don't buy from a vanishing dealer. There is a lot of honest dealers who have been around for quite some time, so there is no reason why you should give your business to someone who has just entered the market and probably has less experience then you do. I can not overemphasize the importance of this rule!

- Get a good reference book, in fact get all the books, photos, postcards, that you can find. This would be a very wise initial investment that will save you a lot of money down the road. If you can read Russian you have an important advantage over other collectors. Some of the books on my shelf are: "The Comprehensive Guide to Soviet Orders and Medals" by Paul McDaniel and Paul J. Schmitt (The Bible for a Western collector; you can also purchase it from me); "Soviet Orders" by A. Kutsenko (in Russian, the best book there is); "Russian and Soviet Military Awards" by V. Durov (English and Russian, great photos); "Order and Medals of the USSR" by G. Putnikov (brief, but to the point); "Avers 1-5" ( a cache of information, not always to be trusted) and many others. In fact I jump on every book I can lay my hands on. One has to remember however that some books may contain erroneous information and not account for variations.

- Ask questions. As a beginning collector you may not know many things and may not even know where to look for the information you need. Collectors love to talk hours about their hobby, just make sure you point them in the right direction. Ask your dealer and see how much he can take. Don't be afraid to look ignorant, a good dealer will take time to talk to you.

- Be suspicious. Approach every new piece as if it was a fake and go by eliminating every possibility that it actually is a fake. Here are just some common rules:

* Measurements and overall impression. Get a good caliper, a magnifying glass and a precise scale (a Tanita model 1479 works for me) - they are collectors' tools of the trade. Study your new piece in every aspect and compare the results with the information from your books. If possible compare it with other pieces from fellow collectors. Look at all the polished surfaces under magnification and compare them with a penny - they should look just as smooth. All Soviet awards were coined not cast, cast pieces will lack detail, be lighter in weight and often exhibit microscopic "pock-marks" (not to be confused with wear traces). Even a very worn coined piece will still exhibit some crisp clear details in less worn areas (get a worn penny and look at Lincoln's bow tie). Don't forget to look at the rivets on a multi-piece construction awards, I have never seen a sloppily assembled Soviet medal. It takes time and experience not to dismiss as a fake a variation or a mint error. I have in my collection an original Defense of Leningrad Medal that is 1.2 mm thicker then it should be. If in doubt ask your dealer or more experienced collectors.

* Overall condition. An original old medal should have some wear traces, i.e. minor scratches and nicks. These should not be confused with intentional damage to a fake to make it look worn, like large and deep multiple scratches. Many WW2 medals were often polished by their owners to remove tarnish which results in additional even wear. It should be kept in mind that there is always a possibility that an original award was never actually worn or given posthumously to relatives of the recipient, in which case even an old medal will still look brand new and have all the original mint luster present. If in doubt ask your dealer or more experienced collectors.

* Patina. An important factor in spotting a fake is a patina, or tarnish that develops on silver or gold over the time, much like on your old unpolished silver wear. Original patina will normally be uniform in color and even polished pieces would still display some patina in depressions. Fake patina can be applied chemically (using acids, tarnishing solutions, etc. or a combination there of) or physically (by heating a piece over a butane or gasoline burner). Try heating a coin over a lighter, let it cool, slightly polish with dry cloth and observe the result. Fake patina usually has oily look to it, is darker in color, sometimes almost black, and may be slightly violet in color. It is important to remember that even original pieces may sometimes have artificial patina - a silver medal kept in the same cupboard with iodine solution for many years will develop artificial patina. The collection of fakes I mentioned earlier also had some original pieces with artificial patina applied to provide better background for the fakes. If in doubt ask your dealer or more experienced collectors.

* Enamel. Many Soviet awards are made with beautiful glass consistency hot backed on enamel. If you are being offered a medal with glue or paint like enamel it is almost certainly a fake, however enamel repairs on older and more expensive awards are quite common. It would be a good idea to get a "black light" - fake enamel or enamel repairs for which colored epoxy glue is usually used will glow. Some fakes manufactured with original enamels will not glow.

* Documentation. A proper document increases value of a medal and the fakers are well aware of it. If an original old award booklet has entries made in new ink you should probably let it go. Be especially careful when purchasing larger documented groups. Testing the ink often requires special services and the good old "q-tip" test in not always reliable. The only guarantee for documentation is a research in the Soviet Military Archives, which many dealers including myself do routinely. This will not however guarantee against manufactured awards to match the documents, so make sure you also look at the awards' serial numbers under magnification.

- Use common sense. Now, this certainly is an original advice! But come to think of it, we all know that there is no such thing as a free lunch, so why do collectors still jump on "KGB" badges being offered for 5 bucks! Expect to pay fair price for an original item to avoid disappointment.

- Plan your purchases. This rule never works for me, but it may be a good idea for people with more common sense and financial discipline. If you start with less expensive pieces and set aside a small collecting budget, by the time you get to "big ticket" items you will acquire considerable knowledge and experience. Some collectors do a lot of research before making even a small purchase. Don't worry about passing on a medal that somebody offers at "below wholesale", chances are it is just a fake.

- Get it authenticated. If considering an expensive purchase consult as many experienced dealers and collectors as you possibly can. It would be a good idea to have your new purchase authenticated by Historical Research L.L.C. - an independent company that doesn't care where you bought the piece. I had an original Nakhimov Medal that was returned to me as a fake by several collectors. I was still sure it was original and had it authenticated, and I was right. DO NOT have a dealer authenticate your purchase no matter how much you trust him. Some "reputable" dealers will sometimes intentionally fail a rare item if it was not purchased from them.

- Happy collecting! Follow the above rules creatively and this hobby will give you lots of enjoyment for the years to come.
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Old 12-30-2002, 11:44 AM   #2
sean28681
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Thanks

I'd just like to throw a thank you to the author of this thread. I just recently started collecting these items and the information herein (especially the enamal references) were a great help. Thanks again.

-SStreet
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Old 04-15-2003, 09:15 AM   #3
Michael Root
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Thanks for the info, being a novice collector it is much appreciated.
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Old 08-04-2003, 03:42 AM   #4
alanirvine
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Collector's Guide

mmds,

Wecome to the forum.

First thing to do is to purchase a copy of Paul McDaniel's book, "The Comprehensive Guide to Soviet Orders and Medals"

The authority and essential if you are a collector of Soviet awards.

You can often find it offered on ebay. It retails for about $95.00.

Happy collecting.

Alanirvine
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Old 08-04-2003, 10:56 AM   #5
Art
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welcome

mmds,

Welcome, I agree with alanirvine however you might want to fully read through this website and forum before buying McDaniels book. If you decide to plunk down the USD $80-95 for it, you won't regret it but since you are just starting, try taking advantage of all the free information here first, then if you still have the desire to get into the hobby by all means buy that book.

In regards to your Red Banner, do a forum search for "Red Banner" :) you will have enough reading to keep you busy for awhile. The Red Banner isn't faked much except when you start dabbling in the rarer types of that award ( screwback or multiple awards such as "2", "3", etc..). Take a look at the examples when you do your search. Notice the depth in the detail, and the clarity and purity of color of the enamel used. Start training your eye to look at the fine details present on an original and you will never get burned.

Regards,

Art
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Old 09-21-2003, 01:03 PM   #6
tashkentski
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Following the discussion on fakes, I am curious as to some of the opinions here, and wonder, apart from the really obvious, hideously made fakes, how is it possible to determine whether or not an item is a fake.
Sometime ago, i posted a belgrade medal that i had bought in tashkent for 1 $. It was suggested here that it COULD be a fake, so i took it back to Tashkent to the seller. He was pretty upset and returned next day with a tatty booklet, which belonged to his grandfather to authenticate the medal (in the absence of any numbers, I had to believe him_). However he refused to give the booklet as it was a memento.
Having just returned from Tashkent, I can say that almost all liberation medals are available for between 2 and 6 $ (depending on ones bargaining skills). The most expensive medal I was offered was the medal for development of petrochemical complex in siberia for 40$.
In Former soviet Central Asia, (with the exception of Kazakstan),
there is virtually no collectors market and once in a while a dealer from Moscow comes in and cleans up.
I would be personally very surprised (and pretty cheesed off) if some one in the region sold me a pup.,
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Old 07-02-2009, 12:13 PM   #7
Henry Sakaida
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Re: How NOT to Buy Fakes - Collector's Guide

I would advise against buying any high end Soviet orders and medals from Russia and the former republics of Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics, Turkey, China, etc. Get the idea?
You would be buying from a complete stranger, and if you received a fake or nothing at all, what are you going to do? Complain to their embassy? Hire a lawyer?

How many of you have actually purchased a legitimate high end order from Russia, Ukraine, etc? It is illegal to export such medals. What happens it it is confiscated by their customs?

Currently, there is a seller on ebay:

Soviet Russian order of Glory 1 class #1971 gold. Item number: 180374505560

Just take a look and laugh! The photos are out of focus, no closeups, the seller is in Lithuania (former Soviet republic), and the set is supposed to be a Cavalier set, yet the
serial numbers for this set doesn't match the published information. If you are dumb enough to fall for this, then you deserve to pay for your own stupidity.

Being a member of this forum will save you $$$$. If you want to play it safe, deal with reputable dealers and members.
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Old 07-02-2009, 12:47 PM   #8
Auke
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Re: How NOT to Buy Fakes - Collector's Guide

Also ridiculous that the buyer has to pay the eBay listing fee. And the $113 postage is rather steep...
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Old 07-02-2009, 08:52 PM   #9
ECD3
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Re: How NOT to Buy Fakes - Collector's Guide

Quote:
Originally Posted by Henry Sakaida View Post
I would advise against buying any high end Soviet orders and medals from Russia and the former republics of Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics, Turkey, China, etc. Get the idea?
You would be buying from a complete stranger, and if you received a fake or nothing at all, what are you going to do? Complain to their embassy? Hire a lawyer?

How many of you have actually purchased a legitimate high end order from Russia, Ukraine, etc? It is illegal to export such medals. What happens it it is confiscated by their customs?

Currently, there is a seller on ebay:

Soviet Russian order of Glory 1 class #1971 gold. Item number: 180374505560

Just take a look and laugh! The photos are out of focus, no closeups, the seller is in Lithuania (former Soviet republic), and the set is supposed to be a Cavalier set, yet the
serial numbers for this set doesn't match the published information. If you are dumb enough to fall for this, then you deserve to pay for your own stupidity.

Being a member of this forum will save you $$$$. If you want to play it safe, deal with reputable dealers and members.
that was awesome, thanks for the laugh. :laff the sad part is that people wouldn't try it if it didn't work some of the time. that's why i am happy that i joined this forum, not only did i meet some cool people, but i got a lot of input before i bought things.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:01 PM   #10
Nota Bene
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Re: How NOT to Buy Fakes - Collector's Guide

BTW, the 1st class is a fake. It's quite obvious even from those terrible pictures.

Alexei
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