In the beginning of the insulator hobby, most specimens in circulation were authentic and without alteration of any type. Probably the first "interference" with authentic insulators was the regluing of broken specimens. It was also discovered early in the hobby that certain types of resins and similar treatments could be used to reconstruct damaged or missing portions of glass and porcelain insulators. Many collectors became proficient at this art, restoring beauty and completeness to countless pieces. While some condemn the practice, others support it. In either event, there are many specimens in circulation which have been repaired, many of which are nearly indistinguishable from the mint piece.
As the hobby grew, many other techniques were tried to alter insulators, most of which were experimental and just for fun. Some people, however, have altered insulators in order to enhance their value. Some have identified such pieces as altered while others have misrepresented them as authentic.
The purpose of this research is to expose collectors everywhere to the many types of alterations and fabrications which have been achieved. It is hoped that the knowledge gained will aid in the identification of altered items to prevent the shock of learning that one's prized, and often expensive specimen is not completely authentic or is outright fraudulent. One must take great care not to assume that just because a piece has been in a collection for decades that it is authentic. The practices described in this article have been traced back to the middle 1960's.
While the NIA does not officially encourage or discourage the possession of altered insulators and related items, (refer to the NIA Handbook for the NIA position on fake and reproduction insulators) it considers as unethical the actual alteration or manufacture of insulators and related items as listed below. Furthermore, it requires the proper labeling of any such piece at the time of sale or display at NIA sanctioned activities. Despite these ethical requirements of the NIA, some pieces will be sold and/or traded with unidentified alterations. This may well be because the seller is unaware of the alteration but it may also be an intentional attempt to defraud. In the end, it will be the buyer who must be responsible for his own best interest so please, BEWARE!
1. shall not make or manufacture any commemorative or imitation insulator, or related item without first clearing the design with the NIA to make certain that the item produced will not be objectionable to the best interests of the hobby.
2. shall not make or manufacture, advertise, exhibit or introduce into the hobby for distribution (including buying, selling or trading), any imitation insulator which is not plainly and permanently marked "reproduction" with the calendar year in which such item was manufactured. Where the physical size limitation of an insulator prohibits such a marking (as in the case of miniature imitation insulators), the calendar year will suffice.
3. shall not make or manufacture, advertise, exhibit or introduce into the hobby for distribution (including buying, selling or trading), any imitation insulator or related item deemed by the NIA to be objectionable to the best interests of the hobby, unless pre-approved by the NIA for educational purposes.
4. shall not make or manufacture, advertise, exhibit or introduce into the hobby for distribution (including buying, selling or trading), any altered insulator or related item which is not plainly and permanently marked "fake", unless pre-approved by the NIA for educational purposes.
9. shall not knowingly misrepresent the rarity or value of insulators or related items they offer for sale or trade.
[Refer to the NIA Handbook for the definitions of terms or to view the complete set of the NIA Code of Ethics]
3. "Fakes, alterations, reproductions and/or highly questionable insulators or related items may only be brought onto the show premises if they are PERMANENTLY MARKED or embossed so as to indicate their lack of authenticity. It shall be the show host's responsibility to strictly enforce this rule and the decision of the show host shall be final. "
4. "All repaired items on sales tables must be clearly labeled as such."
[Refer to the NIA Handbook to view the complete set of the NIA General Show Floor Rules]
EXHIBIT RULE III (3) "Fake or altered items may be used on exhibits but must be clearly identified as such in the exhibit. Repaired items are also acceptable in exhibits."
[Refer to the NIA Handbook to view the complete set of the NIA Exhibit Rules]
Written April 1999