I have and use all the latest tools of the trade. First class stereoscopes coupled with an adjustable, dual goose neck, fiber optic, Halogen lighting source. This allows me to direct intense light in any direction, on any corner, edge, hole or area I need to get into or examine. I use a dual wave length, (short & long), UV lighting source that allows me to discover re-chipped or restored artifacts. The UV lighting reacts to the newly chipped stone or the new material used to restore a piece and allows me to see the differences in the material make up of the stone. Lastly, I use the twenty eight, going on twenty nine years, of experience I have gained from handling thousands of artifacts that include stone, bone, pottery and Iron relics. Also adding to my experience has been attending the numerous shows and speaking with hundreds of dealers and a dozen or more authenticators, those that are worth knowing anyway. I believe in asking questions, lots of them. I still do! Sometimes some of my questions sound a little amateurish but I am engaging and getting feed back all the time. Many people are beginning to recognize me but I normally don't tell them who I am, I just ask questions and they tell me more than I need to know. I also use dozens of excellent resource books that I keep close to my scope, bed and golden throne. I have many duplicate copies so I don't have to carry them around. I just move from place to place and pick up where I left off from the last place I was in. I am literally reading and researching all the time. If it's not on arrowheads or artifacts it's about Indian cultures, their way of life, hunting habits, war, games or food preparation. This is what it takes and anyone who tells you they don't use resources like I use, is being disingenuous and a liar straight up. We all have to rely on resources for one thing or another. Even the great Perino used resource books. In this business, "No Man Is An Island".
After receiving your package I open it up and lay each piece out on my desk. This is when my work begins. I then go through them physically one at a time and group them by my first impression. If I feel there is a problem with a piece I leave it until last so I can spend more time on it without feeling rushed. Evaluating artifacts is not a quick process, for those of you who don't know. It can be very time consuming and demanding as I may have several batches from different people to evaluate and people are waiting. Speaking for myself, I know that I don't want to wait for two or three weeks before I get my points back, therefore I know that you wouldn't want to wait that long either. So there is also a time element we have to be concerned with. After I have made my initial inspection I take the first point and begin to check off all the negative and positive traits I find that would allow me to certify that the point is authentic or kill it as a fake, retouch or restoration.
1) As I look at each point I am also feeling it for specific things. For a Paleo type point I am feeling the base and sides to see if they are properly ground. The same goes for any point that should have grinding in the hafting area. Also, is the flaking right for the time period of the artifact? Is the point too thick for the type, etc.
2) I am also feeling for sharp or catchy edges, barbs, auricles, etc. as these may be signs of modern manufacture or recent retouch.
3) I look for anything that may draw my attention, like a lack of patina or fake, (applied), patina.
4) Are there any visible, clear, loose hinge fractures that look like clear, (clean), toe nails that I need to isolate for further inspection. If the point is from any where but the South West many of these loose toe nails would have been sloughed off from the freeze/thaw, expansion/contraction dynamic that naturally occurs in areas that have cold winters and warm summers. Science also plays big role in the authentication process. A positive trait would be to see debris under a loose hinge fractures no matter where it's from. However there should be fewer loose hinge fractures on points that come from colder climates.
5) Are there any applied substances that I feel should not be there. Like glue, finger-nail polish, Old English furniture polish, bees wax or other staining liquids that may have been used to help add a fake patina. Does the patina cover the stone in a manner consistent with a patina that has taken thousands of years to acquire. Does it penetrate the skin of the stone or does it lay on top. These negativ traits are all bad signs.
5) After I have physically handled and inspected the point I put it under high magnification for an intense evaluation.
6) Under the scope I can pick up on any minute detail that I would check off as a good or bad trait.
7) Are there any mineral deposits such as iron, manganese or calcite. This depends on where its from.These types of deposits are one of major pieces of evidence we look for when authenticating relics. Fake deposits are readily identifiable but good solid mineral deposits, (build-ups), are a sure sign of antiquity but doesn't over ride rechips and restorations.
8) Are there any microscopic plant fibers, matter or skeletal remains which appear as singular or multi-cellular and tubular like remains attached to the surface of the relic. Another good sign that can't easily be faked.
9) Finding fresh crushings in the corner notches or blade edges is most definitely a bad sign. This most often is the result of a modern knapper applying to much pressure to remove the desired amount of stone to form the notch or edge. This will leave a white powdery residue behind along with what appears to be lateral fractures or stairs on the inside of the notch or the blade edge.
10) Finding white crystal like residue anywhere is cause for concern.
11) While under high magnification I look for certain marks or striations left behind by modern tools. Circular sanders, small belt sanders, Dremel drills, drill presses, copper billets, brass billets, silver nails are all tools of the trade for modern knappers and frauds. Many of these guys are trying to crank out numbers and many times quality suffers. Then, there are those guys who are very good at their trade. They do everything they can to fool the buyer and authenticator. This is not just a money thing with them. It becomes a matter of pride and getting away with it. Deceiving everyone is their goal.
12) Finally, if the artifact has past my inspection the last thing I do is look at the material. I always try to identify the material to include on the certificate. Labeling it as just some chert or flint will not do as far as I'm concerned and sometimes this can be the hardest thing to do. For instance, Flint Ridge material is one of those anomalies in the geological world that comes in a dozen flavors. This is true for many flint types and cherts and is one of the reasons I keep so many books in all my hang outs. I can almost always find the fake but when I issue a certificate of authenticity I like to include the kind of material it is made of as well as the origin of the artifact and the finder, owner or collections it came from.
If I could ask you to do me and the artifacts world a huge favor, please do your best to include the following information when you send me a package of points.
1) Where is this point from. What state, county, town, river, stream, creek, bayou, or anything that will tie that artifact to an area or home. I believe each and every artifact should be tied down to an area, if for no other reason than for historical and archeological reasons. For future study by some future owner who may want to collect by region or by material or by tribe or culture. As authenticators we can only do so much. Yes, we can tell you that it is Carter Cave or Hornstone, both of which will put us in the central part of the United States, but this is a big area and points come from what we call "blanks" which had a big habit of moving around. So, a blank may have come from a quarry in Indiana or Missouri but was made by some Indian in Tennessee. If we don't get that information, that point has just lost its soul. Yes, we can tell you it is real and a Grade 9 artifact but this is just part of the story this point has to tell. Knowing the origin, (Knoxville, Tennessee) or better yet some small town outside of Knoxville that further pinpoints it, not only gives this point a place of origin but it gives it back its very soul. And, I guarantee you, it will increase the overall value of that point as well and increase the number of potential buyers. Sadly, sometimes we just don't know this information and we have to move on but make every effort whenever possible to dig this information up.
2) If you know who the finder is and they don't mind being mentioned, please include their name. All of the information you can provide is VALUE ADDED.
(HOWEVER), Let me caution you or advise you. Please do not give false information just to say something. Don't say you found the point if you did not or give a false point of origin. That is almost as bad as faking the point itself. A fake is a fake and a fraud is a fraud and both have lost their integrity.They have diminished their self worth and these people will always know that they are wrong for what they did and are doing. I look at them as being stained and marked for life as cheaters and untrustworthy frauds. Lets do what we can to police ourselves and promote a clean hobby worth of participating in. Personally, I only want the real deal with accurate information in my collection. I know this is a difficult if not impossible task but it's something I strive for.
Now for some free advise that is worth its weight in gold. Many of us collect because we love holding a relic that was made by some ancient Indian thousands of years ago. He may have been on the run and following a herd of massive Bison or a Colombian Mammoth. He may have been in fear for his life or may have been enjoying a quiet evening sitting around a fire chipping away at a stone knife or tool while telling stories to the group who gathered to watch a master at work and hear his tales. Some of us collect for investment purposes knowing they aren't making any more of these arrowheads, tools, weapons or other artifacts and like other things of value the prices keep going up. Still, others of us collect because they have collected since they found their first artifact when they were knee high to a grass hopper and it's in their blood.
No matter why you collect arrowheads and artifacts there is one thing that you should consider, GET YOUR ARTIFACTS PAPERED. By me or someone else, there are still a few good guys left who will give you their best effort. Here's why I say this, and there are actually two good reasons, "WHY". First, we really must keep good records on each and every good artifact, if not all of them. Some are more worthy of papering than others, but a good grade six and definitely a grade 7 and up should all be papered for posterity purposes, history and archaeology. All are good reasons but the best reason is that someday you or who ever you pass these works of art on to will want to sell them. It's called, "Cashing In". Here's what I want you to think about. Anybody and everybody in the collecting world has heard the "Grand Pa" story, or "my dad found these" story, or "I found these on my Grandfathers farm thirty years ago" story. Yada, Yada, Yada. We've heard it all before and so have you. How believable is this story??? The one sure thing you can do to protect your investment, no matter where these arrowheads come from, is to "GET THEM PAPERED". This is just the hard, cold facts. When you pull out certificates of authenticity to prove that they are what you say they are and can show they have been evaluated and certified by a professional then you have already proven your point. The buyer at this point is left with only one question. How much!!!!
It's just that simple. You may get someone to buy one or two points along the way but to sell several or a whole collection it takes paper. It solidifies the deal and helps you obtain their highest value. Just try and have them auctioned off by one of the big auction houses that deal in artifacts. If you have no papers they will have to have someone come in and look them over. This will cost you money that will come off the top of your proceeds. Then take the ten percent or fifteen percent off for the auction house commission. What you have left is not what you had hoped for. So, save yourself or your kids the hassle and lost potential value and get your points papered. This way if you need to sell some of them you can go to a show like Collinsville or Temple and sell them or put them on e-bay. Your papered points will always bring what the market will bear. These are the cold, hard FACTS.