Many attractive small canoes or kayaks seen today are not truly authentic factory samples, or even of Native American origin, in spite of what some sellers claim. A lot are simply modern-made decorative reproductions, miniatures or toys. A large number are cheap off-shore imports with no connection to North American canoe heritage whatsoever. So, be wary.
BUYER BEWARE: Because items such as antique model canoes and kayaks are extremely popular with interior decorators, collectors of advertising memorabilia, outdoor enthusiasts and those who simply love rustic, Adirondack style cottage furnishings, there is much temptation for the unscrupulous, or outright fraudsters, to indulge in fakery by cobbling together phony 'reproductions' or passing off cheap imports as being "authentic", "original", "antique", "vintage" "native-made" or "museum quality" items. All the fancy 'buzz words' get used in an attempt to mislead.
If you are seeking to acquire a truly original, antique, factory display item (aka "salesman's sample"), or an item of authentic Native American cultural heritage, make certain you are dealing with a reputable seller who will give you both a written description and a solid money-back guarantee. Not all vendors are truly knowledgeable of what it is they claim to have. We are all subject to making mistakes from time to time; this does not excuse bogus, exaggerated claims based in ignorance and made solely in hopes of generating high value sales. That being said, I must add that there are equally a number of extremely fine craftsmen, today, who build excellent replicas, scale models and even contemporary versions of early factory samples. You can find many talented model builders listed on the WCHA website
< www.wcha.org >. Look them up.
Years ago, I wrote an eBay 'buyer's guide' on " antique salesman sample canoes - tips on avoiding fakes " which you may find useful. Below are pictures of some notable, faked-up "salesman's samples" or supposedly "Native" canoes which were sold at online auctions for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. These are actually toy canoes which have been 'antiqued' or distressed by scammers to look old, or had phony factory names or counterfeit totemic designs painted on their sides in an attempt to dupe unwitting buyers. These are recent imports from China, worth $25 or so, and were 'done over' by a fraudster or someone deliberately trying to deceive. Note the similarity of shape and profile - usually found in lengths of 15", 27" or 39" and made of light balsa-like material, possibly stained a darker brown. True North American sample canoes are typically much larger (3' to 8') with hulls made of cedar ribs and planking; hardwoods like oak, maple, mahogany, cherry, etc. were used for gunwales, decks, seats and thwarts. Check carefully; don't be fooled. Ask for help if you're not sure.
Want to learn more??? A list of useful reference books and websites:
"Canoes: A Natural History in North America", by Neuzil and Sims, Univ. of Minnesota Press,
"The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America", by Adney & Chapelle, published by Smithsonian,
"Canoes of Oceania", by Haddon & Hornell, published by Bishop Museum, Honolulu, HI
"The Canoe: A Living Tradition", by John Jennings, published by Firefly Books,
"Bark Canoes: The Art and Obsession of Tappan Adney", by John Jennings, published by Firefly Books,
"The Canoe" by Kenneth G Roberts and Philip Shackleton, published by MacMillan of Canada,
"Qayaq: Kayaks of Alaska and Siberia", by David W Zimmerly, University of Alaska Press,
"Inuit Kayaks in Canada", by E Y Arima, published by National Museums of Canada.
"Kayaks of Greenland", by Harvey Golden
A very interesting and unbelievably good, canoe-related Internet site which I highly recommend:
Paddle Making (and other canoe stuff): http://paddlemaking.blogspot.ca/
and for interesting, stimulating browsing, try these:
Canadian Canoe Museum - http://www.canoemuseum.ca/
British Museum (online collection - canoes) - http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx?searchText=canoe
Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum - http://www.wisconsincanoeheritagemuseum.org/
Canadian Science and Technology Museum - www.sciencetech.technomuses.ca/
Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia - www.moa.ubc.ca/
Smithsonian National Museum of American History - www.americanhistory.si.edu/
American Museum of Natural history - www.amnh.org/visitors
Burke Museum, Seattle - www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/collections/ethnology/collections
arTok Museum Victoria (Australia) - www.abc.net.au/arts/artok/pasifika/default.htm
Below I have posted copies of articles first written by me for 'Wooden Canoe Journal' and 'Hunting & Fishing Collectibles' magazine, between Feb. and June, 2011. These are copied here in the hopes that you can enlarge them sufficiently to read if you cannot obtain an original printing. The content, while a bit outdated (in that more models have been discovered and the market has evolved in the interim), is otherwise helpful by way of general background information.