Forgery is an incredibly old practice. From ancient Egypt to medieval India – counterfeiting has been in-vogue from before the times of knights in Europe. It has been classified into types like art forgery, literary forgery, black propaganda, etc.
One of the early ones recorded is an example of art forgery occurs in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Sculptors working in Rome made replicas of Grecian works to satisfy the demands for the greatly admired Grecian sculpture of the preceding five centuries. Another example is a type of counterfeit money was recorded in India during Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq’s reign (1325-1351) in Delhi, India. Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq had just introduced bronze and copper coins as during his time there was a shortage of silver and gold. The people of his empire had started to mint the coins at home as it could be forged easily.
A special case of ‘double forgery’ is that of Han van Meegeren’s and his son’s. He was a Dutch painter, who was one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century. He wanted to be a real artist, but critics kept calling him unoriginal and derivative. So, he started replicating the work of the greatest artists’ in the world like Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch, and Johannes Vermeer to get back at them. Han van Meegeren’s son, Jacques van Meegeren took the same path as his father did and forged his father’s forged work.
In 2015, a group of researchers at the University of Manchester examined more than 800 mummies from the Manchester Museum collection. Unfortunately, X-rays and CT scans showed that a third of them had intact animals, as advertised, another third had partial remains, and the last third were empty. The linen wrappers were filled with whatever was lying around—mud, sticks, eggshells. One more instance of betrayal is of 2 small mummies from Vatican’s collection. They were discovered in the 1800s, a product of the ‘mummy mania’ and were thought to be of children or animals when recently (2015) they were detected as counterfeits. CT scans, X-rays, and DNA tests found that inside genuine Egyptian linen bandages were a random jumble of medieval human bones and one 19th century nail.
Today, the forgery is undergoing evolution to the changing market needs. Be it counterfeiting of exclusive art, medicines, vaccines to automotive parts, consumer goods, it is evident in all spheres of our lives. Counterfeiters are making fakes like never before and in some cases look more genuine than their original counterparts.
Consumer education is increasingly becoming challenging due to reduced attention span and the need to spend more dollars to market. It is though in long term interest of brands to protect their supply chain and more importantly their consumers. A consumer lost due to a fake product is never going to come back to the brand when options are a plenty. The impact can be felt more immediately in cases where the fake resulted in an accident or death and root causes attributed to a fake car part or a life saving drug!
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