REENACTING AND LIVING HISTORY > REPRODUCTIONS

Is there any difference between a "repro" and a "fake"?

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Tom E. Gunn:
We all know that there's very little 20th century militaria which isn't currently available as a "reproduction", whether it's a cloth patch or a belt buckle....and everything else in between. The range of stuff being churned out these days is nothing short of stupendous! For example, just yesterday I was looking at a range of WW1 "Doughboy" uniform items which can be bought right off-the-peg. Likewise, webgear, footwear and helmets etc. Times have never been better for re-enacters, whatever their chosen period. Of course, said items are sold up front as "reproductions" and whilst they might look good they often don't stand up to close scrutiny in terms of their overall quality when compared with period originals. In my experience, repro web-gear usually falls into that category, being made of a lighter weight canvas whose colour(s) are frequently slightly "off"....and yet, they often feature authentic dated manufacturers' stamps...eg BOYT 1944...which could potentially fool inexperienced collectors.

Nazi items have been fair game for many years and fake badges and insignia abound. I say "fake" rather than "repro" because whilst repros are now readily available, there was a time when they were faked, complete with manufacturers' marks, and sold for profit as they commanded top dollar. A TR collector friend of mine stated that most TR collections will contain at least one "fake" item, whether the collector realises it or not!

We collectors of GI militaria used to tease our TR collector friends because of the fakery which was rife in their hobby back in the day. Little did we realise that if we fast-forwarded, GI collecting would also fall foul of this trend! Obviously, the "fakers" are motivated solely by financial gain. For example, marked M1 helmets have become a minefield because of the activities of "artifakers". Likewise, WW2 airborne insignia, especially patches. So...we have "faked" patches, often bullion-embroidered, and conveniently described as "original theatre-made"...but we also have "reproduction" patches in a similar vein! That's when the water becomes muddied...repro / fake...or do you not differentiate between the two?!

alibi:
There is what I call collectoreze which is terms used exclusively by militaria collectors as opposed to the meaning of the terms as used by the rest of the world. 

Fake - a term that I believe common to the art collectors, has become some sort of boogeyman term to militaria collectors.  Reminds me of the commie scares of the 1950s when people believed that there were sympathizers everywhere.  The art world used the term for a forgery that it was intended to deceive into believing was a genuine work usually for economic gain.  In the militaria world a fake seems to mean anything that isn't genuine regardless of why it was manufactured.

Reproduction - The dictionaries are rather generous with this term and provide a rather broad definition.  Militaria collectors use the term in it's broadest definition to mean anything that is similar to an originally manufactured item but not intended as a forgery or fake for monetary enhancement.  Much of the fake TR material was intended to provide less common material items at a profit and wasn't merely reproduced for use in reinacting, or to fill a place in a collection.  My use of the term in my book is restricted to an item that was put back into production by a company that originally produced the item.  For example Colt Firearms Manufacturing Company originally manufactured the M1851 Navy revolver in the 1850-60s, then went back into production or "reproduced" the same revolver in the 1970s, with no intention of passing off the second generation guns as antiques.  The same model revolver manufactured by anyone else is a replica.

Replica - Term that in the militaria collector world is interchangeable with reproduction, and the dictionaries usually use "replica" to define "reproduction" and visa-versa.  My definition of the term is anything that is similar to an original item and not intended to deceive by forgery for financial purposes.  The uniforms and equipment manufactured for film production, or reinacting are replicas not intended to be passed off as genuine, but are sometimes confused with genuine material culture and then hysteria sets in and the anguished cry of "fake" is applied.

The misuse of terms doesn't stop with these examples.  Collectors obviously like their alternative familiar terms for items other than nomenclature.  For example the U.S. Army produced at various times a magazine POCKET for pistol magazines that collectors insist on calling a POUCH.  Helmet is a term anathema to collectors that prefer silly substitute terms terms like "pot" and "lid".  My own view is that I was always more than happy to get that damn thing off my head and it was described in terms that I suppose would have helmet collectors gasp with anguish.  And I didn't wear "dog tags" I was issued identity tags and the collectors that prefer dog tag can go sit in the dog house wearing their dog tags as far as I am concerned.  Maybe bark at the moon while they're at it.  What I'm trying to imply is that militaria collectors live in their own little world and obviously prefer collectoreze over nomenclature.  It seems odd to me that a group of people that can go hysterical over a "faked" item have so little regard for nomenclature.

I have started a list of overused words that anyone would care to contribute I'd appreciate adding to my list.  For example politicians are fond of the word "fight" to mean they are actually going to do something if elected.  Attorney's advertise they "fight" for their clients when in actuality they "fight" for their percentage of the judgement, but apparently to prospective clients that the attorney is ready to "fight" on their behalf is appealing.  Another is the way overused term "hold accountable" used by politicians and incompetent managers that implies that whoever needs to be held accountable is some sort of out of control renegade that ignores the usual laws, codes, regulations, and social mores of society.  BTW "fake" is on my list of overused words.

Tom E. Gunn:
Wow...I wasn't expecting a thesaurus in response!  :o

Air Ministry:
When an item is produced to such a degree where even internally it is the same as an original, in my opinion this is an unnecessary degree of authenticity and can only lead to the item possibly being passed off as genuine at a later date.
Take for example 32 pattern Mae West's, when these were originally reproduced they had black internal rubberisation and this was changed later on to the correct green rubberisation, why does a reproduction item need to have any rubberisation at all, it is not going to be used in the sea, only for people to dress up and run around at air shows.
If they had black or no rubberisation at all, perhaps not so many people would get caught out buying repro's that someone is trying to pass off as an original, personally I think that all these type of items should have a large repro stamp in them.
If I had a pound for everyone that had been caught out by a repro 32 pattern Mae West or a D mask, I would be a rich man.
A dealer once said, ninety percent of people who think they have a genuine 32 pattern Mae West in their collection haven't, so this gives you an idea of the scale of the problem
Personally I don't agree with repro items at all, I imagine that this would make re-enactors very unhappy but then I don't agree with re-enacters either, so it's no problem for me.

I have raised this same subject on another forum in the past and it made for a lively discussion.

F-102:
From my sole point of view, a fake is something made to seem real or authentic; where a reproduction is an authentic copy made for those who want a representation or such until the real item makes itself available.
I personally collect neither. Much like the subdued patches the USAF uses. They are not authentic as to color, but made for combat operations. So I steer clear of them.

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