Sometimes fake antiques are not only used to cheat the collectors but also to swindle ordinary people.
The dealers could circulate rumors around a fake antique statue that it was made of a kind of ‘supernatural and super valuable’ metal valued at ‘US$80 million per kilogram.’ Many people have fallen victim to such kind of rumor and lost assets and confidence. One case was tried by the People’s Court of Kien Giang Province on July 13, 2015. Three cheaters were sentenced to 17 years, 12 years, and seven years in prison. At least seven people have fallen prey to the ‘supernatural statue’ and lost some VND2 billion ($89,000).
Tra Trung Tin was a dealer of bronze statues and knew about some reactions between metal and chemicals. Able to make a bronze statue change its color, Tin asked two other people to swindle many naïve people. Tin bought a new bronze statue and hired a welder to pour lead into its empty part to make it much heavier. Then, he used chemicals to erase all traces of lead left outside. After that, Tin coated the statue with a thin layer of chemical before applying mercury on it. In that fashion, if the statue is cut with a sharp knife or filed by a metal sharp point, it can return to the original shape in minutes because mercury will cover the cut. That is, the statue can change its color within minutes to hide the true bronze shade exposed after the cut and return with its blackish color blurred by chemicals and mercury. Bringing the statue to many places, Tin boasted that it was made of a kind of ‘supernatural and super valuable’ metal worth ‘$80 million per kilogram.’
Many people checked and felt that the statue was really heavy. They then tried cutting it to expose the glittering gold color inside but within minutes, the cut was shielded and the original color returned. Some rich people put down deposits to buy the statue.
The cheating was stopped by law enforcement agencies and the three cheaters were jailed then.
Sending fake antique to museum.
A fake antique statue in Quang Tri Museum. Photo: Tuoi Tre.
This true story occurred at a museum in the central province of Quang Tri.
A researcher said on the condition of anonymity that he knew the statue of a Hindu god is just a new item and worth VND2.5 million ($110).
The stone statue was abandoned in a garden of his friend years ago but was later listed as an antique and kept at the Quang Tri Museum.
The people who collected and introduced the statue as an antique of the museum were Nguyen Cuong and Trinh Cao Nguyen, who were working at the place, according to former director Mai Truong Manh. They also prepared descriptions for the stone statue 85cm in height and 49cm in width.
According to the documents Tuoi Tre newspaper has accessed, the ‘antique’ was collected on December 25, 2013.
The previous owner of the item named S. said he bought it in the south-central province of Binh Dinh.“I swapped antiques with a friend in Binh Dinh and my friend owed me VND2.5 million,” S. said
“So he paid with this statue.
“Then, an antique dealer came and asked to see the statue. Then he sold it in Quang Tri.”
Manh, former director of the museum, admitted that his place had no funds so he could not send the statue for verification before listing it as an ‘antique.’
Commenting on the fact that the statue is just a new thing, not an antique, Manh confessed, “Maybe my staff members were cheated. This was an accident in their career.”