Graflex Variations: Facts and vs. Replica

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scottjua

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
In my quest to build my near screen accurate Luke ANH, and Luke ESB, I've learned a lot about Graflex Flashes and the replicas over the past couple of months.

I posted all of this on the fx-sabers forums, but I thought it might be useful and helpful here too.

When I started I got my hands on some different Vintages of vintage Graflex Flashes, including a Replica, so here's what I found (I know there is an even earlier style, with the "telegraph style button", but I haven't seen one):

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First is my findings on the Bottom Tube Stampings. There are 3 that I have found so far: Folmer Graflex, Folmer Graflex with Patent, Graflex Inc with Patent, and of course then there's the Replica of the original no patent Folmer Graflex

From what I can tell the earliest manufactured Flash Tubes had just Folmer Graflex with no patent number stamped in.
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Then with Patent
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Graflex Inc with patent
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And the Replica. You can clearly see the lack of depth and detail in direct comparison. These photos at 100% really get into the grit of the metal and you can see just how shallow the replica stamping is in comparison to a real vintage.
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Here's also a vintage 2 cell
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The vintage flashes also seem to have the two brass pins like mentioned earlier in this thread. Here's more shots of them:
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Now the Clamps. The Vintage clamp as far as I can tell has no appreciable design change. Some seem to have black lettering, and others no color to the lettering. Here's a shot of a Vintage clamp next to the replica. The stamping is pretty good on the replica and comes super close. You can tell that there's a similar lack of depth to the markings to the bottom stamp
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The lever is the biggest tell... and my replica has some even easier to spot (other than the polished finish) mold or cast lines on the underside of the lever.
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The bulb holder set screw is also different. The vintage has a rounded flat head screw that counter sinks into the tube nicely. The replica has a flat screw that sticks up a little.
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The bunny ears are held on by a rivet on the vintage and screw on the replica
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The "beer tab" rivet is also different. The vintage's rivet shows fine machine grooves, and has a chamfered edge. The replica is flat and generally smooth.
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Now more shots of the three buttons I've seen (is there a fourth, parfaitlumiere?)
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The Glass Eye: I was surprised to find three distinctly different vintage glass eyes. Check these out: The one from the early flash has a very flat top lip with more right angles. The middle, is more curved, but still has machining marks. The third is the later model flashes with a polished inside flare.
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While looking closer and getting these ready to sell I found some more unique variations:

First up... the battery tubes. They're all different...

The Folmer Graflex with Patent is the same size as the Replica, the Graflex Inc. w/ Patent is the same as the Folmer Graflex with no patent. The Anomoly is the one tube I have with the modified clamp. It has a brass edge where the others do no, which leads me to believe it may have been shaved or cut since it is shorted than all of them. Weird.

From L to R: (Shaved?) Graflex Inc. 3 Cell, Folmer Graflex w/Patent, Folmer Graflex, Graflex Inc. w/Patent, Replica, 2 Cell
R20120206-112221.jpg



Next when I was looking closer, the early buttons with short knurling are different too. The early Folmer Graflex *is shorter overall slightly, with slightly longer knurling, and a more tapered edge on top. The Folmer Graflex w/patent has shorter knurling, but a beveled edge of the knurling that is more pronounced, and has a flat top.
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Finally, the Graflex Inc one I have... and only this one has two dimples in the blade/bulb clamp. None of the others have this
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I have one more detail to photograph and show ( I noticed the older of the ones I have (consistent across two) have a more chromey/shiny clamp lever and overall finish (you can kind of tell in the other photos of the finish). I'll get shots today and post them soon.


Anyway... thought I'd share my findings. ^_^


UPDATE: January 2017. FIVE YEARS later we have the first of a few NEWLY made Replicas hit the market. Roman's Empire just started shipping his replica Graflex that is MORE accurate in some ways to the past Parks replicas that have been so common. The Parks replicas are gone in their original guise, and so we need some new reference on the tells of the new Roman Replica so we can tell them apart when they start hitting auction sites.

Roman and his shop did a fantastic job of designing this to be close enough, but have some easy to spot tells so that no one gets scammed.


There are some finish variances in the batch as happens with ALL mass produced items, but the following are so far consistent with this first early batch that are getting into people's hands.


Here's my findings:


Roman’s new replica is based on the more sought after FOLMER Graflex corp variant. On the far right you see how they have been showing up. With the bottom cap nickel plate in very shiny chrome-like appearance. Far left you see, what a scotch brite pad will do with minimal pressure and work.
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You can easily spot the tell for the Roman's Empire replica
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The manufacturer hasn’t completely rolled the crimp on the bottom cap, causing a sharp visible line
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Aside from some obvious finish variances, the new replica clamp with painted lettering has one obvious tell. The “G” and “X” in the word G R A F L E X stamped across the clamp face, overlap the registration bar stamping holes. The real vintage clamps line up with the leading edge. Older Parks clamps come short in comparison. That said, and not pictured, Roman’s summer 2016 stand alone clamp run is DEAD ON to a real clamp… but much cleaner in finish.
B20170104-094350.jpg



The “beer tab” on a vintage has a more muted, bead blasted finish, where the new replica is very shiny. The beer tab rivet is turned now, and exhibits the turning/machining pattern, but doesn’t seem to have the correct chamfer.
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Slight differences can be seen in the slide switch as well
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As new, Roman’s Glass Eye, is of the shiny variety, that was more common on later Patent Graflex Inc. Flashes
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Vintage FOLMER Graflex flashes had a few variations of glass eye. The more common was a brushed or satin finish to a rounded bevel
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A lathe and light scotch brite pad work can transform the shiny Roman glass eye
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Easily overlooked, but once you see it you can’t miss it… The bunny ears exhibit numerous tells. The Roman ears are taller and of slightly thinner stock. Shapes are different as well.
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If I remember correctly… ALL of my FOLMER flashes had straight, smooth post sync pins
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The red buttons on the replica are ALMOST indistinguishable from Parks’ old replicas. But very obviously NOT the same as a vintage. The shapes are different, as are the finishes. However, you can achieve a more vintage look on the very chrome replica button with a lathe and some scotch brite.
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Finally… MOST if not all REAL FOLMER Graflex flashes have square based top sync pins.
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GINO

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

Nice job.
I'll add that the spacing of the lettering on the clamp 'GRAFLEX' is different than on the original.
The lettering starts further to the left on the original and has more space between each letter as well.



.
 

Sym-Cha

Master Member
Hello there,

Here's a picture of the so-called 'telegraph' button :

GraflexMB02.jpg


and the bottom :

GraflexMB01.jpg


-Chaim
 

Gigatron

Sr Member
Here's what's wrong with this post - all it does is make it easier for the forgers to make better replicas. Why would we want to do that?

Every time a replica maker makes a better replica, there's a chance that they're going to charge people for an vintage, authentic graflex. Would you want to pay $300 for a replica?

I get that you're trying to be helpful, but these posts are helpful to the wrong people. This is an issue that the board has been dealing with for a long time.

-Fred
 

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James Kenobi 1138

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Here's what's wrong with this post - all it does is make it easier for the forgers to make better replicas. Why would we want to do that?
I think Jeff Parks has put just about everyone out of the replica Graflex business.

Making a Graflex that looks anything like a real one cost a lot of money. Parks has it down to a science in a China factory and charges like $150 for a replica. If you were going to try and make replica Graflex's you would either be making them in your garage for a lot of time and money, or trying to make them in a factory for tons of up-front money.

If you're meaning that someone will take a Parks and make it 'more accurate' there are tells, like the endcap stamping, that make is identifiable to those who are informed. It's hard enough to tell a replica from a real one looking at tiny ebay photos and if you're in the market for more then a few you're probably going to get burned no matter what.

I can see how a post like this might help someone convert replicas into 'real' flashes, but I think it better serves those looking to not get scammed into buying a replica thinking it's a real Graflex.
 

Gigatron

Sr Member
I get that these kind of posts can help you avoid getting scammed, but all we're doing is making it easier for the scammers to make it harder to tell the difference. If we tell the scam artists what they're doing wrong, what's to keep them from doing it right? And then passing the scam off on to us?

If a genuine graflex can fetch $300+, someone with the money and the means can make the perfect replica, and scam the entire community.



I'll use a recent episode of Sons of Guns as an example. Joe Perry (of Aerosmith fame) believed he had, in his possession, a .38 revolver, once owned by Elvis. The only way to prove that it was his pistol, was by looking for a personalized mark that Elvis put on all of his guns. Now, when they went to verify this, they kept all the cameras and recording equipemt out of the room. Why? So forgers wouldn't know what the mark was and where it was located. Showing the mark could have kept other gun buyers from getting scammed, if they knew what to look for. But you don't want to tip off the forgers, either.


A flood of dead-on, perfect replicas does nothing but tank the hobby. Think about this - suppose you thought you had a saber built on an authentic graflex, then one day, you find out it's built on a superior replica. All of a sudden, the "specialness" of your saber just goes away. Go to any Rolex forum and see how they feel about people with the knock-offs that are damn near perfect, for 1/20th the price.

I'll even give you an example from my personal experience. My Luke ANH is an authentic vintage graflex. I bought at a small pawn shop in eastern PA, for $10 plus tax. Because of it's heritage, it's probably one of my most cherished props. My luke ESB, is built on an authentic graflex 2 cell, that I got at a flea market in south Jersey, for $5. The bottom half is a BB&B salt shaker conversion and the second red button is a replica. I like the saber, but I don't care all that much about it, even though it was my first graflex. My ANH and ESB Vaders are both Park sabers. Even though they are perfect replicas, they don't mean a thing to me, because I know they're not real flash handles. Imagine how annoyed I'd be if I thought that, when I did purchase them, they were authentic, only to find out later, that they weren't.

For every argument for, there's an equally valid argument against. I say we don't make the forgers' job, any easier.

-Fred
 
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Anakin Starkiller

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
People that no what to look for do not buy replica graflexes thinking they are originals. It is people that do not know the differences that get scammed. Informing the public stops scamming a lot more than it provides scammer with tools to pull one over on a buyer. Posts like these do a hell of a lot more good than they do ill. If you look at the big scams that have occurred in the prop community, it was not the result of too much information being out there. It was the result of too little info being shared. The reason why people got taken in by the big scams like Mark English and such is because information wasn't being shared. It's because information was being held back among a small group of people, which allowed people who only knew the basics to be taken in. If a scammer is going to go through all the effort of producing a dead on accurate graflex replica and passing it off as an original, he will no doubt buy an original himself and copy the details. There is no way that the info in this thread would contribute to scamming. The people who buy replica graflexes thinking their originals do so because they don't know what to look for and when the see a patent pending stamp and the letters graflex printed on the clamp they think it's the real deal. And without a post like this being circulated their's no available resource to tell them any different. Getting an informed public is always a good thing.
 

thd9791

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
No, everyone has a valid point here,
Gigatron is right - looking at it from another point of view not our own, this could be a way for people to make better Graflex Replicas and sell them for a vintage price (for want of a better term). That's true, there's nothing that really says no.

Others are right as well , - If you're really looking for a vintage flash gun you're going to do your homework. There just might be more homework with more accurate details.

Nobody is really contradicting anyone here, it's just two facts about the same situation.

Has anyone come across a graflex with something buffed out on the bottom? On mine, which is vintage, the "3 Cell" has been perfectly buffed out like a rectangle with half circles for short sides. I'm not sure why haha
 

James Kenobi 1138

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Has anyone come across a graflex with something buffed out on the bottom? On mine, which is vintage, the "3 Cell" has been perfectly buffed out like a rectangle with half circles for short sides. I'm not sure why haha
I've seen those before and wondered if they were stamped with the 2-cell plate either by accident or because the 3-cell plate was being replaced. I would imagine the factory just wiped the '2 cell' part off.
 

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scottjua

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
wow... I was out this weekend and this thread blew up. Great conversation and debate about furnishing this type of info publicly.

Obviously I feel I'm on the side of sharing more and educating everyone only arms us against the scammers, but I DO see the other side, and it is equally valid and concerning.

@Sym-Cha: Thanks for the pics! I haven't seen but one other photo a while back of that one. Very cool!
 

Filandrius

Well-Known Member
Personally I'm way more worried about what the lack of information. Like I've said earlier I would've bought a fake as a real one if I hadn't had access to the info, and I was in a position in the past where I lost a lot of money because of information that wasn't shared or hoarded on purpose. I guess it all depends on the information and the situation. Anyway, thanks again, Scott. :)
 

thd9791

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
A cool thing I learned was that all those holes and plugs near the top were actually for plugging things into the flash gun, the two at the front and the side sockets, I'm not sure what photo equipment went in there, but I saw a 3 cell used like it was supposed to, all tressed up and my mouth dropped, i never thought.

one of the plugs http://lommen9.home.xs4all.nl/GRAFLITE/Graflexplug.jpg

and this site shows the middle plug being used for an LED test to not waste bulbs
All about Graflex Flashgun synchonizing. Cords and Bulbs
 
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Sym-Cha

Master Member
@scottjua : you're welcome.

@thd9791 : I have a 4x5" speed graphic and a crown special and several bulbflashes + the cords. I'll leave one graflex 3 cell just as is, so it shall be ready to use as a flashgun in the near future.

-Chaim
 

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Jerome

Active Member
I'm all for the detailed information shared on this post. It serves a great purpose to educate people from spotting fakes. In order to be able to detect fakes you must learn what a real one looks like. Similar to how bank tellers learn how to spot counterfeit notes; they don't learn by studying a counterfeit note, they learn by studying the real thing so they know how to spot the counterfeit.
 

thd9791

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
@James Kenobi: good thoughts, that makes sense. I wondered if the previous owner did that, but that sounded ridiculous - he was a camera collector

@Sym Cha, very cool, I've always loved the sentiment of vintage photography
 

Gigatron

Sr Member
I'm all for the detailed information shared on this post. It serves a great purpose to educate people from spotting fakes. In order to be able to detect fakes you must learn what a real one looks like. Similar to how bank tellers learn how to spot counterfeit notes; they don't learn by studying a counterfeit note, they learn by studying the real thing so they know how to spot the counterfeit.

But the bank doesn't have a website about the intricate watermarks and telltale signs, pointing out all the things that the counterfeiters do wrong, do they? And you know why - so the counterfeiters can't make a better fake bill. Know why the US Mint doesn't have website detailing all their anti-counterfeiting measures, like cotton blend, red/blue thread counts, watermarks, etc.? So the counterfeiters can't make a perfect fake.

Sure, knowing every single thing that differentiates a real note from a counterfeit would be awesome. It would certainly have helped me when I tried to deposit some cash, and one of the $20s turned out to be a counterfeit. But, if you tell a counterfeiter every detail that they missed, they're just going to perfect theirs.

I'm all for the dissemination of information, just not where it's publicly available to those that would use said information, to screw you over.

I just don't want to see people posting about their real, vintage saber, just to find out it's a perfect fake.

-Fred
 

Filandrius

Well-Known Member
I think I see your point now. There's the whole "real vs. replica" debate which is two different situations, really. When you expect to buy a replica (because the real part is too expensive or too rare, for example) it's useful that the info be made public, or you get into situations where inaccurate replicas are sold as 100% accurate because of hoarded info. But when there's the potential of replicas sold as genuine items? That's counterfeiting, and is a completely different scenario. Yes the public info can be used to prevent this, but can be abused just as easily. We need to have some experts that can be consulted privately (but then, who would prevent the counterfeiters from consulting said experts?)
 

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