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Five Famous Antique Forgeries

March 12, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The fake Bingham Family Civil War Memorial Secretary at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. (John Banks Civil War Blog http://john-banks.blogspot.com)

Until recently, an elaborate secretary (i.e., a desk with drawers) built to honor a Union soldier, John Bingham, stood on display in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. A detail on the secretary’s front specified where Bingham had died—Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862—and a note from one of his descendants inside described how important it had been to the family.

But the museum had to remove it from display after it realized the desk was a fake, and an elaborate one at that (it includes a music box that plays “Yankee Doodle”). A woodworker named Harold Gordon has since taken responsibility for designing the piece of furniture and falsely linking it to Bingham, who was a real soldier during the Civil War.

(Credit: John Banks Civil War Blog http://john-banks.blogspot.com)

Antique forgery is a common problem. But what makes Gordon’s case unusual is that he put so much time into crafting an authentic-seeming piece, says Linda Eaton, the director of collections and senior curator of textiles at the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington. “Most often,” she says, “you don’t find fakes for things that take a lot of time to make.”

Babe Ruth’s Baseball Glove

The baseball mitt that Irving Scheib claimed was Babe Ruth’s. (Credit: The Manhattan U.S. Attorneys Office)

You should think twice before you buy a signed baseball, because there are an extraordinary number of forgeries in the sports memorabilia world. In 2012, a man named Irving Scheib received two years of probation for claiming a baseball mitt he’d bought on eBay belonged to baseball legend Babe Ruth.

The glove actually was a real antique dating to the 1890s, the decade when Ruth was born. But the celebrity connection was completely Scheib’s invention.

“He created false documentation for this that linked it to Babe Ruth,” Eaton says. His first sale fell through when the buyer asked for the documents to be notarized and Scheib refused. After that, “the next person on the phone as a possible buyer was from the U.S. Attorney’s office.”

Thomas Jefferson’s Wine

A bottle of wine claimed to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson …read more


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