The Moscow Times recently reported that at least half the items in circulation in the Russian antiques market are counterfeit and are costing collectors millions every year. Experts are now advising antiques buyers to pay more attention to the competency and motivation of evaluators.
Dishonest dealers and a lack of quality experts are at the core of the problem, and solving it will require a change in mentality among merchants and buyers.
It is not known if the number of fake items is growing or increasing every year because people still reluctant to report incidents to the police, but it is estimated that the sale of fake items amounts to around $100 million each year.
About 2 million people in Russia collect antiques and while the popularity of collecting has grown, experts said there was still no system for controlling counterfeits or punishing those responsible for making them.
Most antique dealers have a shortsighted buy-and-sell mentality and have no respect for either the items nor their clients, and some informed people say that all the dealers they have met were in some way dishonest.
Antiques evaluators often facilitate sales of counterfeits. It is hard to find competent and most importantly, honest antique experts that give accurate assessments of the value of an item. Many of the current experts come from state structures, are aging and find it hard to resist the temptation of bribes. The situation is so bad that some of the experts are virtually on salary from dishonest dealers.
Despite the well-known problems in this market segment, the perpetrators of counterfeits easily escape punishment. The law states the consequences for stealing antiques is up to 15 years in jail depending on the item. But there is no law concerning those who produce counterfeits. Even when the culprit is caught, it is hard to prove improper intent. The person could merely say that he made the item for his friends.
Once again the rule Buyer Beware must be rigidly applied, so do not say you have not been warned.