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Oil Lamp and Lantern
FAKES, FRAUDS, & FORGERIES
and How to Avoid Them.
"This page is dedicated to those that would have you believe that anything made of brass must either be a bona fide antique, or an heirloom handed down from a long gone relative. And also to those that take advantage of the unsuspecting by using long respected company names as a device to lure the same into believing the hoax they perpetrate."
With the popularity of oil lamp and lantern collecting on the rise, we regularly receive inquiries from those looking to authenticate items that can be called nothing less than a fake, fraud, or forgery. As a service to collectors worldwide, we have assembled here the most blatant items, and have identified earmarks to enable even the novice collector to make better informed decisions when contemplating purchasing an item of questionable origin. It is our aim to continually update this page, as new fakes are always turning up. Your contributions of items that deserve to be listed here are always welcomed, as are your comments or questions. Visit our links page for other sites that feature information on fake items.
1. Beware of sellers that use language like:
"Antique Looking. . . ."
". . . . Primitive . . . ."
"Any residual lamp oil will also be drained prior to shipping."
". . . . any cleaning will be left up to the high bidder"
". . . . very nice patina on the brass . . . ."
"I don't have the time to disassemble this item to try to clean the metal"
"just a couple of small cosmetic dings & scratches"
". . . . it would be very easy to even electrify. . . ."
Or any other language used to suggest an older item than what it really is.
2. Look for authentic patent dates and check against a perpetual calendar to see if they fall on a Tuesday. (99% of all U.S. patents are issued on Tuesdays.)
3. Check for proper Manufacturer markings, including "Made in U.S.A." if appropriate.
4. Watch for "faked" patina.
5. Check brass or copper items with a magnet. If it sticks, it is plated, not solid.
6. Brass is the metal of choice for producing fakes. It can be easily "aged" using chemicals to give it that 100 year-old look.
Click on the Images Below for Larger Views.
Tallin Mfg. Co. No. 20 (Fake)
It took some research, but a few years ago I got the low down on the infamous, and poorly made Tallin Mfg. Co. No. 20 Reflector Lantern. They are all reproductions, made in India in the 1980's on new tooling that was backwards engineered from an original C. T. Ham Mfg. Co. #20 Reflector Lantern. They were brought into the U.S. by the AA Importing Company of St. Louis. (The owner's name is Richard Tallin.) The "official" looking patent dates stamped into the vertical air tube are completely bogus. All of the reflector lanterns they imported were made of either brass or copper, and were sold with reproduction #0 Tubular Globes that are frosted white, something that was never done 100 years ago. The tooling no longer exists for the Tallin No. 20 Lanterns, and AA Importing no longer imports lanterns. Many collectors have been fooled by this one over the years, paying hundreds over its original retail price of $50. Don't let tarnished examples of this lamp fool you.
"Railroad Dining Car" Lamp (Assorted Frauds)
More than fifteen years ago some enterprising chap found that if you take an old lantern globe, some new lamp parts, some copper tubing, and an old lantern burner, put them all together and add a tag with a railroad logo or the "PULLMAN" name, that you could turn $20 worth of parts and a couple of hours of labor into a $1000 fake if you added a good story about it being a rare "Dining" or "Pullman" Lamp. In fact, these fantasy "Fakes" are not based on any original design, and are not even operational in a practical sense. The perpetrator mixes original parts with new parts to make the hoax convincing. Each one that has turned up has been different from the others, but all seem to follow a common design. "Electric" versions have also surfaced. Unfortunately several people have been taken for $1000 or more for these worthless fakes. Don't let tarnished examples fool you.
Candle Lamps (Assorted Fakes)
Railway car candle lamps were originally produced well over 100 years ago, but still turn up regularly for sale at swap meets, and online auctions. Their brass construction, compactness, and original intended railway use makes for a nice collectible item. This is something that has not gone unnoticed by foreign manufacturers. While the original candle lamps will usually have either an Adams & Westlake (Adlake) mark or occasionally a Dayton Mfg. Co. mark, the imported "fake" versions are distinctly different, and can have any number of markings, including: "Pullman" or "Pullman Silver Palace Car Co.," "Wells Fargo Co.." "White Star," etc.. See the "tag" section below for samples. Don't let tarnished examples fool you.
Scott New Vigilant Railroad Lamp (Fake)
The John Scott Lamp Company was started in 1957 near San Jose, California, and is still in business today. They produce both replica light fixtures as well as custom architectural grade fixtures. In the 1970's they started to offer oil burning versions of some of their electric replica fixtures using "Duplex" type brass burners made in England and stamped with the "John Scott" name. The New Vigilant Railroad Lamp is still made, and offered in both electric and oil burning versions. It cannot be classified as a reproduction, as this lamp is not a copy of an original pattern. The globe is common in size to the one used in the Dietz Pioneer Street Lamp. Don't let tarnished or stress cracked examples fool you.
Central Union & Pacific Tubular Lantern (Fake)
The first tip off that this is a fake is the fact that there was never a Central Union & Pacific Railroad. The lantern itself is either a Chinese or Indian made copy of a European copy of the Dietz Junior, not a railroad lantern by any means. (Note the European style bail "ears.") This lantern has also appeared with other railroad names as well as "Wells Fargo Co." ownership tags. Constructed of solid brass with a faked patina.
Pennsylvania Railroad Tubular Lantern (Fake)
These first appeared over 20 years ago, and are believed to have originated in India. They are loosely patterned after the Dietz Little Wizard, and are poorly made of thin brass that is susceptible to stress cracks. The original globes are thin compared to originals, and are known to have been made in pale blue and pale green. These lanterns were never used on the Pennsy, or any other railroad for the matter. A curiosity and earmark are two holes in one air tube, (see pictures.) Don't let tarnished examples fool you.
Santa Fe and Union Pacific Oil Lamps (Fake)
The origin and age of these is unknown, but they appear to be from India from as early as 1975. Known examples have appeared with either Santa Fe or Union Pacific embossed in the side of the fount, but other railroad names may also exist. Variations with both large and small or no reflectors have surfaced, but the poor lettering is always a tip-off. Don't let tarnished examples fool you.
Pullman Silver Palace Car Co. Oil Lamp (Fake)
Here is a fine example of a $5 lamp with a fake tag to boost the price as high as a naive buyer will pay. In the first place, there was never a Pullman Silver Palace Car Company. In the second place, this lamp is so poorly constructed, the "Pullman Company" would have been ashamed to have their name affixed to it. In the third place, this is not like any lamp or lantern ever used on any railroad. Take special notice of the poorly aligned vent holes and the mis-matched oil pot. Also note the unmarked adjustable burner that uses 1/4" round wick, (instead of flat wick.) The use of patina is overdone to take your attention away from the poor construction in this case. The country of origin is most likely India.
Assorted Maker/Owner Tags (Fake)
The sole purpose of fake maker/owner tags is to increase the perceived value of the item to which they are attached. With the abundance of fake tags on fake lamps and lanterns, they have started showing up attached to real antiques. Other fakery includes the tag for "Scott's Lamp Co." which is a take off of the "Scott Lamp Company," a company that didn't exist until 1957. "Wells-Fargo" tags are one of the most common fakes, and regularly used on goods from China and India.