When Demand Elicits Fake Supply


(Photo: istolethetv)

I visited the Mütter Museum (a great collection of medical and related memorabilia and information in Philadelphia), which had the following sign on one exhibit about shrunken heads: “Westerners traveling to the territory in the late 19th century … were fascinated with the heads and offered the tribe money and guns in exchange. … This led to an increase in warfare … both to get more heads to sell and because of the prevalence of guns.  It also led to the creation of counterfeit heads … made from real human heads but not prepared by the tribe, and others [that] were made from monkey, goat, or other animal skin.”  Nice to see how, even for a bizarre object, a large increase in demand elicits a supply response of both genuine and fake products.

I welcome other equally weird examples of induced supply responses with both genuine and fake products.

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  1. L.Marie says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  2. Mark Buehner says:

    Olive Oil.

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  3. NZ says:

    Doesn’t this basically describe most luxury goods? Designer hand bags, diamond jewelry, even name-brand grocery items.

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  4. Shane L says:

    The classic example is surely the medieval trade in alleged Christian relics, with any number of finger bones on the market purporting to belong to dead saints!

    In more recent times, perhaps mummies?

    “…Upon closer examination it was found to be primarily composed of papier-mâché.”

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  5. Average.Random.Joe says:

    Higher Education degrees. I think that there was a repost of the broadcast Freak did a while ago on the paper mills. I still think that there is a wonderful study that the Stevens can do with those things. Remember the horror at finding MD’s with these fake degrees? I wonder if those Doctors have had a higher malpractice incidence compared to people that have a real degree. If there isn’t, it would give support that these licenses are just barriers to entry and not a set minimum of expertise that people lend to them (per the horror by the host). Not sure if someone that makes their living on funds from a system that is dependent on that barrier to entry would even delve into it, seems like career suicide to me. But then again, that no one has looked at it might be telling enough.

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  6. Julien says:

    What about fake iProducts?

    Also, on a tourist visit to Cartagena de India, Colombia, we were offered an authentic hand-made stencil poster. The seller claimed he drew it himself and it took him at least 8 hours. We found the exact same poster reproduced all over town in the following days …

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  7. Phil Persinger says:

    “Buyer Beware!
    A guide to meteorite collecting can not be complete without some warnings. As mentioned above, the majority of meteorite dealers are eBay are authentic and excellent to deal with. Many offer money-back guarantees. However, like any item on eBay, the saying “buyer beware” applies. Every day, there are fake meteorites on eBay. Some of these sellers are unaware that their rock is not a meteorite – often they are described as “I found this in my backyard and it looks like a rock from space.” These auctions typically do not receive any bids. Unfortunately, some sellers are more mischievous. Earth rocks are polished, tumbled, or even burned with a blowtorch to resemble meteorites.

    Over time you will learn the names of sellers you trust, and you will be able to spot the fakes immediately. Until then, here are a few pieces of advice:
    Look for sellers who mention that they are IMCA (International Meteorite Collector’s Association) members. These sellers are monitored by their peers and guarantee authenticity.
    If a seller is not a member of the IMCA, look for an excellent feedback history and return policy. If you are unsatisfied for any reason, will the seller refund your money?
    For some reason, meteorites sold from China are particularly suspect. Avoid them when starting out.
    If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
    If you are not sure of something, do not bid. It’s never worth the risk of losing your money.
    Use this meteorite identification guide for help spotting fakes.”

    Excerpted from


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  8. Zed says:

    Apparently in the 1800s ancient Chinese pottery was hammered into bits when visiting British archeologists told rural villagers they would pay for each shard of pottery they were brought.

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