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Old 01-01-2009, 02:46 PM
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Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 5,058
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Lightbulb The Gypsy Fake/Antiquing Clan..

Awhile back there was a Bass on Ebay that caught me eye. It was advertised and an Ongaro Bass (18th century Italian) and was still a 3-string Bass. The Gear holes looked like they were drilled yesterday and with no other holes plugged up. That was the first smoking gun. The Varnish or rather 'finish' was dull and 'burnt' looking and the overall Bass just looked a bit, 'exaggerated' to me.

I email the seller and made him an offer. IT was listed for $25k so I offered $30k IF he came with the Bass and I could get it authenticated here and would pay him for the trip as well. In his reply he mentioned that shipping the Bass would be difficult and could result in damage but that I was welcome to come over there and try it out (another 'claimed' Ongaro is pictured in a Book published in Italy a few years ago and I also got to see that exact Bass in person briefly not long ago.)

In today's world $25k is an average price for a handmade Bass by a top Luthier. Some more, some less so his price was ok if it was good but way low if it was real as advertised.

Then in his Reply to which I questioned that 3-stringer he mentions to me, "Hi, and by the way, that Bisiach you got from Italy, it came from me!"

Confirmation in the biggest way. The first day I got that Bisiach something smelled funny, for real. The inside was treated with scents, varnish smells, shavings, dirt, dust.. etc. I blew it out as best as possible with an air hose but almost made myself sick.

After restoration, I sold the Bisiach labeled Bass as most likely a Hungarian Bass recently made but from an unknown origin. The Scroll however may have been older. When Jeff opened her up he pointed out how the Bass was made and antiqued as well as in what order things were done.

Recently I brought in another 'known' antiqued Gypsy Bass but this one a HUGE 5-string. After seeing a few published Hungarian Basses I emailed one of the makers from his website and another who makes and restores Basses over there as well. These are two of the 'good guys', not the fakers.

I asked them about this practice over there after owning a few of them and seeing others as well as hearing about a few HIGH priced counterfeits as well. The Antiqued Basses they say often are made in Romania and then sent to Hungary where they are antiqued internally as well as externally. This includes acid washing the inside of the the Bass to make it look old. Some of the work is not done so well but every one I have played sounded fantastic. The people doing this are not easy to find but they do this practice with all string family instrument. Some of them can fool you without a thorough examination.

My Bisiach labeled Bass dated 1951 sounded comparable for its 'stated' age and origin to my authentic certified 1919 Martini. That is sound only. A first look by an experienced Luther of Basses can see exactly what steps were taken to make this Bass look old. How they make them sound old and sound so so good is a still mystery. Maybe they are just well made Basses for the most part and the 'shadow' over them is just the deceitful antiquing and labeling.
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