As belt buckle values have increased, the number of modern fakes and replicas entering the market also grew. Today, there are many known fakes that use designs from belt buckle manufacturers Tech Ether Guild, Baron Buckles (BBB), Bergamot Brass Works, and other companies. In this article, I provide photographs of the fakes that I have encountered and also give tips on how to recognize them.
Counterfeiters attempt to profit off of the commercial success of other companies and artists by stealing their designs and duping collectors. Despite being an illegal and unethical practice, I think these buckles have a place in the economic story of the belt buckle industry. As the old saying goes, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," and counterfeiters often target the highest quality collectible belt buckles.
Tech Ether Guild Fakes (examples)
1. "Infinity Hub" Design
Material: plastic with brassy plating
Identifying characteristics: The "Infinity Hub" fakes are light-weight and low density compared to real brass and are probably made from a composite mixture of plastic and metal. The color and finish of an authentic Tech Ether Guild or Banshee Brass buckle has a reddish hue and glossy, uniform surface.
The photograph below compares a bootleg version of the "Infinity Hub" buckle (top row) to an authentic one (bottom row). The bootleg versions were manufactured in 2000-2001 by a designer clothing company called the Hollywood Trading Company (HTC). The authentic buckle in this comparison happens to be a marked/signed early casting by Jesse Mcleod of Banshee Brass; however, some authentic buckles have no markings on the backside. The unmarked versions are later castings that done by Tech Ether Guild.
3. "Mandrae" & "Persian Star" Designs
Counterfeiter: unknown, possibly made in Korea
Identifying characteristics: I've seen several examples of buckles that are made of solid brass that imitate the early Tech Ether Guild & Banshee Brass (Jesse Mcleod) designs. The quality of the brass is lower and has a different composition that causes the color and finish to be different from the authentic buckles. They tend to have a rough and unfinished feel with a lighter color than the real ones. Tech Ether Guild's blend of brass used more copper than other foundries, which gives the authentic buckles a glossy, reddish hue (see photo below, bottom row).
The fakes have weaker construction with a loop that is thinner and blackish in color because it was not thoroughly buffed and polished. It is also marked "solid brass" where the authentic version is not.
2. "Bristlecone Pine" Design
Counterfeiter: Lucky Brand clothing co.
Identifying characteristics: The relief area of the buckle is empty or "cutout" in the background behind the tree's branches (left photo). Also, the loop has sharp angles on the fake compared to the smooth and rounded corners on the authentic buckle.
3. "Echo" Design
Identifying characteristics: The backside of the fake buckle (top) has no markings and is polished to a high shine finish and are being sold as authentic 1970s buckles on Etsy. The authentic Tech Ether Guild "Echo" buckle (bottom) will be marked by the company and show the name of the design on the backside.
How to recognize a fake
In my experience as an eBay and Etsy reseller, I've come across several examples of fake Tech Ether Guild buckles. As you might suspect, they're nearly worthless compared to the real thing... but instead of throwing them away, I've collected and photographed them to spread awareness. There are some telltale signs you can look for that might help you avoid getting fooled. If you're shopping online, you don't have the advantage of being able to touch and inspect the piece, so it may be more difficult to tell if the buckle you're looking at is a fake. But you may be able to ask the seller some questions based on these tips. Here are a few of the things I look for when trying to spot a fake:
Material - Most counterfeiters won't go through the effort of making a perfect copy. They will use inferior materials like plastics made to look like aged brass, or "pot metal" over high quality solid brass.
Variations in design or pattern - Sometimes a counterfeiter will take creative liberties and slightly modify the design. Try finding a photo of the buckle from another vendor or website and use it as a comparison. If you see major differences in the design... you may be looking at a fake.
No markings or signature - Sometimes the counterfeiter will do a great job copying the design on the front of a belt buckle, but then forget to replicate the backside. The back of original belt buckles will often have artist signatures or information about the design and company. Fakes may not have these markings on the backside, and can be an indication of a forgery.
Coming in Next Week's Blog: Fakes and Forgeries Part II!
I continue the discussion and review of fake belt buckles by reviewing legitimate replicas and reproductions, licensing agreements, and countries that don't respect U.S Copyright laws.
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About the Author:
Brock Lane has an MS in Applied economics and operates multiple shops on Etsy, eBay, and Shopify. He maintains an inventory of over 10,000 rare and unique belt buckles, leather belts, and other goods. He leverages his sales history and professional background to write about trends in online retail marketplaces. Brock is an eBay affiliate and earns commission from linked products & shops.
Learn more at: www.beltbucklehistory.com
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