Hatpins: Period or Fake

by Susan Zimmermann

There are thousands of decorative hatpins on the market these days but not all are as advertised, authentic period hatpins.

It is easy to fake a hatpin using an old broach, earring, or button. It is also very profitable, as they may sell for $5.00 to $500 in Antique Stores or on eBay. Some sellers are trying to make a quick profit with tricks while many dealers cannot tell real from fake. So, how can you tell a legitimate period hatpin?

First, be aware of the types of fakes out there. Organizations such as the American Hatpin Society divide fakes into three categories: fantasies, reproductions, and marriages. A fantasy looks nothing like a real period pin. The so-called Czech hatpins and Beads-on-a-Stick pins are included in this category. Next are reproductions, newer pins made to look like period pins. Third are marriages. These are composed of some piece of a period pin but have newer elements added. Reproductions and marriages are often poor in quality often using glues and solder.

Second, examine the hatpin both top and bottom. Stones and other decorative items should fit the setting correctly without gaps, solder or glue. Prongs should allow the artistic portion to show well and the prongs should be even and hold the stone snugly. The underside should have a shaft of tempered steel, brass, or base metal and should have some flexibility and show some age or wear. It should also be the proper length for the period. Most importantly the fitting holding the head to the shaft should be correct. Those with a bead or a coating of some kind on the underside are often hiding signs that the head was something else in another life.

Third, a serious collector should purchase a book such as Lillian Baker's Encyclopedia of Hatpins and Hatpin Holders. There you will find pictures of the proper findings for the underside of a hatpin as well as other tips for recognizing fakes. If the price seems too good to be true it probably is. Always follow the golden rule of collecting “If in doubt, Do without.” Further information is available upon request.