Over the last 15 years of collecting corkscrews, I have had a lot of corkscrews placed before me. I have bought in person from dealers who have represented their corkscrews to be right and correct, and I have bought online corkscrews that have been represented as rare and genuine. And, I would like to preface this by saying I believe that most sellers/dealers are offering up what they believe to be genuine/untouched/unrepaired corkscrews.
That said, it also has been my experience where I was offered a beautiful Thomason that upon receipt had its previously broken helix (which was previously not broken) now reattached with super-glue. After contacting the seller, they explained that it was a ‘display piece.’
I still don’t know what that meant, but they refused to refund the asking price and take the piece back.
There have been Syrocos with the wrong worm/bell.
There have been unusual handles attached to a mechanism that would have never had that particular handle.
There have been corkscrews offered up for auction that have previously been repaired, show up broken, or had issues that were never disclosed.
In California, at one shop, I found some beautiful turned bone handles attached to Wiliamson and Walker bells, but these turned handles were clearly new–these too get offered on eBay on occasion.
There have been some odd pieces–with too good to be true prices–at Brimfield, where something about them is “just not right,” as BT would say.
And, of course there are the wacky designs that seem to appear weekly–if not more often than that–that find their origins in Argentina.
But, how do we educate ourselves as collectors as to what is right, and what is definitely NOT right?
There are many books out there on corkscrews, and countless hours have been spent in researching and composing these tomes that provide pictures, histories, origins, etc. And, we can devour all of these, and try to be increasingly knowledgable. Still, those that are ‘fixing’ corkscrews, or making them from all kinds of odd materials, also have access to these same books.
Several years ago, there was a series of Royal Clubs that were being sold by a seller in Hungary. While a couple of people bought, it was within short order that word got around the corkscrew collecting community. Based on this shared information, when a club came up, we looked at it closely, we questioned whether it might be doctored up. With a lack of willing buyers, we haven’t seen Royal Club fakes for some time.
It seems as the best thing we can do to combat this is to share the information that we have.
Take for instance Wayne Meadows’ Hagenauerfakes site/pdf. He provides images of the Hagnenauers and Rohacs that appear in catalogs, and compares a genuine versus a reproduction hinge. This information can be invaluable when examining an Austrian figural corkscrew.
That said, there are indeed times when the seller/dealer is indeed completely unaware that a piece is made up, or broken, or a fake, or “not right.” And, for that reason, instead of addressing a specific person selling, perhaps our best option that we can do as a community is simply continue to educate each other on how to identify those that are right, from those that are clearly wrong.
Unfortunately whichever avenue we take to help educate each other, there will always be one or two (or several) disputable dealers out there that choose to try and deceive. And, as with many antiques realms, caveat emptor needs to be the mantra of the day.
For those of you that read this blog, and are relatively new to collecting corkscrews, you can arm yourself with some fabulous books and read up on everything corkscrew, but I would also suggest aligning yourself with some longtime collectors who can help offer a little guidance when needed.
When a corkscrew–that appears to be a rare or unusual–comes on the scene, there are times when our excitement overtakes our sense, and often we leap before we look.
I suggest looking first (and then looking second), considering whether or not the piece is valid, whether the dealer is reputable, and then making an informed decision. And, if you are convinced the the piece is “just not right,” contact the dealer. If they are selling the piece, perhaps they know the history of the piece. Or, perhaps they don’t know… Based on this information, we can feel confident, feel less than confident, and make a choice as whether to buy…
There have been several corkscrews that have made it on the scene, where a few collectors have questioned the legitimacy of the piece, only to have an old patent drawing confirm that the corkscrew is genuine and NOT a shop project gone awry or a corkscrew created to deceive the unsuspecting collector.
Above, I do suggest the mantra of Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware. That said, I don’t think we should be truly wary, but instead we should be truly informed. And, making informed educated purchases will help us to avoid making mistakes in purchasing those too good to be true corkscrews.
Scientia sit potentia (knowledge is power)
An option might be, collectively, to start building a database that points out the differences between real and fake; between repaired and right, and between newly constructed and genuine. If you would like to contribute to this project, on what to look for, what to watch out for, and how to help authenticate, I will gladly build a website around this idea. I will also pay for the registration of the website, maintain it and host it.
It is a shame that dealers (and would-be dealers) have taken to misrepresenting the items that they are selling. Still, I believe that as a community, by sharing knowledge, observations, research, and histories, we can work to educate ourselves. And, of course, each other.