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Blacklighting Reveals a Modern Forgery

By Perry M. Frohne

The Kobra Black Light 100 LED Flashlight. Kobra Products.
The Kobra Black Light 100 LED Flashlight. Kobra Products.

This story has a happy ending for a collector because I had the right tools for the job in my fake detection toolbox. The heroes are my detecting tools—the Kobra Black Light 100 LED Flashlight, and my lighted 10x hand held magnifier. Here’s what happened:

A collector was the successful bidder of a President Abraham Lincoln CDV from a well-known auction house. When he received it he knew immediately something was “off” about it. He decided the image was probably a fake and notified the auction house. He was told he needed the opinion of an expert to get a refund. I was contracted by the collector to give my written opinion, so when I received the image I gave it a thorough examination.

Two issues immediately stood out to me—the so-called “albumen of Lincoln” was slightly too thick and had a very slight shine to it, plus it had a fingerprint near Lincoln’s face. I examined the fingerprint and the edges of the “albumen” with my trusty lighted 10x magnifier loop. I then used the black light to illuminate any other problems it may have. The 10x loop and the black light were the only tools I needed this time, as they proved the image was a fake.

Here is part of the opinion I provided to the auction company: “This is a modern forgery, remounted on an original Anthony/Brady CDV mount. The image is on glossy paper, which is thicker than authentic period albumen paper. There is a fingerprint, which is actually in the paper from the surface, not on just the surface. You can actually feel it when you run your finger over it. That would not be possible on actual albumen paper. Please see the accompanying photograph.”

Courtesy of the author.
Courtesy of the author.

I then placed an authentic Civil War CDV with the exact back mark and period albumen next to the Lincoln fake to show the difference between a war date image and the modern fake under black light. The difference is shocking as you can see. The fake glows a bright color, while the authentic image does not.

If you don’t have a black light to examine your images I highly suggest you get one. It will show you if an image has been re-glued, touched up or have stains undetected by just your eyes alone. It is incredibly handy and very inexpensive. (We covered the usefulness of the lighted 10x loop in a previous issue.)

The auction house did the right thing and provided the collector a full refund. I love it when the collector wins!

Perry Frohne is the owner of Frohne’s Historic Military. He has been investigating fake images for more than 20 years. He is a MI Senior Editor.

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