How to Spot a Fake Antique Map From an Authentic Antique Map

Very popular antique maps are fetching very high prices at the auction block, because of this many forgeries have appeared as well as numerous copies of these maps. Map reproductions are not worth anything regardless of what the seller tells you. We will give you a few tips to distinguish a fake antique map from a real antique map.

First let us talk about copies, forgeries and reproductions of antique maps. Cartographers have copied each others’ maps for centuries and have improved on them as well. These old maps can be valuable since they were done when the information on them was valid and useful. They are genuine historical documents.

However, recent copies of old maps that depict geographical information from centuries past are made with the intent of offering decoration and sometimes historical insight to their buyers. The value of these map reproductions is often marketed to unknowing customers by claiming that the copy is of a rare map or that is was made using some fancy printing technique. The truth is that a copy of a rare map is not rare, it is the original map that is rare. The copy is worthless and the same goes for the fancy printing.

Here are a few ways for you to spot a fake old map:

1. Color maps were hand-colored before the 1850s. With a magnifying glass take a close look at the color. If you see a matrix of small and even overlapping dots then you have a map made after the 1900s. Your map may say it is from the 1600s for example, but the presence of these dots means that it was not made until after the 1900s. It’s a copy.

2. Old maps were mostly engraved on metal plates in reverse so that they could be printed. When printing the pressure from the press and its engraved plate into the paper leaves a “plate mark” or indentation around the map. If you have a plate mark on your map be sure to look all the way around to see if anything was printed beyond the plate mark. If there is printed material spilling beyond the plate mark, you have a fake.

3. Hold the map up to the light to look at the paper. Most maps made before the 1820s were made on hand-made paper. This paper was made by artisans who used a wire mesh to hold up the paper pulp. This wire mesh leaves a visible grid called “chain links” that are visible against a strong light source. Paper makers often had a watermark to identify themselves that is sometimes visible on bigger maps. If you don’t have chain links on a map dated from the 1820s or earlier, then you have a map reproduction.

4. The majority of antique maps were taken out of old atlases, because of this there is often a fold in the middle of a map. This fold is where the map was bound in the book. Also atlas maps are worn from use at the corners, especially the right hand top or bottom corners. This is where most people would flip the pages. If your map doesn’t have a center fold or looks too new, then it probably is.