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Fake Boer War Bugle - Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders - 1900 - 9

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flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure
ebay - WWI British Army Bugle posting - October, 2011
Orig. ebay listing
Found - Internet
Did you ever wonder what lies behind some of the many memorabilia items you find on ebay?

Here is the ebay history of this bugle, uncovered - again - by our Museum's bugle expert. He's verified that it's the same bugle that was offered for sale in March 2011, and the subject of his lengthy investigation.

It once had a huge provenance attached, which you can read below and was offered for sale on ebay for over 400 pounds sterling.

After our expert evaluation and consumer warning, the bugle disappeared, and the ebay seller changed his ebay handle. Now you know how to get 100% positive feedback...

Now a year later everyone is back, the bugle and Captain Harry Flashman, with a new disguise... Same bugle; same seller; same friend; different story...

While the "family members" formerly certified it as belonging to the Boer War, the Camerons, and having a Victoria Cross connection, along with a hefty price tag, they've had a change of heart and now think it's a later horn and have dropped the price. Oh, and there's no Camerons or Victoria Cross photo...

Do you think it's worth it? Would you trust an ebay seller who would post the same bugle with such wildly varying provenance? We'll let you decide, which story to believe...

It goes to show that the most "incredible" provenance posted on ebay, can evaporate like mist leaving you holding the bag for jumping too thoughtlessly after "an incredibly Rare and unusual opportunity."

The bugle got not a single bid...

The seller tried to flee, again, in November from his reputation, after seeing this post, by doing another make-over...

It's always a heads up for us, whenever someone offers a historic bugle for sale.

Recently, Capt. Harry Flashman, a British ebay seller, posted his "Major Dent" bugle, promising:

- "Queens Own Cameron Highlanders"

- "an original Boer War bugle"

- "with incredible photographic provenance"

- "VC Related"

- "incredibly Rare and unusual opportunity"

Research Parameters - The following forensic analysis - applying five different tests - was done by our bugle expert, using Photoshop files of photographic images to match up bugles, drawing in the lines, and angles, then printing them out, as hard copies, on which to do the measurements.

The angles were accurately measured using Canadian Major-General VAS Williams' ivory protractor, from his 1884 Stanley drafting set, which he used at Canada's Royal Military College in the early 1880s, during the Boer War, and in World War I.

Go to Gen. Williams' Protractor
Hi, I must congratulate you on your web section on fake Bugles.

It has been a great source of information to a novice like myself. I recently purchased a 1916 Hawkes London Military Bugle, your site confirmed for me that the item was genuine.

- Kindest Regards, Chris & Sharyn (Australia)

I just wanted to thank you for the outstanding pages on memorabilia you publish, especially the sections on bugles which are invaluable to us here in the UK in rooting out the frauds and fakes.

We are grateful. (Antique Dealer - London, UK)

flashing newGreat Internet TrashSure
ebay bugle, 2011
Orig. listing -
Found - ebay

Comparing the Bugles of Captain Flashman & Major Dent...

Above - General Comparison Test - In Photoshop we resized the ebay bugle on top of the "Major Dent" archival.

We ask you - beyond superficial similarities of bugles of the same type - are these actually the same bugle?

Do you see the dents matching up in any way?

The mouth pieces are clearly different, which the seller did not mention in his original post, but finally allowed, after we pointed it out to him.

Why would anyone want to change a mouthpiece on a newly acquired bugle? Taken by itself, it might be excusable, but if other things fail to match up, it can prove to be a significant anomaly.

The brass guard plate on the archival bugle does not betray the same dents, on any plane with the ebay bugle.

The bugle cord ring does not appear to have the same base - flattish sides on the archival, quite rounded on the other.

Captain Flashman seems to be counting on "Major Dent" - the big dent at the top - for his main support, to make his case for him.

Since it's the most prominent, and offered the most promise for various measurements, we focused our research on it.

Below - Vertical Position of Major Dent Test #1 - Because it might skew the results, going from bugle to bugle, we restricted each set of measurements to each bugle in turn, sticking to proportions between known points, that should match up closely - if they are the same bugle.

On each bugle our top base line measurement started on the cross line at the end of the brass guard plate. The second line was placed at the start of the Major Dent, and the bottom line was put in line with the top of the bell ring.

Clearly these proportions on the two bugles should match - if they are the same bugle. And the proportions should hold even if the bugles are sized differently.

Put another way, the head on a human being will always maintain the same proportional size, relative to the body, in all photos, regardless of how much they are enlarged.

But the proportions here seem to suggest a substantial problem, even to the casual eyeball.

The human heads, if you will, "a" and "b" - the distances from the brass guard plate to the top of the dent - should be the same. And certainly the proportions of "a" as a fraction of a+(a+) (the overall distance from the brass guard plate to the bell collar top, should match "b" as fraction of b+(b+).

In fact the fractions or the proportions do not come close to matching. The head sizes as a proportion of the body are vastly different.

Below - Vertical Position of Major Dent Test #2 - To give a more accurate match up, we resized the ebay bugle again, ignoring the overall size, and matching only the distance between the brass guard plate and the top of the bell collar.

This would eliminate any distortion coming from photography, or angle of view.

The bugles now have exactly the same top and bottom base lines.

Common sense would dictate that the tops of the Major Dent lines should now also be in the same place for each bugle.

In fact the position of the dent line is still starkly different for each bugle.

Things have, if anything, gotten worse, with this more accurate approach. "a" is considerably narrower than "b." The Major Dents are shifting away from each other.

The conclusion; the dents on the two bugles do not start in the same place, by a long shot.

These are not the same bugles, with "b" distance being over double that of "a" as a proportion of the same bugle measurement. (The humans have two vastly different size heads.)

a=1.2 cm; a+=11.3 cm; a+(a+)= 12.5 cm

b=2.5 cm ; b+=10 cm ; b+(b+)= 12.5 cm

The Brass Guard Plate Measurement

Here, below the bottom line, is a close up of the famous Major Dent.

It allows us to take two more crucial measurements to compare with the Major Dent on the archival.

The width of the brass guard plate "c" can be used as another measuring tool to compare parameters that will be true for each bugle.

When "c" is flipped, and applied over "b," the distance between the brass guard plate and the top of Major Dent, it becomes apparent that it would not come close covering the width.

"c" is 4 cm; "b" is 5.8 cm..

"c" is much narrower than "b."

Meaningless by itself but interesting when one does a comparative measurement on the archival bugle above.

On the archival bugle, it is clear that if its own brass guard plate were flipped into the same spot, it would, not only cover the intervening area, but probably even overlap Major Dent...

The "b" in the two bugles does not match, when it clearly should, if they are the same bugle.

So it's clear the major dents on the two bugles do not start, at all, the same vertical distance from the brass guard plate.

They can't be on the same bugle.

The Major Dent Angle Measurements

Major Dent's Angle Measurement

Luckily, we can make another set of measurements, because this Major Dent is, helpfully, longitudinal and so has a clear angle to it.

Again restricting measurements only to each bugle, in turn, we compared the dent angle referenced to two straight lines on the bugles.

One was the side of the mouthpiece tube and the other was the side of the bugle.

We carefully drew lines as parallel as we could make them, and then printed the pictures out, and measured the angles with a protractor.

To ensure accuracy we used Major-General VAS Williams' ivory protractor, from his 1884 Stanley drafting set which he used in the Boer War and World War I.

The dent on the archival bugle was 138 and 139 degrees off the verticals. One degree of difference is astonishingly negligible under the circumstances.

We then carried out similar measurements on the ebay bugle.

Astonishingly, both its measurements came out to 150 degrees off the vertical.

The 12 degree difference between the two bugle dent angles is huge.

These two dents go off in entirely different directions, as well as not being in the same spot to begin with.

Summary -

This fragile house of cards provenance is all based on the ebay bugle being the same one as in the archival photo.

The key to the bugles being one and the same is the Major Dent seen on both bugles.

The seller says the bugles match, and then, since the photo is related to the Camerons, he ties the bugle to the Camerons.

Since this is a Boer War era photo, he makes this a Boer War bugle.

Since there is a VC in the photo, he ties the bugle to the VC as well.

Might as well go all the way... This is the bugle whose call rang in the VC's ear as he won the Victoria Cross.

Wow! we say. And it attracted gullible bidders...

Except, we find, this is all a wild flight of fancy, and a fragile house of cards.

Our Conclusions: "As you can see the dents on the top match up perfectly." (Capt. Harry Flashman)

We failed to see any similarity in the pattern of dents that the motivated seller seems to see.

The dents on the brass guard plate are missing.

The Major Dent is not in the same place on both bugles, but considerably lower down on the ebay bugle.

The angle of the dent, taken from two reference points on each bugle, is - at least - 12 degrees off the verticals each time.

We cannot find any minor dents that line up.

The entire linchpin for the seller's argument and provenance disappears - totally.

It's absolutely not the same bugle as in the archival.

So it's not proven to be a Cameron's Own Highlanders bugle.

It's not proven to be a Boer War bugle.

It's not proven to be related to the VC Winner in the photo.

It's not proven to have been blown in his ear when he won his VC.

All totally made up, based on a wishful misidentification, by a motivated seller.

And the photo - We did not investigate if the seller is any more accurate with that than with his bugle.

It could be the Camerons; it could be Sgt. Farmer.

Even if it was, they have nothing whatsoever, to do with the ebay bugle.

100% Positive Feedback

On our fake bugle pages several ebay sellers offering fake bugles have a 100% feedback rating, supposed to be an ebay Gold Standard for reliable sellers.

But these sellers are clearly grossly misinformed, and just dead wrong in what they are selling, or think they are selling.

Or greed for a good sale just overcomes the best intentions in all of us. At some point, everyone, it seems, has their limits... Will you end up the victim?

If you want to avoid ending up buying fakes, avoid over spending on items that are just too good to be true - like a bugle that urged a famed Victoria Cross winner on to glory - without an exhaustive analysis using your own common sense.

Clearly several eager buyers were offering over 100 pounds for a $30 bugle, one willing to pay over $200 dollars...

As PT Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every day."

Luckily, ebay's "bidder privacy coding" prevents us from discovering the identity of the misguided bidders at their supreme moment of embarrassment.

We just hope it wasn't you...

Finally, this rigorously critical approach in evaluation should be done for every single piece of historical memorabilia you buy, whether ceramic, artwork, or furniture.

The fakes are all around you, and the unscrupulous sellers willing to take you for all you're worth...

Go to The Fakes Detector

Here's a gude, for starters:

Further Considerations -

The cord ring appears to have different shaped mounting base, flattish-sided in the archival, rounded on the ebay bugle.

Furthermore, the seller admits there is no inscription on the bugle to suggest it is a Camerons bugle.

The seller admits there is no date, military crowfoot or broad arrow on the bugle. Could the Camerons Own not afford a regulation military bugle, but have to make do with a "home band" one?

Capt. Flashman's text, is overwhelmingly hyping the photo, the VC incident, and very real people involved. There is only the most superficial comment on the bugle itself.

There is no provenance whatsoever for the bugle itself, only the most circumstantial conjecture, about resemblances of dents, that our expert just could not establish as being accurate in any way.

Capt. Flimflam sorry Flashman, says Hobson has produced equipment for the military since the 1850s. OK, but when a bugle was made for the military, they wanted it stamped with a WD and a broad arrow, and often a date, all of which this bugle lacks. So it is probably far more likely to have been a Salvation Army, school, girl guide, or small town band manufacture from 1850 to 2011.

He forgets to mention Hobson was making bugles last week..

The seller demanded some $700 for his bugle, a huge sum.

Yet he published only two minimal pictures of the bugle itself, both inferior, low resolution images, one a wide shot from too far back, and the other an ultra close up, from too far in.

But he published three pictures of the Boer War photo of the Camerons and the VC guy.

Clearly he's publishing to prove an association he's trying to make, in the mind of the buyer, to real historic people, a real historic event, with his ebay bugle he doesn't want you to get a real good look at.

This is at gross variance with other sellers who offer historic bugles. They publish lots of huge pictures of their bugles, all in high resolution, and taken from ever side, top and bottom and ultra close-ups. A dozen high res pics is usual, not one-and-a-half low res ones.

They're proud to show their genuine historic bugles in every detail.

This is starkly, not the case here, with Capt. Harry Flashdance sorry, Flashman.

Capt. Flashman failed to produce good pictures. When we repeatedly asked the good Captain for further images - using a variety of personas and email addresses, so as to get as full a response as possible - he hemmed and hawed and finally did not produce them, either to his posting on ebay, or privately, even though he had promised to do both. What is he afraid that better pictures will show?

The seller finally admitted, in a private email, that the mouthpiece doesn't match, one of the glaring differences in the photo, that seemingly escaped his original notice, or did it?, as well as his first ebay posting. Why publish and undermine his claim to the unwary. Though he amended it when we pointed it out.

So he finally allowed that the mouthpiece - the most easily identifiable part of the bugle, is not in the picture with the Camerons, is not Boer War provable, and was not blown for a VC. The ever inventive and nimble Capt. Flashdance "suggests it was replaced very shortly after the photo was taken." More conjecture...

There is an easier, more plausible explanation, for the fact that the most identifiable part of the bugle doesn't match, and has disappeared from the photo - the rest of the bugle disappeared as well... It wasn't in the picture either... That takes care of all the anomalies we noted above...

And further, Capt. Flashdance says - "No returns accepted." Is he scared of what you'll discover once you have the bugle in hand, not a couple of poor low res pics, to analyze?

None of it very good for a very hyped bugle and "incredible photographic provenance."

Provenance in antique collecting, is supposed to be documentary proof, not wishful thinking from a motivated seller.

You're on your own if you bid on Capt. Flashman's "Major Dent" bugle.

Our own estimation - this bugle was made sometime in the 20th century by Hobson, which is still grinding them out today. That gives you 100 years to play with; you add the dates, the wars, the people who blew it, as you wish... You might even be able to find a better soldier photo to go with it...

Value - bugle possibly $35.78, and the photo - very spotty etc. - possibly another $24.98.

Finally - Until better pictures and better provenance comes along, right or wrong, that has to be our evaluation.

Go to The Fakes Pages