Now before YOU start reading this article I like you to understand that I am basing this on old amulets such as Phra Somdej of Somdej Toh, which made me go through countless efforts of research and ways to understand how to maximize the chance to identifying REAL amulets!
First of all to friends who buys upon making your decision through the Internet, don’t be too hasty unless you have an absolute trust for the individual. For an old amulet I know for a fact it is rather expensive and don’t be trying to skim just because you see a vendor selling cheap because of some excuses he made up. I have a friend who bought some amulets (7-10 pieces) from different vendors at a few hundred dollars (USD100-300) and sadly, none of them was real. It was hard for me to break the news to him because of his reaction. Firstly being his mixed feeling of disappointment, sadness and anger. Secondly, if the piece of amulet is fake, it doesn’t matter explaining what the vendor says to you back then and keeps trying to explain his vendor’s excuses, which I personally don’t care. Honestly, I heard them all. Here I like to present some excuses.
- Nobody sells that expensive. If you can find a buyer, go ahead. (I like to highlight this part to especially Phra Somdej collector that expensive (more than 10 Million Baht) amulets do exist depending on the beauty of the piece. I have personally seen Phra Somdej that is so beautiful that made me full of jealousy. But of course, if the condition of the piece is not beautiful at all nobody is interested. HOWEVER, there is an actual market that even when you sell in a hurry, below market price (one or few thousand USD) is higher than few hundred dollars for a normal conditioned piece! So don’t be enticed to believe the vendor’s words saying, “no market, nobody buy”. They are trying to lead you to believe that the market is cheating you but he of course, playing your very good friend, is willing to let it go for minimal price because you are nice?)
On 30th May 2010, Kasikorn research estimates that the monetary value of the amulet market will likely remain at 40 billion Baht (1.24 billion USD)
So my advice is to do some research before being told what to believe.
- My master/uncle/parents (basically family members or someone reputable) gave me this piece. I have found some vendors/guru that told me this is real and worth a lot of money. (Please refer to No.1 or ask to show proof which I will share some ways for verification later.)
- I got it from the temple itself. (Risk is very high. Visit some shops that sells fake amulets and you’ll definitely see monks buying amulets from there. –Also, people who incidentally buy fake amulets are always giving it to the temple for proper disposal. Unless your own master had retrieved the piece during his retreat and come upon an open burial site by chance, I do not suggest taking. What? You think all monks in the temple have nothing better to do than to research on amulets? Also even special helpers who received limited edition amulet may sometimes be unsafe. I know of a very famous temple amulet sponsor that created more amulets at the factory than agreed. Later he would get the helper to sell off the excessive made amulets to people who are looking for collectible amulets. These amulets are real despite being made during the same time at the same factory as the rest of the pieces. However, it wasn’t blessed by the venerable.)
- Mine is real because I have certificates to prove OR it is still in original boxes. You can call the number on the certificate to verify my name and serial number. (For fake cert, you can purchase them for minimal price as well as ANY original old boxes. For authentic certificates, I have personally paid a few very well known and reputable clubs’ members to present me with their association’s authentic certificates with an amulet I just bought at a fake market. I shall not review the rest.)
Basically, the factory can make any mould of any kind. Some of the temples also ordered replicas for fund raising and some idiots would eventually buy them and sell as an old piece especially to unknown individual as they have the receipt from the temple and claiming to be a chedi piece (amulets from the pagoda of the temple that has been in there for few hundred years).
Photos can never necessary tell you whether it is real or fake because even on a Phra Somdej, we need all 360 angle alone for their identification points with a loupe. Even if you had taken clear pictures for the experts for viewing, your winning battle is only 50% at most based on the pixilated materials and half the identification points. So I really don’t recommend you to buy through viewing photos unless you really know what you are doing.
Do not be con by vendors selling amulets that are in gold casings! I’ve known a guy to purchase a fake amulet in gold casing. Due to good presentation he was conned. He sold his gold casing later on and recovered some of his loss. May his spirit be blessed.
Please have some knowledge in whatever you want to wear or collect. Some of these amulets are considered antiques and there are ways to identify them. I have already put up some ebooks for free so please just waste a little bit of data downloading and read them.
Now one of the good methods recommended by many is to have a real piece so you can understand the rest of the pieces. But if you have no way to get one or you are not confident about your knowledge and there’s nothing for you to compare to, here are four other ways to do it.
- Get a trusted expert to identify for you provided he has no other agenda. And if his verdict is not positive, ask to give you his explanation as to why. Recently, friends asked why not show amulets around to other experts for verdict? I then brought him to visit as many experts I can find on short notice to get verdict. Now here’s the fun part. Every expert had their own methods of viewing amulets. So what might be real may seem not to be as positive as they think. During which, they will have a hidden agenda to sell you instead of telling you the truth by showing you the difference between their piece and yours. So unless you know someone reputable in the market and are trust worthy, don’t do it. Don’t just ask ANYONE!
- Take part in competition. Some competition in Thailand still wants to uphold their association’s reputation. However if you are reading this, you are probably not local so do make some friends and ask for their advice. Few things to be careful are not to pass your amulets to anyone while leaving your eyes and well, don’t be gullible SWAP! They might use someone else or even the judge to come tell you it is not real and shit just so to get you on their side and sell you their amulets. You never know if they’re trying to make friends so just hang around. Once you see their plot, just ignore they’re harmless.
- The famous C14 known by many collectors, is a radiocarbon dating method that surface during the late 1940s by Willard Libby who later received a nobel prize in the 1960s. It is used as a standard tool for archeologist to measure the age of an object that contains organic material which, is essentially once a living things. It is however not a preferred method for items over 4000 years (safe figure). C14 basically dates materials of carbon from organic origin so the older the item is, the less carbon it has. “For amulets such as Phra Somdej would be a perfect specimen since it is still within safety zone and of variations carbon to many organic materials” as commented by a researcher. University that has research facilities would scrap off materials they need to conclude such as the banana seeds, pollens or rice (half of Phra Somdej materials are of organic origin). Hence, the test result would shows you the rough years (+/-10% according to researchers for safety) in which you can gauge the approximate years it was created (For example, piece that shows you 170 years of age basically means 153-187 years of age). So according to experts of Phra Somdej, Archan Mongkhon Chatmongkhon, Archan Thep Chiangrai and Archan Thep Lue-si and ex-government employee Krom Silapakorn said in the Phra Somdej contest held at seri center during 25th May 2551 that, “According to the principles of archeology and history, Phra Somdej which is older than 144 years (2559) are consider genuine”. Yes, Because the fake Phra Somdej were created somewhat 60 years ago in Hong Kong using computerize laser system to copy the image from a genuine Phra Somdej, microwaved to make the exterior look old (that is why some considered breaking the piece to view the material inside) and then proceed to making many different copies which later to be sold to gullible parties. These fake amulets are still circulating in Asia as the fake pieces back then were also sold to rich foreigners from Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and etc. That is why some pieces given by parents or grandfather may not necessary be genuine.
- Under the microscope. A good friend of mine uses this to view his amulets and told me that it is undeniably easy to distinguish real or fake once under this somewhat 4000X microscope. I wonder how much it is though.
Lastly, do understand the material of Krittiyakom powder made by Somdej Toh. Many competition judges do consider the visibility of the powder to be one of the most important factor of a Phra Somdej. But don’t be upset if you can’t find it because, there are many ways to get your piece verified for your peace of mind. If you need any information or clarification, do send in an email to me and i’ll try my best to reply you promptly. All the best to your endeavors and god bless.