Every morning I check CollectorsFrenzy. That’s the site where you can see the 25 most expensive records that sold on Ebay the previous day.
There’s a LOT of discussion these days about the records on Collector’s Frenzy. That’s because in my opinion* there’s been a rash of fake acetates selling for big money. Hundreds and thousands of dollars paid for fake Led Zeppelin, Doors, Beatles, David Bowie, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan acetates. Every time one sells, I cringe for the person who bought it. People paying hard earned money for a worthless fake, and probably none-the-wiser until they try to sell it, years later.
Just this week I received an email from someone wanting to sell five Beatles acetates they had bought on Ebay. I told him unfortunately they were fakes, and never heard back. I forwarded the email to a fellow dealer, who it turns out had told him the same thing the week before. The acetate owner told him he was going to try to consign them to an auction house. Oh boy.
As a collector and dealer of high end music memorabilia, I get lots of inquiries for people selling music collectibles. Most of it is authentic, but I do get the occasional fake autograph, second printing poster sold as a first, or fake acetate. But it’s crazy time for acetates now. With scanners, color printers, photoshop and access to acetate cutters, a few bad apples have gone wild.
I won’t write about how I know that these are obvious fakes. It would be akin to giving crooks an instruction book on making better forgeries. Suffice to say I’ve been collecting and dealing in rare records (and acetates) for 42 years. I worked for A&M and Warner Bros. Records for nearly 20 years, and got many real acetates in the course of my job. So I’ve got a very good idea of what a genuine acetate looks like. And I’ve never seen anything that looks like these.
Most of the classic rock acetates offered on Ebay now, especially the ones advertised as being from–ahem, a country in the Southern Hemisphere–look, in my opinion, ridiculous. I’ve also seen fake acetates sold by Italian dealers, and a large collection of fake Beatles acetates were sold by an American seller, which Richard Morton Jack has written about on his blog Galactic Ramble.
I love collecting records and music memorabilia. It’s a great hobby, the people are interesting, and you get to enjoy owning things that often appreciate in value. The dishonest people are few, happily. But the times seemed right to once again post some tips that anyone buying rare records, memorabilia or acetates or any collectible might want to follow.
1) If it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Nobody has an endless supply of ultra rare collectibles. Or acetates. These things are rare, folks. People like me literally travel the world and spend fortunes acquiring them. And with the internet, people know the value of truly rare things. You may find a bargain here and there, but an endless supply should be a huge red flag.
2) Buy from known and respected dealers who will give you a lifetime money-back guarantee of authenticity, in writing. Period. If they won’t do it, run the other direction. A good dealer has the expertise and does the research for you. It’s simple. I guarantee everything forever. So if I have any doubt about something, no matter how small, I don’t buy it. My reputation is far more important to me than any deal I might make. So I make sure that anything I offer is absolutely authentic and extensively researched–and any good dealer should. My friend Gary Greenberg has written about this on his blog Gary Rocks. Check it out.
3) A COA or letter of authenticity is worthless. If someone is dishonest enough to sell you a forgery, they’ll happily include a COA certifying the fake is authentic. The only thing that means anything is that written lifetime money-back guarantee (from someone who is well established and will take your call should there ever be a problem.)
4) Auction houses make mistakes too. People assume that if something that comes from an auction house, it must be genuine. And it is most of the time. But auction houses are generalists, not specialists. They sell what comes through the door. Some may know rock memorabilia, but they aren’t Bob Dylan handwriting experts. That’s why the better ones consult experts. I regularly get calls from auction houses wanting to know if Dylan handwritten items are authentic. Yet I still see fake Dylan items showing up in auction house catalogs. It’s not that they’re dishonest–they just may not have the resources or inclination to do their own research. The biggest auction houses only guarantee the authenticity of what they sell for five years. Some smaller houses don’t guarantee authenticity at all. Read the fine print. Do your own research. Ask questions.
*(I qualify this as my opinion as I don’t want to become involved in litigation that may erupt around this issue. Obviously everything on this blog is my opinion, but in the case of the fake acetates, this is also the opinion of every record expert and dealer I’ve spoken to about this.)
Excellent comments and very well said. I couldn’t agree more. The “endless supply” factor should be enough to make any potential bidder reconsider. I don’t know why these sellers continue to receive bids. I can only think of a couple of times when I saw a cache of authentic acetates for sale all at once. In 1995, we sold quite a few Beatles acetates from the collection of Gareth Pawlowski. The acetates had impeccable provenance, as Gareth had obtained them directly from Clive Epstein, brother of the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. In 2004, It’s Only Rock N Roll auctioned many acetates from the collection of Sam Feldman, who was a recording engineer for three decades. This collection included Beatles, John Lennon, George Harrison, Badfinger and The Rolling Stones acetates which dated from Feldman’s stint at Bell Sound Studios in New York City. Acetates are made in miniscule numbers and are exceedingly rare. As of today, there have been about 50 Beatles or related acetates offered for sale on ebay in the last three months. Other than the Pawlowski collection, this is likely more than we have had in almost 35 years in business! My opinion is – buyer beware!
I am a experienced dealer and collector of 20+ years , and even I just got fooled. I paid $3000 for 2 worthless records for my collection. They were almost 20 years old and I knew their whereabouts for all that time. I did not know that a Brazilian dealer was making fake test pressings in the 1990s . Hard lesson. I think my test pressing collecting days are over! Sad becuase they are my favorite thing , but there is too much forgery in test press / acetates / gold record awards etc.
In the heavy metal world I am seeing these lathe cut “acetates” now only bringing $50-100 , I am glad to see its not so profitable and fans are getting wise.
Thanks Gary. As I wrote, many test pressings and acetates are good, but make sure when buying something you check out the seller and get an in writing lifetime guarantee of authenticity. Any reputable seller will give you this and anyone who won’t probably isn’t worth buying from. Best, Jeff
The fake acetate phenomena is starting to rear its ugly record cutter head again here in 2020 when I recently saw this reported Richie Valens-“Donna” 78 rpm acetate, complete with a crude Del-Fi Records label, I contacted the seller and posted the following:
“I met Bob Keane in the 90s in his office in Los Angeles; I showed him my gold label stereo lp original issue of “A Tribute to The Lady” by Sam Cooke on Keen Records, the label Keane had co-founded but later left to set-up Del-Fi, Donna and his other labels; imagine my surprise a little later when I went to this collectible store in an LA mall and found this Del-Fi 78 rpm acetate on Richie Valens; I called Keane the next day to inquire and he cut me off immediately, saying, “It is 100% fake.” I asked how, Keane responded that “I never made any 78 acetates, Del-Fi never made any 78s.” Later, when I was on a trip in Denver and at a mall, there was the same collectible store company and again, they had the Del-Fi Richie Valens 78 on the wall, again another pure fake.There is an actual “late 78″ of Richie made in either the Philippines or the UK, which is the only real 78 on Richie but none in the U.S. Thought I’d share that personal story with you.”
Needless to say, I never heard a word back; HOWEVER, the same seller now has the NERVE to be selling several other so-called acetates, but with a disclaimer that they were bought from someone who got them from a radio station 20 some odd years ago? Hah! One of these acetates is Ron Holden-“I Love You So” with a crude Donna Records label—well. Donna Records was Bob Keane’s sister label to Del-Fi.
As already said in the previous comments, buyer beware; do your homework to determine authenticity of a so-called original acetate and don’t be fooled by the fakes—
All The Real Acetate 78 rpm 10″ Best, Christopher Cardenas-Andromeda International Records