replicas of historic Indian artifacts


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Apr 15, 2009
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A number of years back, I was speaking to a well known Indian artifact collector at his home. He had a dag which I thought was amazing. I was friends with John Baldwin for number of years before his passing and had looked at his book "Early Knives & Beaded Sheaths of the American Frontier" (Of the American Frontier Series)

This dag was offered a year later to me at a decent price. I started researching it for my collection. Little was known about it except it was rumored to be in the Dances With Wolves movie possibly.

After a few weeks my attention turned to the BKB91 label on the relic. This was supposed to be the production movies catalog label so the item could be tracked and returned. I soon found this BKB91 label was Bill and Kathy Brewer label indicating their organization. [ see below email traffic ]

Researching Bill and Kathy Brewer I soon found another like dag which was sold for $1,400.00 at an auction house at of Santa Fe. This sale price was well over the price a like dag was offered to me.

Long story short; I did not purchase the dag even though it is somewhat collectible. The attached images of the dag is the dag I was offered to purchase.

So why am I writing this? To let others know that there are makers of these historic items which are made well enough to fool experts and to share information and knowledge.

See below column from the Nov 1990 Chicago Tribune

Checkout Bill and Kathy Brewer linkedin page

-- + -- + -- + MY EMAIL TRAFFIC WITH KATHY + -- + -- + -- + -- +
From: BIll and Kathy Brewer <>
To: J<email removed>
Sent: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 10:00 PM
Subject: Re: BKB91 Knife

O.K. <name removed>,
Thanks for sending the images! Yes, this is a knife and sheath we made in 1991. Bill now believes, and I agree, that this was probably the sheath and dagger we made for a special exhibit of replicas from Dances With Wolves that we made for Centaur West Gallery in Wheaton, IL. They had a special showing of items we duplicated from some of the props we had made for the movie; none were in the movie, but were our copies of our own items. The Gallery, which also sold Indian jewelry and other modern Indian art, had a special exhibit opening featuring about a dozen or so pieces we made especially for them, based on our movie items. I think this was in the fall of 1991.

Bill says the blade is rough because we were out of nice shiny blades, and he had to cast one himself out of babbit metal and grind it down. That is why it looks so rough-hewn. So, in this case, I believe everything here was made by Bill (and I did the beadwork on the sheath). We were under a deadline to get all the pieces done, so that is another reason he had to make his own blade; he didn't have time to find a blacksmith forged blade or a modern created one (the commercial ones they now have at Crazy Crow Trading Post may not have been available back then).

So, if this is from the Centaur West Gallery (which I don't even think is there anymore), this was special made for their Dances With Wolves exhibit. They had a big crowd come to their opening, and I have no idea who bought the dagger and sheath (the owners bought the items directly from us, and sold them at additional cost). But, it is a good replica of the movie piece, as Kevin Costner's character carried this prop during most of the movie, so it is collectible, just not from the movie itself.

We would probably make an item like this for around $800.00-900.00 today, so that gives you a current value. Thanks again for contacting us and sending the pictures!

On Mar 26, 2013, at 4:51 PM, <name removed> wrote:
Bill & Kathy Brewer,

Thank you for speaking with me today about the item.
See attached images.

After reading about your work on the internet, I felt this was your work. If you can tell me anything about it, I would appreciate it greatly all information you have on this item.

Thank you,

J<name removed>

-- + -- + -- + Nov 1990 Chicago Tribune NEWSPAPER COLUMN -- + -- + -- +

Bill And Kathy Brewer`s Reproductions Of Indian Artifacts Are Too Good: They Fool Experts And Leave A Trail Of Controversy
November 20, 1990|By Tom Uhlenbrock, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

GREENVILLE, ILL. — Artifact or artifake? The confusion is growing in the Indian art market, and Bill and Kathy Brewer are at the center of the controversy. In fact, when members of the Gateway Indian Art Club of St. Louis met recently to discuss a coming arts and crafts show, mere mention of the Brewers` name ignited a heated debate.

One side was eager to invite the couple from this small community, about 40 miles east of St. Louis, to participate; they wanted the two artisans on hand to offer their restoration services and display their reproductions of Plains Indian beadwork, dolls, weapons and other items.

The other side argued that the Brewers had no place in any show of items- antique or contemporary-made by American Indians.

The Brewers` work has caused similar arguments at art galleries and auction houses from New York to Santa Fe.

The problem is this: Their craftsmanship is too good. Not even the so-called experts can tell a turn-of-the-century piece made by the Sioux, Crow or Cheyenne from a Brewer reproduction.

"We were chewed out at a recent auction in Santa Fe by some dealers,"

Kathy Brewer recalls. "They said we had no business making stuff as good as we do."

So highly regarded is the Brewers` work that the producers of the new Kevin Costner movie about a 19th Century cavalryman`s relationship with the Sioux, "Dances With Wolves," hired the couple this year to provide them with props and costumes.

"It started out as a $15,000 order for weapons," Kathy Brewer says.

"They sent us a script, and then the set director called and said, `What does the inside of a medicine man`s teepee look like?` And then a chief`s teepee. They ordered everything Bill drew.

It just kept mushrooming-shields, parfleche. They said they were trying to make this movie the most screen-authentic ever made."

The Brewers estimate they created more than 200 items for the film, including eight buffalo-horn headdresses, at a total cost of $37,000. They get screen credit for their work.

They did similar work for "Son of the Morning Star," a TV mini-series scheduled to air in February. It stars Gary Cole as George Armstrong Custer and Rosanna Arquette as his wife.

The controversy over the Brewers` reproductions has become more heated as the cost of items on the Indian art market has soared. The sale of a Navaho first-phase (earliest) chief`s blanket for nearly $500,000 at Sotheby`s auction house in New York last fall triggered an explosion in the prices of museum-quality items.

Meanwhile, many collectors have been burned by paying top dollar for pieces advertised as antique and Indian-made only to find they`re Brewer originals.

The Brewers advertise their work as reproductions and sign the pieces with the initials "BKB" and the year they`re made. But invariably some of their creations find their way into galleries or auction houses as the real thing.

"I talked to a guy at the Indian show in Chicago," Bill Brewer says.

"He said he was in Paris and saw a Cheyenne pipebag for sale in a shop. He looked inside and saw our initials."

If the Brewers know in advance that one of their items is included in a sale of Indian art, they notify the dealer or auction house. "We made a painted Apache gun case that ended up at Sotheby`s," Kathy Brewer says. "It got sold-$7,000-because we didn`t get the (auction) catalog until later. We wrote them and sent a picture of the piece in progress.

"They had to give the lady her money back. She called us, and we made her a case just like it for $250. Because some of the prices are so high, they`re creating a market for reproductions."

At an auction during this year`s Indian Market in Santa Fe, the Brewers found one of their items pictured in the catalog, a Crow drum valued at $12,000. It was pulled after the Brewers notified the auction`s sponsor.

"We call who`s in charge and let them know we made it," Bill Brewer says. "Sometimes they won`t believe us. They`ll say, `It`s got a good provenance (pedigree),` Most of the items come with a story behind them. It seems like there`s something we made in about every auction we go to."

Adds Kathy Brewer: "Some of the things we`re seeing now coming into catalogs we sold years ago" at Indian festivals.

The Brewers photograph each finished piece. "A lot of dealers, what they`re doing now is buying sets of our photographs," Kathy Brewer says. She points out that the couple can stop the resale of their items only if they`re pictured in the catalogs, which often show less than half of what`s offered.

"Who knows how much of the other stuff goes through?" she says.

Boyhood interest
Bill Brewer began making Indian items as a boy. "I remember being interested in Indian stuff when I was 4 years old," he says. "I started making bows and arrows, gunnysack war shirts."

In high school, he and a couple of friends made American Indian outfits and began performing Indian dances at Lion`s Club meetings, county fairs and powwows. He remembers two publications, a book called "Here`s Your Hobby-Indian Dancing" and the magazine Powwow Trails, as influencing his early work.

"They gave detailed descriptions on how things are made and gave bibliographies of other books," he says. "We learned how to make things correct."

FOR THE RECORD - Additional material published Nov. 21, 1990:
Corrections and clarifications.
An article and photo caption on Page One of the Tempo section Nov. 20, mistakenly reported that Bill and Kathy Brewer of Greenville, Ill., who make reproductions of Indian artifacts, had made costumes for the movie "Dances With Wolves." They made props and set decorations but not costumes.

The Brewers met at Greenville College, where both were studying art. After graduation in 1976, Bill Brewer took a job with an architect, and his wife went to work for a printer.

Bill Brewer`s twin brother, Bob, shared his interest in Indians, eventually moving to Canada "to teach Canadian Indians how to do Indian crafts," Bill Brewer says.

By 1981, both Bill and Kathy Brewer were making Indian items, and that summer they took examples to a national festival in Topeka, Kan.

"We sold almost everything we brought," Kathy Brewer says. "That`s when we decided we`d both quit our jobs and see how it goes. We`ve never looked back from there."

The couple largely did restoration work, and made pieces for private collectors and museums. Museums in Canada, Wyoming, Oklahoma and California also commissioned pieces, often to hang in place of native artifacts too delicate or deteriorated to display. The items aren`t always identified as reproductions, the Brewers say.

This year, income from TV and movies has been a boon to the Brewers, who live in a modest, one-story frame home. The house needs repair, but for now the couple`s extra income is going toward their first love: the acquisition of authentic Indian items.

"We`ve made enough to go out a couple of times a year and buy a few old things," Kathy Brewer says.

No one`s infallible
To anybody who has seen, touched and held the real thing, much of the fake material on the American Indian market is clearly inferior. Mexican rugs are poor imitations of Navaho rugs and blankets. And African baskets may copy Apache figures, but they`re worlds apart in the quality of the weave.

Picking out the phony products isn`t always easy, however.

To a collector, prehistoric pottery, especially Mimbres pictorial pieces, can look good, but the pieces are sometimes so heavily restored as to be worthless. Wary buyers often do their shopping with a black light, which highlights newer clay.

Even Bill Brewer has been fooled. He has the proof on a shelf in his bathroom. "It`s a kachina doll I bought that wasn`t old," he says. "I keep it as a reminder that I`m not infallible."

Bill Brewer estimates there are a "handful" of people in the U.S. who do high-quality reproduction work. Among them, he says, is brother Bob, who now lives in Montana and worked on the Costner movie and the TV mini-series.

The Brewers go to great lengths to achieve the look of authenticity. Leather goods, for example, are made from brain-tanned hides. "You simmer the (animal) brains until you have a paste," says Bill Brewer. "It`s the oils of the brain that preserve the hide."

"He even casts his own tomahawk heads," Kathy Brewer says. "You can`t find good ones anymore."

Wear marks are added to all the Brewers` creations. A sprinkling of vacuum-cleaner dust gives the patina of age to beadwork.

The real clue to the age of a beaded item, Bill Brewer says, are the beads themselves. But he cautions that an untrained eye without a magnifier will have a hard time telling whether the beads are trade items the Indians obtained decades ago from the white man, or are of more recent manufacture.

The couple is eager to volunteer advice to collectors.
"Look at everything twice," Bill Brewer says. "Any kind of old thing that shows wear and yet is complete, I`d be wary."

Adds Kathy Brewer: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

Artifakes - tribunedigital-chicagotribune


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Silver Member
Apr 15, 2013
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Very good read about artifakes. You may want to read the small paper back Artifacts/Artifakes The Proceedings of The 1984 Plains Indian Seminar which took place in The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody Wyoming published in 1992. It goes into great detail of how far back that artifakes were made. I myself have reproduced some items that later I have found on E-bay like an arrow that I made that cost $25 at the time and it was selling for $450. I contacted E-bay but the show went on. Here is a sample of my work. bow 001.JPG 1st pics 009.JPG Bear Knifes 009.JPG My items are not made to trick anyone but some folks don't use their brain when it comes to buying something. It would be like finding a model A Ford car with a shiny paint job and someone tell you that it is the factory paint job and nothing as ever been touched on the car. Like it said in the article ,If it looks to good to be true then most of the time it is not true. There are tons of people that make reproductions and they are not trying to cheat anyone, but then there are some that are out to cheat everyone.


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The old grey ghost are easy to identify compared to the items made by the Brewers. Interestingly enough there are old grey ghost made of Edwards Plateau chert by Bryan Reinhardt and more modern made by others. Not to be confused with Tussinger's eccentrics.

Lithic Casting Lab has great information on both
Reinhardt grey ghost Bryan Reinhardt's Flint Spear "Gray Ghosts" Page 1
Tussinger's eccentrics. Mr. Tussinger's Magnificent Eccentrics


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Feb 16, 2014
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"Bill Brewer says. "Any kind of old thing that shows wear and yet is complete, I'd be wary."

Adds Kathy Brewer: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

Jon Stewart

Bronze Member
Jan 11, 2011
If you find it then you know for sure. If it is a gift there are some suspicions about the piece and rightly so.

Good looking stuff Monsterrack. Did you stain the blade on the knife to give it that look?


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Apr 15, 2013
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If you find it then you know for sure. If it is a gift there are some suspicions about the piece and rightly so.

Good looking stuff Monsterrack. Did you stain the blade on the knife to give it that look?

I used a way of dyeing the stone and then put on some antiquing . Thanks !!!!!!!!!


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Oct 12, 2011
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hmmm...i have three of those knives!...:)

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