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A quick guide to identifying fake trilobites!

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

Finest detail, top quality prepared trilobites, prepared in-detail by experts in Morocco or in EU, USA..., are mostly authentic and natural - usually just cracks glued where the rock was split or minor restoraton to missing parts. In detail prepared trilobites! All trilobites sold in are 100% authentic and if restored, restoration disclosed exactly, with step by step preparation photos of each specimen also always available. What about the rest?

Often described with superlatives as "rare", "superb", "fantastico", "in perfetto stato", "nice"... But in reality: common, butchered, destroyed, fake, FAKE, heavily restored and partial remains... And often not cheap at all, often not even cheap compared to better preservation and preparation quality!

On the other hand, often seen cheaply sold massacred Moroccan trilobite specimens, sold by many resellers online or at fossil shows, usually have "issues". Some species are more often fake than other, but it could be concluded that fakes of Moroccan trilobites are generally not problematic for serious trilobite collectors and are easily examined, so not confusing for science, nor collectors, except for beginners! Price is never a proof of authenticity, but you usually get what you pay for.

Although often described with superlatives as "rare", "superb", "fantastico", "in perfetto stato", "nice" in shops online... Are in reality: common, butchered, destroyed, fake, heavily restored and partial remains... And often not cheap at all, often not even cheap compared to better quality! All usually offered by your typical ebay listing and non-professional resellers!

For example! How a real Dicranurus trilobite looks:

Authentic in-detail prepared Dicranurus monstrosus trilobite, all natural, prep A.Ž.

And a total 100% fake Dicranurus from non-professional resellers:

2. photo: A total fake of Dicranurus monstrosus - "plastic" resin cast, completely fake (difficult to see on photo, but checked in hand, perhaps 3% of real parts in horns, the rest is just sculptured matrix and paint and resin plastic)

Spines or hornes prepared flying are not a sign of fakery, but in most cases of massacred quick prepared trilobites, be careful!

1. rule: If the preparator did not preserve the finest details (check the eyes, tubercles, pores, etc. etc. - all fine skin details of each specific specie) and the spines are prepared flying, chances are: composition or total fake...

2. rule: Check the matrix and cracks running through the trilobite. All devonian trilobites are found splitting matrix and parts often need to be glued together.

3. rule: Random scratches all around the trilobite on the matrix are not a sign of fakery, nor proof of authenticity. Scratches like that are sometimes added to hide signs of fakery, but can also just mean preparator didn't spend time to landscape the matrix. See how nicely the matrix is shaped in 2. photo above and 3. photo below - total fakes and no scratches!

4. rule: "Pochi soldi, poca musica"! I'm sure you know it one way or the other. When you buy fossils, price alone does not make a bargain or a good deal. It does not guarantee authenticity either, but if in example a Dicranurus like looking trilobite costs 150 euro or 20 euro or if a Scutellum like looking trilobite is sold for 15 euro or a Phacopsid or Hollardops like looking trilobite costs 3 or 5 euro... Be carefull or expect a cast!

5. rule: Check the details of each specimen, eyes especially, because some details are not easy to fake fast and cheap. Check for resin bubbles, holes in matrix and in the skin of the fossil. You could also check with UV light, but acrylic colors don't fluorescence in UV. Best way to check for restorations or fakes is to check details with high magnification. If you are familiar with the morphology of the species, most Moroccan fakes are easy to spot.

6. rule: buy from reputable dealers or ask for step by step preparation photo showing the prep-process...

An example of a fake Scutellid trilobite:

3. photo: Completelly fake Scutellum trilobite - resin cast placed in matrix, shaped and painted, 100% fake sold cheap

Box of 100% fake Scutellum like trilobites, quick fakery, placed in matrix... All sold by non-professional reselles in fossil shows cheaply with a bunch of minerals and other fossils

A real one to compare:

100% authentic and natural Scutellum sp., prep by A.Ž.

Some more often seen fakes:

100% fake Drotops like trilobite, resin cast placed in matrix, sold cheap at fossil shows

A real Drotops to compare:

For comparison: 100% authentic and natural Drotops megalomanicus, colors real and natural too, prep by A.Ž.

100% authentic Drotops, the same as in photo above, ammonium chloride coating to show detail clearer - details that usually tell the difference between fake and authentic...

100% fake Drotops:

Box full of 100% total fake Drotops like trilobites as sold in fossil shows cheaply...

What next? More fakes:

More fakes, all 100% fake! These are resin casts, easy to spot when you know what to look for, but notice how the matrix looks. Sold cheap... Fake Scutellids, fake Dicranurus, fake Hollardops, fake Psychopyge, fake Crotalocephalina and other phacopsid like trilobites... Totally fake!

The quality of fakes varies a little, some are better and some terrible, but mostly all easy to spot for experienced fossil collectors, that's why most of these sold cheap by mineral sellers...

Box full of 100% fake Hollardops trilobites - resin cast sold cheap, 100% fake

Box full of phacopsids and crotalocephalina like trilobites, 100% fakes!

Another box full of 100% fakes - fake Dicranurus, casts... And natural but massacred and restored enrolled Drotops in the mix...

So, what makes different from majority of other sellers? In commercial preparation, quality is unfortunately often sacrificed for quantity! But the 1. rule in is: 100% authentic and fine preparation quality only, because quality matters!

The difference behind a quick commercially prepared specimen and a slow more scientific approach in preparation, avoiding mistakes and preserving all details in preparation, is like night and day! Often also doesn't pay off the additional prep time and effort in case of common very affordably priced trilobites. Therefore in the case of quick commercially prepared trilobites in Morocco, mistakes in the process of quick commercial preparation are often masked or specimens massacred, damaged spines reconstructed, missing librigenia or segments restored, compositions, scribe-damage to the fossil painted over... And all such specimens sold under-valued...

Fake Ceratarges trilobite:

Fake Ceratarges trilobite! The base of the trilobite looks partially authentic, massacred quick prep, perhaps cast, in any case all eyes and spines are totally fake! Notice how matrix looks? Notice the cheap price?

How preparation of a real Ceratarges looks, no fake parts...takes time:

Authentic Ceratarges aries sp. nov. in preparation...

Ceratarges aries sp. nov. in above photo prepared, 100% authentic:

Ceratarges aries sp. nov, 100% authentic, just glued part; prep by A.Ž. (photo wet)

Another authentic, different species of Ceratarges, Ceratarges ziregensis trilobite:

Authentic Ceratarges ziregensis trilobite, re-prep A.Ž.

You always get what you pay for!

Trust me, 100% authentic and in-detail prepared trilobites by Moroccan experts are not sold for 10, 30 or 20 euro or in any way cheap even by Moroccan sellers. No professional Moroccan preparator/seller will sell you a 100% authentic detailed prepared spiny trilobite for i.e. 100 euro, but to understand why cheaply sold fossils/trilobites are usually fake and why good prepared authentic fossils cost more, you need to understand the efforts behind finding each fossil and the story behind the preparation of each fossil.

100% fake! Looks like massacred commercial preparation, but when examined in hand, totally fake, quick made casts placed on matrix!

A fake Hollardops trilobite:

A close up of 100% fake Hollardops trilobite - cast...

For comparison, a real Hollardops trilobite:

100% authentic Hollardops trilobite, prep by A.Ž. ...notice the difference in fine details?

A fake Barrandeops trilobite:

A close up of 100% fake Phacopsid, cast...

A real, 100% authentic Barrandeops trilobite for comparison:

100% authentic Phacopsid, Barrandeops granulops, prep by A.Ž.

An example of a fake Zlichovaspis trilobite:

A close up of 100% fake Zlichovaspis trilobite, cast...

An example of 100% authentic Zlichovaspis trilobite, close-up:

100% authentic Zlichovaspis trilobite from Issimoure Mt., prep by A.Ž.

An example of a fake Crotalocephalina trilobite:

A close up of 100% fake Crotalocephalina, cast...

Same fake as above... 100% cast

An example of 100% authentic Crotalocephalus (not the same species as Crotalocephalina gibbus) trilobite:

100% authentic Crotalocephalus from Issimoure, prep by A.Ž.

Box of different fakes:

All 100% fake! No massacred prep here, just totally fake..

What should also be noted, but is often not... Most Moroccan experts, preparators and sellers are just as professional (if not better) as professionals in EU, USA, Asia, Russia! And Moroccan fossil diggers, sellers and fossil-preparators are underrated!

Most people don't understand, don't know the difficult work that Moroccan (and other) diggers, and sellers, and fossil-preparators do to get by. And some people don't understand how good they are doing it! Some people are just interested in the cheapest price, buy a fake and then complain...

Not all trilobites prepared in Morocco are fake or massacred, that's a stereotype! Morocco is well known as the country of fakes, but majority of fossils from Morocco are authentic, although prepared commercially, you just need to know what to look for. Not all trilobites prepared in Morocco are fake, in this post however - to share knowledge, a small selection of only fakes (and authentic specimens in comparison) are introduced on photos.

Most fakes in fossil-mineral shows are easy to spot even from a distance, just as you can sometimes spot the real deal from a distance. In example, here is the display of one of the best (and well known) Moroccan preparator and seller, very professional:

All trilobites in this display are 100% authentic, prepared by well known Moroccan preparator Hammi...

Were you "suckered" into buying fake trilobites?

If you purchased a fake Moroccan trilobite from the internet, it's most likely you were suckered by resellers in USA or EU, who often deliberately and knowingly resell fakes online, usually purchased very cheap from some non-professional Moroccan resellers at fossil shows. Non-professional distribution...

There are well-known manufacturers in Morocco who produce fake trilobites. Fossil dealers, who buy locally, know these workshops. Moroccan manufacturers do not hide their production methods, and portray their product as replicas, sold very cheap. It is thus easy to say that some fossil dealers and exporters, who go to Morocco to buy trilobites or bring fakes to shows, are well aware that those trilobites from these sources are not real (easy to guess, when it costs 10, 5 or 3 euro only)! Thus, the fraud occurs through dealers/resellers, who knowingly purchase full boxes of these replicas cheaply, and subsequently dump them on the market without full disclosure. The problem is that reselling fossil fakery is more profitable as spending money or time and effort to find and prep and resell authentic and in-detailed prepared fossils.

In all fossils sold are 100% authentic (if restored, restoration disclosed exactly), with full information and step by step preparation photos of each specimen also always available.

A few more fakes photos?

A totally fake Psychopyge trilobite:

100% fake of Psychopyge trilobite... Cast, sculptured... Although it might look like a massacred prep and you can sometimes see such examples resold on ebay for hundreds of dollars, it's mostly plastic resin cast, sculptured matrix and color (perhaps closer examination would show cca. 10-20% of real parts)...

Close up of real Psychopyge spines:

Authentic Psychopyge - all spines real; re-prep A.Ž. (photo wet)

Some more fakes...a fake Harpes trilobite:

100% fake Harpes trilobite... Cast, sculpture and paint... Looks like massacred prep, but mostly plastic resin, shaped matrix and paint...

A fake Odontochille:

100% fake Odontochille...

Fake Barrandeops:

100% fake resin cast of Phacopsid (fake Barrandeops)...

Box full of different fakes... Sold cheap...

For comparison, a fake Walliserops:

Fake, 100% resin cast of Walliserops...

For comparison, a real Walliserops:

An authentic Walliserops, minor restoration to fork tips only; prep by A.Ž.

A fake Harpes trilobite:

Fake Harpes trilobite, 100% fake...

A real Harpes trilobite:

An authentic Harpes trilobite, prep by A.Ž.

How preparation of a real Harpes looks like:

More fakes:

Totally fake...

Not only trilobites, all fossils get faked and sold for cheap to unaware buyers, tourists... And not only Moroccan... Ammonites, reptiles, minerals...

Not only trilobites... Other fossils get faked aswell, ammonites, reptiles, fish etc. Here an example of sea lilies... 100% fake, cast and paint...

And not only devonian trilobites...

Partial fake, heavily restored...

All photos taken by the author, in a fossil-mineral show with permissions...

Learn, seek knowledge, information where, how, when a fossil was found and prepared, before making any purchase! Take responsibility when it comes to buying fossils, don't just spend your money looking for a bargain, the cheapest price, that's like throwing money in the garbage, inform yourself about the species, locality, prep-process, the seller, examine the details of the specimen... Educate yourself or ask for help! We are always happy to help!

Read more about fakes:

10,214 views3 comments

3 hozzászólás

jan. 30.

It's a pity that I rediscovered this excellent post now that I've finalized my new trilobites book! A chapter with your content was wonderful!


unfortunately some shows allowed this type of approach....and it is a cancer for fossil collecting


2019. okt. 29.

GREAT post Alex!

Thank you very much... unbelievable how is possible to expose and try to sell these "fossils" in an so important worldwide mineral & fossils expo... :-(

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