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Collecting Baskets - Is This Basket a Fake?

As I track auctions and sales for opportunities to collect interesting baskets I have come across examples of high and low quality reproductions as well as known fakes, frauds, forgeries, rip offs, misrepresentations, deceptive marketing and common cases of mistaken identity in the field of basketry. Study the following pages if you want to be armed against being taken advantage of by individuals who are knowingly misrepresenting baskets as something they are not as well as those who are ignorant of the origins of the item they are offering for sale. As a basket collector you are advised to live by the rule....

Caveat emptor - "Let The Buyer Beware"

Nigerian Coiled Grass Basket Bowls Mistaken for Southwest Baskets
Baskets coiled by the Hausa people of Nigeria in western African are frequently mistaken for or misrepresented as southwestern Native American Indian baskets.

Chinese Prisoner Baskets are NOT Native American Sweetgrass Baskets
This type of basket is made in China of a common grass that grows there and is exported/imported around the world by the hundreds of thousands. They have become a type of virus that has infected the basket collecting world. They were/are sold in nesting sets of round, oval, square, hexagonal and octagonal shapes in natural and several colors (Christmas colors are popular). It was one of the first items to flood this country when trade opened with China in the Nixon Era. This is NOT an American Indian sweetgrass basket.

Report a Violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644) is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States. If you suspect that this law is being violated by someone selling baskets you may report them to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) using the simple form on their site. Anonymous reports are acceptable.

Is It Old *OR* Is It New?
Watch for reproduction Nantucket style baskets, reproduction Shaker style ash splint baskets and Appalachian style baskets from a variety of vendors because they are turning up in lots of places as is, "aged" and with newly painted primitive finishes. In and of itself this is fine if the baskets are properly attributed, but secondary market vendors are describing them vaguely in ways that could be mistaken by naive buyers as vintage baskets. Read descriptions carefully. In the case of the Shaker reproductions the scarce ash timber is being shipped from New England to China and the baskets are woven by Chinese workers. The Appalachian facsimiles are woven in Haiti using some local material other than the authentic material, white oak. Make yourself familiar with products like these, so you know what you are looking at in shops and online auctions or vendors and don't end up believing a knock-off, cheap replica, counterfeit, forgery or fake is the real thing. BUYER BEWARE!  

Gullah Basketmakers Face Stiff Competition from Knockoffs
Charleston's sweetgrass basketmakers are finding it difficult to compete with baskets made in China. Lowcountry sweetgrass basket "sewers" are concerned about cheap knockoffs from abroad. This article includes tips about some of the telltale characteristics of an import so that collectors can recognize the difference between the two.


This section is under development. I am aware of numerous types of basket that are commonly involved in cases of misrepresentation, deceptive marketing or mistaken identity. I will add new pages as time allows. If you know of a type of basket that is commonly mistaken or misrepresented as something it is not and you would like to let the basket collecting community about it, please let me know so that I can build a new page to help keep basket collectors informed. Stop back often to see what has been added.

"So many fakes, so little time."

More Basket Collecting

Come and Join in the BasketMakers Forum. Lots of friendly basketweavers are gathered there. Click on "Guest" to enter and read-only or join if you want to post (it's free).
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