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Art-Forgery-Over-The-YearsWe’ve all heard about art forgeries, but most of the time it’s in the setting of an action or drama movie. But fine art fraud and forgery are very real threats, and both occur more than most collectors would like to admit. While it’s generally only the very high profile discovered forgeries that make headline news, collectors are defrauded more than we’d like to think. To help protect yourself against potential fraud and forgeries, the tips below can help you keep an eye out for some of the common red flags.
Know Your Subject Matter
If you’re planning to become a serious collector of any type of fine art – sculpture, paintings, reliefs, etc. – you need to become your own expert. Knowing the habits and most common mediums of your favorite artists will help you be able to spot anything that’s amiss. If your collecting tendencies cover many artists or mediums you may want to enlist an additional expert or two. This will give you the opportunity to focus on the artist or medium you prefer most while relying on your stable of experts to fill in the gaps.
Invest in Basic Tools
When it comes to inspecting paintings, a basic black light and jeweler’s lupe can be a great starting point. Black light reacts with certain types of recently added paint to original paintings – making the newly added paint appear to float above the original paint. This is most commonly seen on painter’s signatures. The microscope can also help during inspection by allowing the viewer to see if naturally occurring cracks in old paint have new paint that’s recently flowed into those cracks. While these techniques can be taught, it takes a great deal of time to hone these skills to an expert level.
Check the Frame
Forgers will often cut down appropriate period picture frames and place them around forged items. Be sure to inspect the seams of any questionable pieces to see if the joints are appropriately aged. Freshly cut joints can be an indication that the piece in question may have been altered to appear older than it really is.
Secure Your Funds
If you’re looking to purchase an item from an unknown artist or dealer, considering using an online escrow company. Escrow works to the benefit of both the buyer and seller by securing fund with a neutral third party. Buyers are protected as all funds are held with a neutral third party until there’s proof of shipping or the item has arrived for a final inspection. Sellers are protected by knowing that all purchase monies are verified upfront and held securely – completely eliminating the risk of non-payment, insufficient funds, fraudulent checks and credit card chargebacks.
When in doubt, consult an expert. You may have all the time in the world to become an expert on a specific artist or medium, but having the assurance of an expert’s say can help put any nervous buyer or seller at ease.
For more information about fraud prevention and safely buying or selling art online, see our posts about how to commission artwork, commissioned art is back, and the five most common internet scams.

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