Some examples of fake and authentic artifacts:

Pipes & Smoking Instruments

Collecting Pipes is very challenging as it is most difficult for collectors to distinguish between fraudulent and genuine specimens. Most people will collect a few pipes, as a compliment to their overall collection. We don't know of a pipe specialist to come along in the past twenty years that lasted more than one or two years; then dispersed the collection to reinvest in something much simple to understand; all because of pipe fraud.

Pipes have been replicated, duplicated and faked since about 1850; according to 19th century writers. Reproduction pipes were easy to pass on to museums and collectors. Communication was slow and photography was in its infancy. Study comparison and scientific investigation only became prevelant in the mid 1900's. Consequently, few experts can distinguish the difference between real and reproduction today.

Pipes and smoking instruments have an interesting progression from Mid-Archaic times up through late prehistory. Unless, this progression is studied and understood; regarding what took place and why, a person can easily become confused by pipe typology. The study of pipes, smoking customs and manufacturing methods is much more involved because each culture developed their own particular designs in a specific fashion. Subsequent cultures repeated this process and the smoking apparatus of each time period was uniquely different. Materials are specific to each culture. The Mid-Archaic people utilized quartzite, diorite and slate. Late Archaic and Early Woodland used slate, pipe-stone and sandstone.

Late Woodland cultures selected certain steatite from specific quarries. The Mississippian focused on siltstone, pipestone, sandstone and occasionally used chlorite and serpentine.

Basically, if you don't understand the material selection used in a specific period, an artifact may be questioned on material choice alone. And eventually manufactured pipes by European conquerors replaced native American stone pipes.

Today, fakers and replicators pay more attention to manufacturing details. They desperately try to simulate each stage of ancient workmanship. Short cut methods are often taken and this becomes a tell tale sign to the expert examiner.

There are many instances where style and form alone will not indicate genuiness of an artifact. Material, workmanship, and specifically the finishing of the bowl and stem are important clues on authen-tic pipes and smoking instruments of prehistoric North America. The tobacco plant is native to North and South America. It was first introduced to Europe in France in 1556 AD. Prior to this date, the use of tobacco as a smoking substance was unknown in Europe and Asia. Native Americans sometimes mixed herbs and barks with their tobacco to produce an aromatic and milder smoke.

It has been speculated that the "Shaman" or Medicine person was the first in the tribal community to utilize the euphoric and stimulating power of burning tobacco. Some archaeologists contend that the first form of pipe might have been a "cloud blower" type pipe used by a "Shaman" in performing certain rituals. Tribal medicine persons were knowledgeable of the medicinal benefits of certain barks, herbs and roots.

Obviously, smoking played a special part in burial rites. A number of pipes have been discovered with human internment as well as surface finds. The most illustrious example is the famous cache of artistically carved effigy pipes discovered at the Tremper Mound site in Scioto County, Ohio. In the mid 1800's these particular artifacts were purchased by the Blackwell Museum in London, England. These examples depicting the finest stone age carving ever discovered in North America remain in that repository. The tubular pipe was the first type of smoking instrument in prehistoric North America. Since it was crafted of hard quartzites or diorite, it was seldom decorated or intricately carved. As ancient craftsmen developed greater artistic expression, materials were selected that adapt to decorating more easily. As the application of pipe smoking continued, material such as limestone, sandstone, slate, chlorite, serpentine, steatite, and pipestone was selected.

Innovations were introduced as the use of smoking continued. Often a small hollow bone served as a supplemental mouthpiece. And by placing a round pebble in the stem end of the tube pipe, potential inhalation of the smoking substance was reduced.

The size and type of smoking apparatuses is infinite. Some pipes are small enough to be concealed in the human hand. Others like the biconical tubes and Great pipes have been discovered exceeding 21" in length and weighing as much as 10 pounds or more.

The study of pipes and smoking instruments is perhaps the most fascinating of all prehistoric artifacts. But many replicas of yesterday are now today's antiques, and those have absolutely no genuiness or authenticity!

Facts about Fakes
Pg.56; No.2 Vol.V, 1970 "The Redskin"

If you think those who are making "Fakes" are doing it just for fun think again. The only reason someone makes fake anything is for the primary purpose of separating you from your hard earned money.

The "fake" pictured on this page may seem an obvious fraud to some but we dare say that thousands of collectors could be fooled by the right circumstances. Let's begin with the effigy smoking pipe. How many of you have found such a pipe? Or better still, how many of you have found even a piece of any pipe? We would hazard a guess that not one in five hundred collectors have ever found a fragment of a pipe, that includes myself. Fortunately some serious studies of fakes has helped to save some of our fine collectors. This pipe reproduction is made of green steatite; a material presently quarried for use in cosmetics and talcum powder. It's soft when crushed and called talc. The material is easy to work with and that's why the faker chooses it. Also many genuine pipes were manufactured of the same material for this reason. The effigy which faces the smoker is very crude and not likely the work of a craftsman. The facial characteristic of this human effigy are significantly Mexican. The reason for this is that the low cost craftsmen in Mexico are engaged to make such reproductions and some of the sensitiveness of the artist-carver is related in the result of his work. This pipe probably cost the peddler about $4 or $5. The unsuspecting collector would pay from $50 to $75 for it. The bowl is crudely gouged out and is not similar to prehistoric stone age art. Some such items of genuine antiquity are historic. This fake resembles neither. Even the label has been aged with coffee or tea and no traceable history is possible. No cultivation marks are present which is typical as fakers think we all want perfect pieces. The stem hole is machine drilled and the material is not cured. This means that it had never been exposed to the atmospheric elements after it was made. Even the dirt is mixed with a little grease to make it stick.
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It seems that just when you think you have a handle on the "fake" business, you learn that some new technique has been developed that almost defies detection. It has been reported that someone developed a surface substance that puts a hard coating on pipes similar to this so they can't be scratched and "turn white"! What will they think up next?

More Facts about Fakes.
Pg.78, Vol.VI No.2,1971, "The Redskin"

Do "Fakes" have to be expensive? No, some are now being sold as inexpensively as .50 to $1. Of course you couldn't expect to buy a good "Fake" birdstone or a 20" wide base flint spear for a mere .50. You could expect birdstones of recent manufacture to be peddled for about $25 to $50 and the super-giant wide base flint spears now offered up to 20 inches in length for $100 each. Well, a few years back, the maximum length for the fabulous fake spears was about fourteen inches long, but apparently the "fakers" have made a monumental breakthrough in manufacturing technology because now you can just about name your size and preferences. Also thought you might like to know that you can buy a "Folsom" point for $5. Quite a bargain since genuine "Folsoms" go for up to 20 times that much and more for exquisite specimens. Pity the poor dealer who has to ask $1 for 1" genuine points and hopes to make a profit when the fakers and fake sellers offer supposed rarities for $5 or less.

When are we going to wake up and set the record straight on the flint turtles, buffaloes, thunderheads, lizards, fishhooks and alligators? Hate to admit it, but last Christmas, I received a fine flint Alligator from the coastal Texas area as a gift. The stone was old, but the work was new and the unfortunate person who bought it, thought it was a great work of art. I can only say one thing strong enough, if you find a dealer advertising these things, you can just about put your money on it that he will take you for everything you have to give, every chance he can. Very few dealers are stupid about the relics they sell. If I didn't make it clear, those flint effigies are fakes!

Have you noticed the picture of the pipes? Not bad for "Fakes"! What are they made of? Pottery is used for the elbow effigy pipe.
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This type of pipe hails from the Arkansas area and was probably made about 25 years ago and cost the collector some $50 in hard cash. Probably should mention that the clay was fired to give it an old look and then buried in dirt to lend it some authenticity. Often these fakes are purposely broken so that you won't suspect they are not genuine.
The second example is one that is up for grabs; could be something old but the drilling that converts it to a pipe is new. It too is broken. One thing about these fakes, they never have any traceable history and what is related is always of dubious character. "I think that so and so found them about 20 years ago and so on and so forth".

Facts about Fakes
Pg.29 Vol.VII, No.1,1972 "The Redskin"
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Recently, I have found myself under fire from several fronts for condemning pieces like the one pictured above. Many of those who are fanning the fires have good reason as the illustration and exposing such articles, which have been represented as ancient and offered for sale, is costing the fakers and fake sellers much prof-it and loss of sales.
Actually, some of these pipes recently declared as frauds in the Redskin did not start out to be fakes. Many of them were made by modern Indians as tourist items, the same as baskets, rugs, pottery, trinkets. And the Indian makers did not offer them as ancient, rather they sold them as curios. The fakery and fraud comes in when sharpeyed dealers see an opportunity to take advantage of the unknowing and ignorant relic collectors and museums. Then they put such provenance as Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois etc. on these items and give them a catalog number or label, often soaking it in tea or coffee and rubbing in a little grease to hold the soil so they can say "look, it still has the original dirt on it". Oh, how clever we are!

Such misrepresentation is fraud in the simplest terms. For what it is worth, many tribal carvers have refused to do production line crafts so the fakers have gone south of the border seeking those who work for less.

It is a well known fact that several dealers have supplied Mexican crafts-men with native stone from Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania ,Tennessee so they can say "Who can deny that this item is from material ‘around here’?"

What can a collector do? Why not advise the local authorities that counterfeiting is going on? It's illegal in all forty eight United States!

Spurious Pipes


Fig. SP#1A: This is a replica of the famous mudstone/sandstone Ft.Ancient pipes. Although reasonably accurate, it has been buried in lime which etched the surface. The perforations are completely wrong. Sold @ $750-800



Fig. SP#2A: A crude replica of the rarest pipe, an effigy platform type. The platform is too short for the effigy, the surface is incised to simulate feathers, etc. The bowl is gouged, wrong for the type; material soft. Sold @ $1200-2300



Fig. SP#3A: This is another of the carved reproductions of the Ft. Ancient culture, excepting it is obviously the work of a caucasian carver. Notice the large roman nose, raised brows and lengthy chin. This crude work is a poor example of replication. Sold @ $450



Fig. SP#4A: No pipe style has enjoyed as many reproductions as the "Great" pipes of the late woodland period. Most made of soft stone, seldom are they close to the real thing. Plus the anatomy is always wrong. Sold @ $1450



Fig. SP#5A: An attempt to duplicate the rare Handled pipe of the middle woodland period. The tapered bowl is wrong, the lower fin is wrong and the tally marks are without merit. Material is pipestone. Sold @ $850



Fig. SP#6A: The "T" type pipe of historic times has seen revival of its style in terms of Native American tourist pipes. This is not one of those. This crude reproduction is of soft gray soapstone and drilled with high speed bits. The scratches are to imitate the ancient methods of grinding the surface with sandstone. Sold @ $350



Fig. SP#7A: The monitor pipe has always been popular with midwestern collectors. It has always seen its share of reproductions. The bowl and stem are wrong, as are the strange scratches on the surface. Sold @ $600-850



Fig. SP#8A: Another effort to duplicate the Hopewell monitor plat-form pipe, this time in reddish tan Ohio pipestone, but the spool bowl and the workmanship were not up to ancient standards on this copy. Artificially aged and Sold@ $925-1050



Fig. SP#9A: This is a hybrid reproduction. It appears to be a cross between an "Intrusive Mound" and "Hopewell". It is neither in terms of correct style. Plus it has been broken "ceremonially". This makes it more acceptable in the collecting world. It's pipestone. Sold @ $3000



Fig. SP#10A: This Ft. Ancient Face pipe is made of highly polished claystone, so highly polished that it stands out as a reproduction. The features are not amerind, but that didn't prevent many collectors from wanting it. Sold @ $750



Fig. SP#11A: This Obtuse Angled pipe is an exaggeration of the Southern steatite pipes. The prow is too long, the raised ridge is too stout and the bowl is too small for the base. Nevertheless, much work went into this replication as pipes of this quality are expensive. Sold @ $3000



Fig. SP#12A: Only the "Great pipe" (refers to size) attracts such attention in the collector world. This one probably is a replica of a Wood Duck complete with feathers, circled eyes, etc. It is anatomically wrong. Sold @ $850-1500



Fig. SP#13A: Pottery is one of the easiest substances to work. Many authentic pottery pipes were made by the Iroquois and Mississippians. Those with some little effigy are preferred by collectors. This one is bogus as it was not made in a correct manner, but it was baked! Sold @ $450



Fig. SP#14A: If one copy of the famous Human -and- bowl pipe was made, there are literally hundreds of replicas. The original, in "West Book" from Tennessee is in the Milwaukee museum. This sandstone copy brings a good price. The silly hair and stupid facial expression is funny. Sold @ $1200



Fig. SP#15A: Not to be repetitious but, this example in blackened Soapstone was humorous with the carved fur and the enduring scratches overall of the stem and bowl. We presume the intended effigy is that of a raccoon. These replicas are $50 at Flea markets. Sold @ $200 to collectors



Fig.SP#16A: The maker went to great effort to make a close duplicate of a Hopewell platform pipe. His mistake was gouging the bowl and then using the wrong material. Pipestone, Limestone and Sandstone are preferred substances of authentic Hopewell pipes. Sold @ $1500



Fig.SP#17A: Tubular smoking pipes are the earliest form of smoking devices known in North America. They are crafted of Diorite, Quartzite, Sandstone,Steatite, Slate. This is steatite, it is rough and has peck marks on top of the polished areas. It is incorrect. Sold @ $1000



Fig. SP#18A: Another example in pottery. The perky otter atop the stem attracts the imagination. Most were made in Arkansas about 1960 and none truly replicated the ancient art of Mississippians. Sold @ $400



Fig. SP#19A: "Great" pipes are king of the collectibles and seem to command the highest prices. This stylistic "grasshopper" effigy is made of California soapstone, a material not available to Middle Woodland ancients of the Southeastern cults. Sold @ $2500



Fig. SP#20A: We guess you might call this a cute "Owl." Made of a poor grade of tan pipestone, it is a combination of every detail ever used on an "Erie" self pipe. Unfortunately, it probably was not a best seller as few duplicates of this design appear on the market. Sold @ $100



Fig. SP#21A: More tales of fishermen finding artifacts seem to be prevelant than any other story. This one fits the tale. It is made of fine grained sandstone and you can see the 1" apart grinding marks on the surface everywhere, plus the use of a tapered drill. Sold @ $750



Fig. SP#22A: Face pipes are late and highly collectible. This one is not and it is made of tan sandstone. It is not clear whether this represents a human or feline face. Drilling and workmanship is wrong. Sold@ $650


Authentic Prehistoric Smoking Pipes


Fig. AP/SP#1: The "Sphinx" pipe, dates to late 1800's, found in Highland Co., Ohio by Wm. Levy. Formerly in the Seever, Wachtel, Berner and Gehlbach collection. Museum Quality



Fig. AP/SP#2: Louisiana Panther pipe, carved in the round of fine grained sandstone, found in Louisiana prior to 1900, 7" in length and one of the finest prehistoric pipe carvings. Value range Museum Quality



Fig. AP/SP#3: This small personal pipe hails from the Ft. Ancient period and is medium tan siltstone, found in 1960's after a flood along the Mississippi River in upper Missouri. Value range $1200-$1500



Fig. AP/SP#4: This large 5 1/4" Canoe type pipe is made of clay and was found in Floyd County, Georgia by Mike Rice in 1973. It is associated with the late Dallas culture near historic times. Walsh collection. Value range $3500-4500



Fig. AP/SP#5: This is without a doubt the most famous and finest pipe known. Found at Spiro, this exquisitely carved figure is housed at the University of Arkansas. Value Museum Quality



Fig. AP/SP#6: This very small smoking tube is made of Catlinite and carved in the effigy of a Salmon with dorsal and annal fins, gills, and the mouth is the bowl. From Montana. Senn, Berner collections. Value range $650-$850



Fig. AP/SP#7: Known as the "Otto Blackwell" pipe, this steatite elbow type was found in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Incised effigies of a lizard is carved on its bowl, a tree on its stem. Value range $2850-3500



Fig. AP/SP#8: This is a rare pipe, the Hopewell Monitor pipe and is made of tan pipestone and just saw the light of day from a very old collection near Bellville, Illinois after being exhibited in a library. Presently in the Tuttle collection. Value range $4500-6500



Fig. AP/SP#9: Made of Gray/White Carolina steatite, this obtuse angle squarish pipe has exacting cross hatched design and was found in the North Carolina Piedmont. Rankin Museum. Value range $2500-3500



Fig. AP/SP#10: A true southern Great pipe effigy of Blackish green steatite and found in Southern Tennessee. The stem hole is in the bird's breast; Len -and- Janie Wiedner collection. Value Museum quality



Fig. AP/SP#11: Disc pipes are late prehistoric and this one is limestone and very well made plus the condition is excellent as this material often deteriorates and weathers, Kentucky piece. Value range $1500-2500



Fig. AP/SP#12: This slender banded slate Tubular pipe is from the archaic period and is listed as Williams County, Ohio and from the Dr. Gordon F. Meuser collection; Bemer collection. Value range $2500-4000



Fig. AP/SP#13: Pottery Canoe type pipe found near Carters Corners at the Little Egypt site in Murray County, Georgia. It is late Mississippian and in the Beutell collection. Value range $1250-2500



Fig. AP/SP#14: Greenish Gray steatite effigy pipe (Turtle?) with double rings around neck and bowl, laddered scepter on side and found in Northern Alabama. Ex.Wilkes, Beutell. A very unique pipe. Value range $1800-2500



Fig. AP/SP#15: Archaic Tubular pipe, measuring 6 3/4" made of banded gray slate with unique side perforation near the bowl orifice, this fine artifact was found in Monticello, Indiana. Shown "Prehistoric American." Value range $3000-4000



Fig. AP/SP#16: Ft.Ancient Effigy Claw type pipe of Greenish Gray Ohio pipestone. This artifact was found in the Scioto County, Ohio area and measures 2 1/2" in length. Formerly Behnken, Berner, Gehlbach, Weidner collections. Value range $2000-2500



Fig. AP/SP#17: A great pipe from Tennessee, species undetermined but features cockaded crown on the head, tail and wing feathers delineated, Greenish Black steatite, formerly Wilkes collection. Value range $5000-7500



Fig. AP/SP#18: Most interesting stone pipe of brownish steatite, the bowl has a Wolf head with jaws surrounding the bowl, its ears are the stand to keep the pipe erect. Found Macon County, North Carolina. Value range $2500-3500



Fig. Ap/SP#19: This large Hopewell Monitor pipe is made of light tan Ohio pipestone. Found in Scioto County, Ohio and reported from the Tremper Mound. Formerly in the collection of Dr. T.H.Young, H. C. Wachtel, J.Berner, S.Fuller and K.Whaley. Value range $6000-8500



Fig. AP/SP#20: Unusual for the Deep South, this Great pipe was found by a farmer near Headlands, Alabama. The carving of the head and beak suggest a bird of prey. The pipe is crafted of light Gray/Green Steatite. Formerly in the B. Boone col-lection. Value range $7500-9000



Fig. AP/SP#21: The human countenance is rare in pipes, especially those of prehistoric times. This Greenish Black steatite Elbow pipe is late and was found in a small collection in Rabun County, Georgia. Value range $3500-4500



Fig. AP/SP#22: Carved in the round, this Frog Effigy pipe looks as though it is ready to leap. Made of fine grained sandstone and shows pecking and polish, this large effigy was found in Jackson County, Michigan. Value range $1500-3500



Fig. AP/SP#23: Another unusual effigy, the prow represents the fanned tail of a Turkey. The sandstone pipe comes from Adams County, Ohio. Formerly in Good, Berner, Gehlbach. Value range $550-850



Fig. AP/SP#24: The Champion pipe; discovered at the Crib mound in Posey county, Indiana, this magnificent Blackish steatite Owl Effigy still retains its disk shell eyes. It has been positively dated at 178BC and is probably the most renown great pipe ever found. Courtesy of the Hart Collection. Value Museum quality.


"Used by Permission of the Author” and originally published in American Indian Artifacts; Genuine or Reproduction by Col. John F. Berner. Copyright © 2000 by American Antiquities, Inc.