Knockoffs?

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by tonyb, May 29, 2020.

  1. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    I’m of two minds.

    A close copy of a “classic” or “iconic” (I wish I could come up with a better word) piece of furniture or item of attire or wristwatch or whatever *is* a sort of theft.

    But then, the price of the “authentic” or “licensed” item is often such that people of modest means plainly can’t afford it. And it isn’t necessarily so that the Real McCoy is of higher quality (although it usually is). Sometimes it seems that what we’re being asked to pay for *is* the name.

    However, I suffer no ambivalence over outright misrepresentation. If it’s a copy, fine, say it’s a copy. A machine-made polypropylene rug is not an authentic Persian carpet. A shantung “straw” hat is not a genuine Panama, no matter what it is embossed on the sweatband.

    I have two pairs of fake Mart Stam cantilever chairs, a design that dates from 1926 and was the inspiration for more elegant (to my eye) designs from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer. I paid $35 each at a thrift store for one pair and the other pair I got for $25 at a junktique mall, so $12.50 each. Yes, good deals, but they *are* fakes. Still, a much better value than the $725 each for the licensed product.
     
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  2. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    And then there are fakes meant to deceive. Old commercial signage, for instance, has fetched big prices in recent years. So now people are making fakes and passing them off as authentic.

    A reproduction is one thing; a phony “vintage” piece is another.
     
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  3. Old Mariner

    Old Mariner Familiar Face

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    Much of what I have is more like a "nod" to older designs. A good example would be my sofa which has the metal round "studs". Out of all my items, the ones that are "genuine vintage" would be maritime stuff. As much as I like classic style and vintage items, I have to draw a line somewhere since I like maritime antiques more. While clothing can be replicated, old maritime items (whether inexpensive or not) are less common (and my focus is mainly on German and Finnish maritime) and so the "sentimental value" is higher to me. For example HAPAG items (Hamburg Amerika Linie) - there aren't any reproduction items I know of and HAPAG merged with NDL (Norddeutscher Lloyd) in the 1970s (now Hapag Lloyd). I got a HAPAG tin container a few months back, but I don't know when it was made, or the background to it, but it is a rather unique piece as it's the first I have come across one.

    This is just my own personal approach on things based on my own tastes.
     
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  4. Nobert

    Nobert Practically Family

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    The way I figure it, what you're paying for in a historic piece (aside from whatever the market can siphon from it), is the "piece of history" vibe. The notion that yeah, this thing actually existed in 19-whatever (or earlier), and may have a certain look, feel or smell that indicates that authenticity. For visual aesthetics alone, a quality repro often fits the bill, especially if that bill is considerably fewer shekels.

    During the early 20th century, the 18th century got really popular among the smart set. This neo-neoclassism lasted well into the 20s, and antique buffs of the day waxed nostalgic on the glories of Georgian, Colonial, Chippendale, and Sheraton furniture (among others). As one antique furniture guide of the time put it, there was more demand for these antiques than there were extant examples, and the authors fully endorsed the idea of reproductions, for availability and economy's sake, provided they were built to the same standards as the originals. And they also reserved the most acrid of bile for the fakes and counterfeits, and such practices as shooting lead shot into modern furniture to mimic woodworm damage. Le plus la change, or whatever.
     
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  5. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

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    There's no bigger miscreant of this practice than large corporations. If you or I did it, we would be labelled plagiarist, quite right too. But when the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation buys the intellectual rights from the receiver, are the cars that they make still the same cars, or can they now call them MG? After all, they own the copyright.
     
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  6. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    Pretty much the way I figure it, too.

    As I’ve noted before, it’s just fine by me that “condition is everything” in the valuation of some of the stuff I kinda collect — paper ephemera, commercial signage, miscellaneous other old stuff. I don’t object at all to an item showing signs that it was actually used for its intended purpose. (Within reason, of course.) That just makes it all the more authentic, to my way of seeing things. That such an item can be had for a small fraction of the price of a mint example, well, ain’t that grand.
     
  7. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    Hmmm. I’m putting kids through university and keeping my wife in a lifestyle that she demands. I’m afraid I’m a price point kind of guy, and will buy a half-ways decent knock off, as opposed to an astronomically priced “real McCoy”, pretty much every time. No apologies, really.
     
  8. 59Lark

    59Lark A-List Customer

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    I am in the sewing machine business and china and tw, makes 60% of the machines and a lot higher perecent in parts. The thing is, china can make good items, if you want to pay, however a lot of north American companies want a lot of profit and therefore cut corners and then whine about cheap Chinese goods. I was told in my business there are 3 grades of parts, 1.2, and don't buy them 3rd grade. I am seeing a lot of reproduction things from china some good some not and I just looked a review on the new MG from a aussie outfit. They predict the Chinese will capture a large percent of the car market in half the time it took the Koreans. The Koreans hired engineers from Europe, the Chinese just bought all the old English companies and their patents and brains. Well what do you expect the day Rolls Royce isn't owned by the English, the empire is doomed. When I was a child we saved up to buy the toys made in GB. The bottom line is people are cheap and don't care where things are made, or at least far too many, 59lark.
     
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  9. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    My friend brought me back two souvenirs from his trip to China.....one an authentic Hugo Boos t shirt and the other a genuine battery operated Rolex watch.
     
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  10. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    There are some products today that are not so much knockoffs as they are recreations of the originals. I use RCA-manufactured microphones from the 1940s in my radio production work, and since RCA hasn't manufactured microphones since the 1970s (and hasn't manufactured anything since 1986), if you want replacement parts, you either have to go new-old-stock or deal with firms that remanufacture them. There's a company in Los Angeles called "AEA" that actually remanufactures the famous 44-BX microphone from and to the original specifications -- to the point where all parts on their version are interchangeable with those of the originals. I've used them a couple of times to rebuild shockmounts that needed restoration on my original mics, or to replace mounting parts that had gone lost.

    On the other hand, though, you'll find shady operators who reproduce this equipment with 3-D printed plastic parts, or with inferior components put into authentic-looking casings. If you sell this kind of stuff as novelty items, or as stage props, that's one thing. But if you try to pass them off as authentic, you won't fool a professional sound engineer -- but you might fool a novice eBay-type collector.
     
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  11. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom One Too Many

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    Ninety percent of my acquaintances and friends (A) haven’t the faintest idea what they are looking at, and (b) couldn’t tell the difference between a nice knock-off and the real thing if their life depended on it. Which means it is purely up to me. Am I vain enough (or is my taste so rarified) that I demand only an original, OR am I humble enough (or don’t give a sh*t enough) to make do with a reasonable facsimile? There is no right or wrong answer. Each of us has our own priorities.
     
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  12. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    I’ll never forget a friend mistaking a fake tombstone table radio for a genuine 1920s-vintage original. You’d think that slot on the side for cassette tapes might have been a clue.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
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  13. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    Part of what fuels the market for knockoffs, I do believe, is part of what fuels the market for originals.

    Design Within Reach, a retailer with stores in the tonier districts of several major cities, sells the licensed, authentic versions of “iconic” furniture pieces from the big name modernist designers — Saarinen, Nelson, Bertoia, Eames, etc. It’s nice stuff, and it isn’t lost on me why it remains popular 60 and more years on, and why so much of it gets knocked off. It sells.

    But, like famous works of art, it isn’t the only nice stuff. Beautiful stuff by no-name artists and designers can be had for a song, relatively.

    We buy the name, many of us. Or its impersonator.
     
  14. robrinay

    robrinay One Too Many

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    The problem with buying a knock off is that you’ll always know it’s not the real thing. If you trawl eBay, second hand office furniture warehouses, junk and charity shops and the odd antique fair you’ll find the real thing at a reasonable price. There’ll come a time when you’ll find a gem being sold cheap by a dealer who doesn’t know what they’ve got. If you’re a bit handy you can also buy items cheap that need a little work. I got an Arne Jacobsen Oxford chair with a torn leather seat for peanuts from a fair and a series 7 pedestal swivel office chair With crumbling foam padding for even less from eBay because the auction ended during the tv broadcast of the London Olympics opening ceremony. I was the only bidder. Both have been re-upholstered for reasonable money in tan leather. Be patient search and you’ll find them. Also as mentioned above don’t turn your nose up at cool designs by no-name designers. Some of Ikea’s designers are now designing for Allessi etc and conversely some top designers are being commissioned by Ikea
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2020
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  15. Haversack

    Haversack One Too Many

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    Then you have the case of Gustav Stickley who not only had a company which built and continues to build furniture to his designs, he also published books of his plans and encouraged people to build them for themselves. What one made would not be a genuine Stickley but it would have the quality of his design with the addition of one's own skill. This latter bit was part of the Craftsman ethos of having a hand in shaping one's surrounding.

    Then you have the whole gamut of craftsman style furniture. Some is very well built using good quality materials such as fumed oak and full-tenon joinery. And others little better than particle board and printed veneer. This is where I think the distinction between reproduction and knock-off exists.
     
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  16. Old Mariner

    Old Mariner Familiar Face

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    There's a place down the road from me that sells this type of furniture.
     
  17. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    A friend recently scored a pair of upholstered Eames shell chairs, on the “contract” base, for something like 90 clams for the pair. One of the chairs has a small tear in the pink vinyl. She’ll get it to the upholstery guy one of the days.

    She found ’em on Facebook Marketplace. Had to drive an hour or so each way. And the seller knew what he had, and let ’em go at that price anyway. (I’ve seen these things listed on the outrageously high-priced sites like 1stdibs for upwards of $1,300 apiece, but anyone paying more than $200 is screwing himself.)

    Not everyone craves bright pink Eames shell chairs, and leastwise not 50-year-old (minimally) bright pink Eames shell chairs with a tear in the upholstery. But just try to find another pair (or even one) and you might get a sense of just how precious these things might be to a person who really goes in for that sort of thing.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
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  18. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    I worked with a lady that travelled to China regularly to visit family. She would take orders for high end winter parkas with the North Face brand. She claimed they came out of the same factory that produced the legit ones for North Face. North Face price $500, her price $100 and I assume she was making a decent buck for schlepping them back to Canada. I bought them for my mom and nieces and nephews. I would dare anyone to find the difference between the knock off and the one bought in the North Face store. My mom wore hers for years, never wore it out as she died first....before the jacket.
     
  19. Blackadder

    Blackadder Call Me a Cab

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    I understand what you actually mean by "knock-offs" but I think many of the replies go beyond the definition in your second paragraph. Who are the thieves? What are knock-offs? There are counterfeit goods that are made to deceive or being passed off as the real deal and there are mere copies and those made as a tribute.

    Take for example the Levi's trucker jacket that has been copied by Gap and everyone else or the Addidas' German Army Trainer that has been copied by Dior, Maison Magiela and many others. How about the numerous brands that made trench coats or other army jackets? Levi's patent on rivets ran out a long time ago so we have rivets on almost all the jeans made today by any manufacturers even Lee and Wrangler.

    How many people we know would use the word "thief" to describe Gap who was a dealer of Levi's back at the beginning. Do we describe Gap's clothing as knock-offs? Almost all of their clothing line are indeed cheaper copies of original.
     
  20. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    Was Elvis Presley then a knockoff of the black bluesmen that came before him?
     

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