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tline3open  Southern Mote Spoons: Too Good to be True???

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Author Topic:   Southern Mote Spoons: Too Good to be True???
Fitzhugh

Posts: 136
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 10:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
[19-0267]

Folks,

I'd appreciate the community's opinions on the Southern "mote" spoons that seem to have surfaced over the last couple of months. I can't ever recall having seen one available before, but now I've encountered similar spoons from Tennessee, Virginia, and Louisiana.

Is anyone else suspicious?

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Brent

Posts: 1502
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iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 10:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm afraid I haven't seen any of these examples, but it sounds like a fertile ground for fakery. For one thing, we know southern silver generally sells at a premium, especially unusual items. Verifiable American mote spoons are very rare; even examples in some museums are doubtful. Finally, a good crafts-person could probably turn a plain teaspoon with reasonable value into a decent loking mote spoon of great value without much trouble. Attaching a forged mark would make it even easier, and we know that fake stamps have been around since at least the 1920's.

Thus, we have the potential for great profit with minimal effort. A faker's dream! I'm afraid I would be very suspicious of any Southern mote spoon, tea strainer, marrow scoop, etc. that could be made up or "doctored"; chances will be high that it has been.

Brent

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wev
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Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 10:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nothing to add to Brent's thoughts except to agree entirely.

Have you been seeing these in shops, shows, auctions?

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FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 11:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would be suspicious if I began seeing a group of mote spoon from the U.S. much less from the Southern states. I have seen very few documented American spoons of this variety and non from the Southern states. Can you remember who were the makers? I recall a group of fake makers stamps that went up for auction on eBay and though attempts were made to have it stopped, I know they were sold. There is even a post on this forum about it several years ago.

I had a student make a mote spoon with pierced southwestern motif. She was quite please with it and she still uses it. Mote spoons were being reproduced at Williamsburg when I went for a visit 5 years ago.

Fred

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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 11:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did a quick search on the Internet and Ebay, I didn't come up with any mote spoons from Tennessee, Virginia or Louisiana. I did see several from England and this one:
quote:
Coin Silver MOTE SPOON by Taylor & Lawrie, Philadelphia, PA (1837)
Coin Silver Mote Spoon, Taylor & Lawrie, Philadelphia (c. 1837-1850), 9 1/4" long, 16-lobed shell bowl with diamond-shaped piercing, twisted handle to pointed end, feather script monogram "J" on front of neck, marked "TAYLOR & LAWRIE" (incuse) with three pseudos on back of neck.


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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 11:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What is a mote

MOTE -
\Mote\, n. [OE. mot, AS. mot.] A small particle, as of floating dust; anything proverbially small; a speck.
The little motes in the sun do ever stir, though there be no wind. –Bacon .
We are motes in the midst of generations. --Landor .
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

n : (nontechnical usage) a tiny piece of anything [syn: atom, molecule, particle, speck]
Source: WordNet, Princeton University

(Gr. karphos, something dry, hence a particle of wood or chaff, etc.). A slight moral defect is likened to a mote (Matt. 7:3-5; Luke 6:41, 42).
Source: Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary

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Fitzhugh

Posts: 136
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 11:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Two surfaced on Ebay within the last 6 weeks; one was New Orleans (I think Himmel) and the other Norfolk, Virginia (Greenwood). Since then I've seen a dealer in Southern silver offer a Tennessee example (Hope, Knoxville), as well as an A. Himmel card case and Himmel tea ball. All the mote spoons have been basically the same, all with incised/incuse marks. As for the New Orleans Himmel pieces, I just don't know. Again, I have NEVER encountered a Southern tea ball. This one was incised A.H. N.O.

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dragonflywink

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Registered: Dec 2002

iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just out of curiosity, exactly what would be considered southern silver? Recently saw a Jaccard & Co. coin julep cup or beaker (very similar to one that I own) listed on eBay as "Southern Silver". Being originally from Kansas (happy Floridian now!), I never thought of St. Louis or that part of the country as the south. Opinions?

Cheryl

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Fitzhugh

Posts: 136
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 02:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Congress considered it so, thus I can't argue! Culturally, it was always so until the 20th century when it got tagged with this "midwestern" label, same as some folks are trying to do to Kentucky to become more politically correct. Some of my own family served in the CS army from Missouri. There's my soap box speech for today! As for coin silver, Jaquard was extremely profilic in the quantity of silver retailed out of St. Louis. It is likely under-valued in today's market, as is Maryland silver. I know of no faked/forged examples of Missouri silver, but perhaps labarbredor might respond there. I believe him to be quite expert in the field of early "Colonial" Mississippi Valley silver, and likely more experienced with the current market of mid-century pieces.

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wev
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Posts: 4084
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 03:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And, not to forget what labarbredor said in another post, it depends on if you are buying or selling.

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 06:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought my ears were buzzing. My first question is if the spoons that have come up were pierced bowl pointed end 18th cent spoons? The later spoons like the Taylor and Lawrie aren't particularly rare. Much like later marrow spoons they are curiosities but nothing to get excited about.

I would be very interested if anybody has pictures of the stamps that were for sale. What maker's were they?
The problem of fakes is something really troublesome for all dealers and collectors. I have been told that there are some people stamping old pieces.

Up until recently most fakes have been kept to very rare silver (Revere, English,etc.) and Indian Trade silver (most of which is fake). There were always a few pieces of fake holloware offered, but most pieces are laughable. The most common fakes I have seen in coin silver is where a piece is changed to make it more valuable. There are a lot of beakers out there that started as handled cups. My favorite was a pair of tongs ( at some point damaged) changed into a mustard ladle. I pointed out the shape of the bowl and the stamp being on the wrong side to a curator.

It gets a lot more troublesome if the piece is an old piece stamped with a good makers mark. Obviously patina and provenance are very important. It also helps to know styles, and look twice at something "off".

On a trip to France two years ago I saw an American mote spoon, which was a doctored up piece. I remember at the time thinking it was a sad fake, but presumably it fooled two dealers over there.

If the Southern mote spoon is just a pierced tea spoon, it better have great patina or I wouldn't touch it.

Yes WEV is right, I buy Mo silver as Northern and sell it as Southern, but then my family had generals on both sides.

I think much like Ky, Mo was a Southern state kept in the Union.
I am sorry to say that fakes are the price we pay for rising prices.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 07:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
See Counterfeit diestamps -- Does each one come with a blank spoon? for the post on fake punches that went up on ebay.

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FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 03-03-2003 09:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is such a pity that the forged stamps did not get into the hands of one of the museums such as Winterthur... They could have been put to such good use. My recollection is that they were made by a retired physician and a skilled craftsman who made forged silver and sold them successfully to retailers during the early and mid century. The seller of the marks spun this story to the buyers at ebay and even suggested that the successful buyer to mark silver to fool his friends..... I was in contact with him for some time and tried pursuading him to sell it to a reputable museum. I pity.

WEV & Scott do you recall any further information or can you correct what I have recalled? The name of the forger and any other documentation would have been so wonderful to have had as a resource, along with the fake marks.

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 03-04-2003 12:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am tired and had a little too much wine, but I couldn't tell much from those marks. I remember talking to a curator at Winterthur who said they had a lot of fakes bought sometime (I think in the 30's) that were part of an exhibit they put on later of fakes. I never saw any but he said they weren't very convincing. I also saw a tankard in a Chicago auction house, which they already decided was wrong, it certainly wasn't very convincing. This kind of thing doesn't bother me much.

First the pieces are wrong, second the marks don't look good.

What I am worried about are the less important pieces from less well known silversmiths.

I don't want to tell fakers what to do, but let me say that if you are careful, you can fake small easily reproduced pieces. I looked at some Indian trade pieces (I think they came from a faker in Ky) and said they had made some mistakes. The next time I saw some trade silver they corrected the first mistakes, but made some others. After that I quit telling people what was wrong with their pieces, but said I would testify in court that they were fake. I presume everyone knows the test that Winterthur and others can do on pieces, which can prove a piece is not old, but will not prove a piece is old. Enough said?. in any case my fear is that someone knowledgeable could take a right looking piece, and put an appropriate mark on it(AB for A. Blanchard). Then you have to look very carefully at the patina. I have heard there is at least on such faker out there.

As a commentary on the mentality that does this sort of thing, I once knew a guy who marked Tiffany on glass, he said only marked pieces Tiffany forgot to mark. Get out the loupe and take a second look. In his defense there are unmarked spoons out there that are obviously done by Hickman, ... no I wouldn't mark them.

Maurice

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Brent

Posts: 1502
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 03-04-2003 10:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A couple of points:

1.) The Taylor and Lawrie piece is awfully long for a mote spoon, though teapots did get quite large in the 1820's and 30's. I would have called it an early olive spoon/pick; any other thoughts?

2.) I was fortunate enough to see the Winterthur fakes exhibit, and later had the opportunity to handle a couple of pieces. The silver fakes were part of a large collection assembled by a Philadelphia area man in the 30's. His heirs planned to donate the collection to Winterthur anyway, but I think they were quite disappointed to learn that about 85% of the collection was fake or fraudulent.

Apparently the collector had failing eyesight, and a group of unscrupulous dealers and associated craftsmen formed a pipeline to funnel fakes into this collection. If you look at catalog of the American silver collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art, you can see that noted collector Hollis French was also occasionally a victim of fraudsters. I heartily recommend the catalog if you really want to get a feel for the pieces that were faked back in the 20's and 30's.

Anyway, back to the Winterthur exhibit. The fake silver was nicely displayed by the curators, along with a chart giving an opinion of each piece (old piece with fake mark, new piece with fake mark, old piece altered, etc.). The pieces on display ranged from the sublime (a genuine trefid fork, originally unmarked but given a good fake American mark) to the ridiculous (a brand-new , in the 30's at least, silver porringer with the Bailey, Banks & Biddle mark incompletely erased and a ridiculous fake mark applied). I would guess the porringer was one of the later fakes, when the collector really couldn't see.

Anyway, looking at these pieces I found that patina is really the hardest thing to fake. Marks can be good or bad, but I think the hardest fakes to identify are those that are genuinely old with faked rare or unusual marks. We know that there are instances, such as in the Hollis French collection, where a faker would make up a mark for a recorded early silversmith with no known pieces and apply it ot a genuine old unmarked piece. If there are no known genuine marks, how can you prove the fake mark to be wrong? Unfortunately, even scientific analysis can't help when only the mark is phony.

Sorry to ramble; just a final word on patina. If you look at a genuine 18th or early 19th century coin silver spoon under a magnifier, the surface will be very distinctive and unforgettable. I was able to examine a very fine fake spoon at Winterthur. From a normal viewing distance, the patina was very convincing. Under a magnifier, though, it was all wrong.

Of course, this all goes out the window if a piece has been buffed, and it doesn't work that well for holloware, which has very different wear patterns.

I'll stop now.

Brent

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FredZ

Posts: 1069
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iconnumber posted 03-04-2003 02:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I too wish to give praise to the Cleveland Museum Catalogue. I consider it to be a template of what a catalogue should be... It is well researched and the images are superb with marks clearly shown for each piece. The forged items are of particular interest. We are fortunate that French documented so well. He even bought forgeries to get them off the market. I wish more catalogues would follow the example set by The Cleveland Museum of Art.

These are my observations as a metalsmith:

I have noticed that most of the recent mote spoons have twisted handles. Many of them have sharp ends with little wear. They look like altered sifters. Many look as if they could have been sugar spoons and the piercing of the bowls is suspiciously round and not some other shape. Circles are easily made with a drill.

I am considering altering one of my many 19th century spoons to see if I can duplicate the deluge of mote spoons. Without close examination I am unable to see if the spoons have been cut apart and resoldered to maintain the maker's mark.

I will report back if I chose to take on this task.

Fred

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labarbedor

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iconnumber posted 03-04-2003 06:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To answer Brent, if the mark was added later on an early piece with patina, there is often a disparity in the patina around the mark and in the mark. This should work fairly well with spoons. While that wouldn't mean you can always tell that a mark is added later, you can often or at least sometimes tell. Of course if the piece has no real patina, as on a piece of Russian enamel still in the box, or a gilt piece, etc. then you really can't guarantee the mark's age.

Rarely but occasionally an old piece isn't used much and therefore doesn't have much patina, I have a great pair of American salts like that.

When I was much younger I found what I thought was an early mint condition beaker marked "H.H.Harned". The owner sold it to me as a Ky. beaker. The name rang a bell and only after I bought it did I find out Harned was a collector who made some reproductions marked with his own name. The dealer told the truth...Harned was from Ky.

Today I would look long and hard at any piece without the expected amount of patina.

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Fitzhugh

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iconnumber posted 03-05-2003 10:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The question was raised about the form of these mote spoons. Yes, what I have seen are twist handled, ending very sharply with no wear, all with incised marks. I do remember that the Louisiana example was by Himmel. Since then I encountered the Himmel tea ball and card case. Again, all were incised. I'm going to check the website of the dealer where I saw these last pieces. They listed, besides the Hope mote spoon, a pair of D L Hope goblets, but I'm not sure the mark was completely right.

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Fitzhugh

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iconnumber posted 03-05-2003 11:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The goblets seemed good; incised "HOPE" and cartouche masonic symbol, as would be acceptable. The mote spoon, though, had a pierced bowl and just the "HOPE" incised. Again, just like the other mote spoons.

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Fitzhugh

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iconnumber posted 03-05-2003 11:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Check out eBay # 2507981807 for the Virginia example.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 03-05-2003 12:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's the mote in question:



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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 03-05-2003 01:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
and the text:
quote:
Mote spoons, which were used to remove particles of tea leaves and motes (tea dust) from a cup of tea, are very rare in American coin silver. This wonderful spoon was made by Charles F. Greenwood of Norfolk, Virginia circa 1850. It is 9" long and has a beautiful shell-shaped pierced bowl and a wonderful twist handle. It is marked C.F. GREENWOOD incuse on the reverse near the end of the handle. Mote spoons are always difficult to locate, and a Southern example in this condition will make an excellent addition to any collection of Early American silver!

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wev
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iconnumber posted 03-05-2003 01:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It seems, at a glance, that the piercing is rather clumsy, not conceived as a part of the design, but added over the top of it, so to speak. And I would be suspicious of an incuse mark with letters so poorly spaced -- diesinkers and typefounders of the period were very adept and it's hard to believe one would let this pass. It is more likely that the letters were struck from individual letter punches. Another possibility is that a "real" mark became distorted when the metal was manipulated later creating the present piece. Either way it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

[This message has been edited by wev (edited 03-05-2003).]

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wev
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iconnumber posted 03-28-2003 02:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A new mote listing (2519409219) on ebay, this time by Newell Harding & Co, but very similar to the supposed Greenwood



"This rare find is marked Pure Coin and was made by *Newell Harding & Company out of Boston, Mass. They were in business from 1830-1860.

This spoon is "heavy" for coin silver. It has a very pointed tip for removing the leaves, a twisted handle and a bowl that is pierced for straining the leaves. See picture of the bowl with the very nicely ruffled edges and the little X's and O's that are pierced in it. Measurements:
Length: 9 1/4"
Grams: 28"

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