Posted 10 years ago
I have collected miniature canoes, especially 'factory display' advertising pieces (aka 'salesman's samples') and native-made models for many years; also have researched and written about them for collector magazines. In recent years, I have become appalled at the number of fakes turning up with great claims of "age", "value" or "authenticity", and very creative but fraudulent historical provenance attached. In several of my other 'show and tell' photos, you can see the genuine articles. To complete the picture, I am showing you, here, the type of thing to avoid - or at least not spend much more than a very few $$ to buy.
The first photo, with the canoe model next to the box, shows a typical imported small canoe. Over the past 20 years or so, thousands of such items have flooded in from Asia - mostly China or Indonesia. These are toy or miniature decorative items. They are often found in lengths of 15", 27" and 39"; there may be slight changes in style, but mostly these are simple, low profile and made of lighter balsa-type wood with mesh seats, a cradle and two paddles with slanted or bent hand grips. They can often be found for $25, or so. Fine, as far as that goes, and nothing improper when sold as a toy, or maybe to decorate a shelf or desk.
But what has been happening is that unscrupulous people take these little imports (which have nothing at all to do with historic factory canoe production in America or First Nations) and distress or antique them. They add old trade names, or fanciful but spurious 'Native American' designs, a bit of crackled varnish surface, then sell them as "authentic salesman's samples" or "antique Indian canoes", etc. That's when the fraud begins.
Second photo (top) shows a 39" import sold on eBay some years ago for over $600 as an "original antique factory sample"; the 27" model at the bottom with the NWC-style native totemic designs went for $1,000 in a major west coast auction touted, of course, as being "fully authentic". NOT!!!. In photo 3 (top) is another fanciful but faked up piece meant to resemble a native bark canoe. Not even close. At the bottom of photo 3 is another outrageous fake, this time claiming to be well over 100 years old and made by the "Otter Canoe Co." of the Adirondacks. After much research, I could find no such company in historical records, let alone that this is nothing more than a very recent Chinese import dressed up to look old and offered with a totally fraudulent provenance. It sold for over $2000 in a mid-west auction before the scam was uncovered with some help and assistance to the unfortunate buyer; the item was then returned for a full refund. A similar item with the Kennebec Canoe Co. name painted along its sides sold on eBay for over $1600. Each one was a scam which defrauded honest bidders.
So, BUYER BEWARE, and watch out for similar fakes. What you buy is your business, as long as you truly understand what you're getting, and don't spend a whole lot of money getting ripped off buying fakes. If you really want a truly authentic item, be sure to deal with a reputable seller who truly knows the scene and will stand behind what he/she sells with a complete money-back guarantee. You can find a 'buyer's guide' written by me (roger-y) for eBay on "salesman's sample canoes: tips on avoiding fakes". Lots of detailed info. Hope you find it useful.