Products that are faked: Tube faking and wine faking have a long tradition. Not just tubes are faked, but also money, watches, gold bars in such a way even specialists can't see it. There are some REAL professional companies faking tubes in a way, which will make you fall off your chair if you only knew.
Or how about airplane parts faked as "old stock" or "new production" whatever sells best, made from rejected parts. These are taken from scrap engines that are destroyed because of use hours exceeded. Re-build those is forbidden by law. This fakery is a great problem for aviation industry, as fakers do a perfect good job, re plating everything, faking series numbers, imprints and certificates, in an perfect way. In Belgium they made chicken food from used engine oil. Or how about this story: In 2014 in China, several managers of a milk factory were convicted to death, for faking baby from oil, water and chemicals. They did such a clever job, they even added chemicals that simulate protein. So when the milk was tested, it looked like real milk, containing protein. Yet protein content was zero. They chemical they uses to simulate the protein, was a material for plastic production, heavily poisonous. And from that, a whole factory produces baby milk with zero food content, it was only sugar with oil. As first babies began to die in 2008 in China, the case was discovered. Yet hundreds of thousands babies had kidney problems. All of those will die too young if they grow up, as there is no way to get really old with kidney damage, and kidney damage is always permanent damage. At least 300.000 Chinese children are involved. Of course you "do not believe this ", when you read it for the first time. So you see, "belief" is not your best helper. Read the truth on Wikipedia here.
Fake doctors are known to practice half their life sometimes, as we "believe" so much in a person with a white jacket being directly related to the health Gods, it blinds you. As if you can recognize a specialist by his voice or nice hair. With tube doctors it is not different. People sort of "know" how they can judge internet offers for being no fakes. That is nice if you can. Unfortunately for myself I don't have this magic ability. What a pity.
So for me, what counts is only facts. This may seem silly advise, but you should try practice it. Just take an almost too good to be true offer (like somebody offering 100's of rare ECC88 in like-new boxes, with mint appearance etc) and go for proof. So ask for a high resolution close up picture of the diamond, so you can be sure it is not lasered. Translate the etched mall printing code, etc. So when you have no proof for the tubes being faked, that is one thing, but then try to find positive proof, they are real. If you can not find that either, you have nothing but "belief" and THAT is very little when we are talking about E88CC, which is a product where perhaps even more fakes are for sale than real ones.
I would say, really anything is faked, as long as it makes money. Even smallest amounts attract fakers. So how about big money? How about selling faked factory boxes with 100 tubes inside, that go for 100$ per tube or more. So make 9.000$ on one box, and sell a few of those boxes to each large tube dealer that you can find, do this for a few years and disappear? Believe me, this is big business.
Historical fakes. The fake job can be 70 years old, and this can be very confusing. Did you know, the very first Western Electric tubes, with numbers like VT2, had solid gold tips, attached to the tube pins? In history, there was a period when such tubes were well available, and it was simply nice business to replace the solid gold tips by gold plated brass. In 1930, when somebody did that on a box with 100 pcs, even when it took him the whole day, the result was 400 little gold pieces.
With regular tubes, so the 6.3 Volt Series with Octal and Noval base, you can sometimes buy on Ebay tubes that are obviously very old. This seems clear, from the rusty pins, and dirty dusty boxes beginning to fall apart already. Yet they test like new. I bet that makes you feel good. Still this can be a fake job that was done 50 years ago. These may have had several owners (for instance five owners, in 40 years) Then you see them for sale in the internet, and you think you spot the once in your life opportunity, waiting for YOU there, to win the lucky deal. Be aware some fakes jobs were done so well, and so often, that these are massively around still, even when very old.
How fakes are sold. With the internet, the fakers are provided a sales platform, of the kind they never had before. In the old days, they had no other option as to sell their fakes to tube dealers or to work for them even. Whereas today, Ebay has become the standard sales platform for them. Even a few old and large companies, I see them selling fakes in their Ebay shops. The classical platform, selling them to tube dealers, the fakers are using additional. So you may see large dealers selling fakes, as if it these are normal tubes, and at the same time find those same tubes with Ebay private sellers.
Although tube dealers are not stupid, and pay no good prices for fakes. So Ebay has become very popular. What also causes this, is the Ebay feedback system. Feedback is given mainly for for nice optics and quick shipment, and not for quality. Just when it all looks to good to be true, that seems to be what buyers are specifically looking for. So positive feedback is given quickly. Then, afterwards, they can't change the feedback any more. Unlike Amazon, where you can change your feedback any time. So nobody sells his fakes on Amazon.
The people that buy it. So let's not be naive, and think tubes are faked on a small scale and rare occasions only, and only fools buy it. Market mechanisms don't work that way. Sorry for the "wake up" message, but I want to pay some more attention to this. With tubes, it's done on a huge scale ever since, but today with prices soaring, and markets screaming for NOS <> Telefunken, methods are refining more and more.
Case1) Grande business. In 2003, I visited a company in Switzerland, who has access to real (NOS) tube printing tools (for the glass) and tons of NOS boxes. I was there initially to check their NOS offerings, but we could not agree on anything. They had this attitude, like they have so many millions Audiophile tubes for sale, and they are the greatest. When I got there, they wanted prices same as on Ebay, and when I offered a price.... Read the full story here.
Case2) The Ebay Company. Here is another case: There is a German company, who offered directly on Ebay to professionally re-work and gold plate tube pins of ECC tubes, so they would look like new again. I do not say this is good or bad, but I want to point out here, this is possible.
Case3) The Ex employee. I once met an Ex Telefunken Employee on an electronics flee market in Germany, selling small quantities of NOS tubes there really cheap. The typical friendly old man on those flea markets, just the normal picture. So I payed not much attention to him, I just bought some of his tubes. Then after testing them, I was surprised by.... Read the full story here.
Case3) Some stupid cases. Sometimes, fakes are done a bit stupid. Like fakers buy used TFK ECC83 on Ebay (with the diamond <> mark in the bottom) and then re stamp them as Telefunken ECC803S, with a new printed box. Make the box a bit old and dusty, and there you are, your good old ECC803S from somebodies uncle who just died. Without guarantee, and no returns of course, because that's normal on Ebay, that doesn't ring a bell. Well it pays off, since mint condition Telefunken ECC803 costs up to 1000 Euro each (as I write this in 2012). Some people always buy it, and think they have the deal of their life for only 500€ for a matched pair. It's just those fakes I add here when I can get hold of a picture. Just for the fun of it, and for just showing how some simple details tell the truth. Yet, do not underestimate this. Some fake jobs are done very nice, and we even got used to the fakes, and people begin to think they're real. Like the Svetlana EF86, that you can now see in all kind of brands, with perfect stamps, and like new boxes.
Case4) The unknown seller. An interesting situation is when there was this really huge batch of TESLA ECC803S offered also to me in 2006, via internet, by dealer that I occasionally buy some NOS stock from. Then, he had for sale for me this batch of ECC803S. This turned out to be a huge fake job, really big money. I was not the only victim. So far, this tube I have never seen faked, because originals were still available. They would sell for about 40 Euro in those days. The crowd was not interested in those, it was a tube for connoisseurs rather. So there was not yet what I call the lemming effect for this part number. Also the TESLA brand was not discovered yet as the second best tube after Telefunken. Still I noticed increased demand already. So a lemming effect might develop, and simply buy a few hundred of those in 2006, as they were still no expensive, seemed a good idea to me. Later, as I found out about the fake job, I issued a warning on the largest non-moderated, old women gossip and fight Forum, called.... Read the full story here.
Not only JJ tubes are used to fake expensive tubes, though the JJ are quite popular for this purpose, because they're so cheap, and there is a lot of second choice around, which they do not destroy. Still any other low cost tube can be used for it also. It has been common practice amongst fakers, since decades, to put EI tubes into reprinted Philips boxes. This is obvious, because these tubes are made on Philips tools, and JJ on old Telefunken look-alike tools.
Another source is the rejects of the last few tube factories, struggling to survive, and that don't pay their employees well. Think what it means for a person with a low salary, when his boss tells him to dispose those 5000 pieces audio tubes, that have quality issues. What would he do? This amount fits in the trunk of his car. So he says: Yes boss, I put them in my car, and drive it to the junk yard for you. Then sell it for 3$ / each to a faker. It means 15.000$ tax free money for those people in the factory chain. It means $35.000 profit for the faker when he sells them for $10 each on the large auction site where all gold diggers are looking for nuggets. Then, imagine that is done in countries where $35000 is a five year's salary. So do you really think this man throws those tubes away?
Case5) Old "EI" stocks. After closure and dismantling the EI Factory, the old inventory was sold to tube dealers. The big boys picked out the best selling part numbers, and the small boys were buying the low cost stuff. One good example is ECF802, but also more expensive tubes like ECC88 of E88CC is re-branded like whatever gets higher market prices. Such as Siemens ECC88, or CCa. So if some tubes existed from both brands, and look the same, and many sellers have many, and boxes are all so new, and printing is so clean.... What shall I say...?
Case 6) Private faking. This is getting popular now. Since NOS prices go up anyway, people buy NOS tubes, in possibly nice looking boxes. Then they use them in their private equipment. After first sign on use begin to appear, they put them back into their boxes, and sell them on Ebay again, as NOS, and likely make a profit even. Or, some have for instance used Telefunken in their amplifier, run for thousands of hours but still good. Then buy a pair of NOS with boxes, swap the tubes, and when they are lucky pay almost nothing for changing old tubes into new.
So how to detect real NOS? If you are unexperienced, this is hard to do. I try to give you some hints here.
- good technician can not be fooled with the electrical data coming from a parametric tube tester, such as the Russian L3-3, but you have zero chances with a Hickock or any other "quick" tester.
- Balancing. Double triodes that are balanced by default, like ECC801S 802S and 803S, should of course not have 30% difference. Though really we need to warn for everything at the moment. I have first hand information from a tube dealer, who was asked to test PCC88, and only ship those that are testing nicely balanced at 6.3 Volts, with an L3-3 tester. You can guess what that was for. Read the full story here.
- Only buy from dealers that expose themself since many years. So not from an unknown man on an unknown website. Check if he publishes his full address and telephone number.
- At auction web sites, buy only from sellers that show their name and address BEFORE BUYING. It should be obvious a faker will NEVER show his identity online.
So now enjoy the pictures coming below here! But before you do....
- Write emails about Ebay auctions that you want to bid on. I used to kindly answer such emails, but in the end I wondered always why I answer such questions, and get nothing back for it, not even positive feedback on my website. So let's forget about this, I already have. .
- Post Ebay questions in the tube forums in the internet. For instance Audioasylum is a great place for discussions about opinions. Frankly, you can post any bullshit there, as long as you are not negative about those who pay advertisement.
- Send pictures of fakes tubes when you have some, so we can make this overview more interesting.
For Ebay (1), I have this recommendation for you: The major part of the normal market price, should be achieved 24 hours before the auction ends. If not, that is because people with knowledge are not bidding. . If somebody is definitely prepared to pay 1500 Euro for a pair of tubes on Ebay, he will not make a 100 Euro bid only, and then wait three minutes to the end of the auction. So if a 1500 Euro pair of tubes and a 7 days auction is still at 100 Euro with only one 4 hours to go, that not a good sign. So if you understand how this observation works, and if you see knowledgeable people not bidding, it must have a reason. You better stay away too.
For Ebay (2), Even the contrary is nice to see. We stay with the above example. Suppose you bid indeed 1500 Euro on this pair, while it is at 100 Euro only. Right after you set the bid, you become the highest bidder with 1450 Euro. That is good! In means somebody else had a bid of 1400 Euro on it. From the same view, you can feel bad about it, when you give a 1500 Euro bid, while the price is 100 Euro, and you are still the highest bidder for 105 Euro 4 days later. Consider to cancel the bid.