fakin’ it for profit

Left Mr Donly and wife in St Thomas Ontario. Right fake of Mrs Donly purported to be taken in Scotland. Both courtesy of member Lorne Shields

Toronto. You may have noticed that when any communication channel, article, etc. falls markedly in cost, the con artists and spammers leap in to make a profit. In the USA, when postage was cheap, con artists could afford to swamp the country with fake claims and offers. The gullible few who sent money more than covered postage and printing costs. That is, until the government imposed fines for inter-state mail fraud that were so high devious enterprises disappeared.

The same thing happened with long distance and the internet. Fraudulent operators flooded both services with phoney calls, spam, phishing stunts, etc. but this time internationally and usually beyond the long arm of the law in the country attacked.

We saw this with cameras when certain rare models became highly valued and far cheaper models could be bought and tarted up for resale as the more exotic models.  When I joined the PHSC over 4 decades ago, any 1800s photograph was worth just a few dollars at most. Now photos by certain studios or with famous personages, or with rare devices shown are worth far more than similar more pedestrian photos.

Many of these fakes find their way to auctions, antique shops, trade tables at fairs, and even on the internet at Ebay, etc. With photos, a source photo can be copies, attached to an authentic card or inserted in an old case and like magic the “photograph” multiplies in value.

The above photos, courtesy of Lorne Shields illustrate how a known rare photograph can suddenly appear for sale. Lorne writes, ” … A vendor was selling the counterfeit with what was purportedly a photograph taken in Scotland.

“My photo (on the left) is from the family album of H. B. Donley of Simcoe Ontario.  The image is of Mr. Donley and his wife in a St. Thomas, Ont. photographic studio.  Notice the backdrop, bike, lady and her clothing are the same person in the same studio (albeit reversed images).   What someone has done is take a fairly rare image of the lady (albeit not able to ride in this position) on a High Wheel bicycle.  No doubt the original image exists of the right side image in some public or private collection or posted somewhere on the internet but it is impossible for that image to be on a Scottish mount as offered on eBay.  In looking at other counterfeit images the vendor has sold they were all posted in a slightly blurry definition.”

The old saying ‘Caveat Emptor‘ still applies, especially to selected old photographs now worth considerable amounts. If you would like further information on historic bicycles or cycling photographica, tell me at  info@phsc.ca and I will forward your request to Lorne.

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