(Fake) letters

Magnifying glass - FAKE! (Click for larger image in a new window)We’ve gotten many comments from our posts on “fakes,” which you can read here and here if you like. While we here at Guided by History really enjoy hearing from you, I do fear we haven’t made the message about fakes clear enough.

In those posts, we’d hoped to help everyone understand how stuff out there came to be Wells Fargo stuff. That is, how someone stamped a Wells Fargo shield or badge or name on a thing, so that they could try to sell it for more. After many years in attics or barns or over fireplaces, the thing is discovered by a person—possibly like Randy Coddington—who asks us what it is and how much it’s worth:

i have a marlin model 19 pump 12 gauge with hammer,stock has wells fargo co. express,s.f. cal. where you put shells in is,w.f.&co. oldest pat. date is 1894,newest 1904,i don’t think it’s a fake,but maybe you could tell me something about this gun,any info would be helpful,thanks.

In the post I’d written, “Wells Fargo never had guns made. Armed personnel supplied their own equipment.” Unfortunately, Randy, that means your gun with Wells Fargo markings is simply not Wells Fargo.

I also wrote at the beginning of that post—before people get bored and stop reading, I was SO sure!—that we’re frequently “asked about guns and belt buckles most often. But the items folks ask about are dramatically varied: binoculars, lanterns, brass plaques, scales, Bowie knives, axes, handcuffs, mirrors and desks.” It didn’t take long to get this from Wade:

we bought a pair of binoculars that have a brass stamp that says property of wells fargo @co express sanfrancisco division. we wonder if it is real? please email if anybody knows. thanks

Binoculars - FAKE!I know. It ain’t … sorry.

I also wondered why Wells Fargo would make so many “official” belt buckles. I mean, if we didn’t make special harnesses or wagons—actual, functional gear, necessary gear—why in heaven’s name would we waste time providing belt buckles? It’s as logical as it is hilarious. Nevertheless, reader Randy asks:

Okay-I have a Wells Fargo Belt Buckle. On the Front it has the Name Chico. on The Back it Says ” Reward If Returned with Belt & Attachments COD to Any WF & Co. Banking House in Cal.” Also has NTY and Tiffanys Broadway New York on It. Is This A Real Antique?? Thanks


One post also had a photograph of an ersatz silver ingot, linked to images called “Fake Wells Fargo silver bars.” Naturally, we got:

So i have come across a 12 ounce silver bar stamped with wells fargo co. stamped on it. I know more than likely it fake but is there any way you can tell that it is real. It has a banker No.773, what looks like a tracking number 11281854, assay 90.7, and #110 stamped on it. If it is fake I will probably scrap it if it is even 900 silver at all. I know you get these questions all the time but any advice would be greatfuly appreciated. Thank you

To David, my advice is perhaps to show it at gatherings, and tell everyone the story of how fakes are made. It’s a better story than dreams of undiscovered treasure. It really is.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset. It’s just that we answered the questions before they were asked. Heck, we even had pictures. I’m just sayin….

Bowie knife and badge - FAKE!Folks, let me say it here and now: It’s a fake and it isn’t worth anything. But if you really think you’ve got something there, take it to an auction house, or send them an email with a photo. They will give you the scoop.

And if it turns a one-in-a-million real deal, you’ll see me there at auction!

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3 Responses to (Fake) letters

  1. David Raygoza says:


    Awhile back, I bought some old documents in a shoe box. They are letters addressed to Mr. Dunning Rideout of Marysville from a J.C. Campmbell, dated May 15th , 1919 regarding properties known as the Pennsylvania, Dannebrog and Hawkeyes Mines.
    They are extensive surveys of the mines ore capabilities. Another Document is entitled “Letter from Brown’s Valley from the appeal of May 12,1864. Any idea how I can validate these or if someone might find these of interest?

  2. Peter says:

    Being a collector of Wells Fargo Express artifacts, I could certainly appreciate the content of this blog. Because of the immense popularity of the name “WELLS FARGO”, its intriguing the vast array of fantasy and reproduction items that are “out there”. In spite of the infinite amount of information available on the internet, people still are falling victim to purchasing an item with the belief that it has direct legitimate connection to Wells Fargo & Co. Express. We must remind one another – knowledge is power.


  3. chris says:

    i have a pair of handcuff that have a plate on them with wellsfargo on them with the number 282 on the cuff and then the key its a pull key so u have to pull the key to un lock them u screw the key in and then pull it out till it releases the key has the number 251 on it just looking for info if real and if so how much are they worth tks

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