Mass Produced Black MemorabiliaBy

Mass Produced Black Memorabilia

All of these new pieces of black memorabilia have one feature in common: all are very carefully made to resemble construction and wear normally associated with similar vintage pieces.

The mammy pin cushion is probably the most well made and hardest to detect. The upper body is cast in a white resin that looks very similar to plaster. It has been carefully chipped in a random pattern to let the white resin show through the paint just like natural paint wear appears. The cushion is made from old-appearing patterns in a fabric that has been discolored by brown staining. Pins are included and are of various sizes and heads. If you encountered this piece online or at a show, how could you tell it's new?

About the only substantial difference we discovered is the appearance under black light. The apron in particular, and the red paint to a lesser extent, both fluoresced brightly under long wave black light. New thread also fluoresced brightly but doesn't show up well in the photo. This piece is absolutely one of the harder to detect pieces of new black memorabilia we've encountered. It retailed for only $20. A similar original would probably easily be worth $60-$75, maybe more.

A paper print with a black subject has also been extensively altered to appear to be an oil painting. A crackle glaze has been applied to the surface of the print to give the texture and network of dark lines typical of old genuine canvas varnishes. Sandpaper or steel wool was then used to buff random spots across the surface to further suggest wear.

The new crackle glaze not only gives the appearance of age but also partially obscures the dot pattern which proves the piece to be a print, not a painting. A 10X loupe is required to properly view the regular pattern of dots left by printing process color on a printing press.

Inspecting the back side of the piece was impossible because it was sealed with a wooden panel fastened with nails. The black and gold painted wood frame is also extensively worked to suggest age. Corners are rounded, there are a few splinters and random areas of scuffing.

The third new piece is a common wall-hanging grocery list. It's a plywood plaque with wood pegs. Most of the vintage pieces like this are solid wood, not plywood.

All of these pieces are being mass produced. These are not individually made.

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Fig. 1 New mammy pin cushion, about 6- by 6-inches. The cast resin body is painted red, white and brown. The cushion is formed of red-checked fabric with light green trim. Fabric in the new cushion is stained and soiled to suggest age.

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Fig. 2 Body is chipped and worn at the factory to give the appearance of age. Retail price of pin cushion, $20.

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Fig. 3 Despite the stained new fabric appearing brown in room lighting, the apron fluoresces bright white under black light. The thread also fluoresces brightly although that was not captured on the film.

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Fig. 4 New framed image on paper simulates an old oil painting. Overall size 12-inches tall, 9-inches wide with painted wood frame. The paint on the frame is artificially worn; back cannot easily be inspected because it is hidden beneath a wood panel attached with nails. Surface of image covered with a varnish-like glaze which is scuffed to suggest age and wear. Retail price, $33.

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Fig. 5 The crackled glaze covering the image's surface is obvious to the unaided eye. Cracks closely resemble genuine canvas varnishes that become brittle with age.

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Fig. 6 Closer inspection reveals image is not painted but produced on paper on a modern color printing press. The regular repeating dot structure, characteristic of modern process color printing, is clearly visible with a 10X loupe.

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Fig. 7 Image from Fig. 4 as seen under black light. Note that the flower, red under room lighting, fluoresces bright white. Generally, old paint and old inks applied to old paper look the same color under black light as they appear in white, or room light. Any dramatic changes in color are usually the sign of a repair, cleaning or recent manufacture.

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Fig. 8 New mammy wall-hanging grocery list, 7- by 10½-inches. Varnished wood, red and black painted details. Includes wood pegs, not shown. Retail price, $22.