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Written by BMWVMCA NEWS   
Tuesday, 29 July 2008

From the President’s Corner: Serial Numbers, Fraud and the Right to Honesty           

I saw a film about fifteen years ago starring Jim Belushi and Allison Porter. “CURLY SUE” was the title. It was an enjoyable story about how a somewhat shady fellow (Belushi) inherited a baby girl (Porter) from an overdosing mom. He raised her in the best fashion that he knew. When Curly Sue was about ten years old, the question of right and wrong came up. She asked her adoptive dad if he obeyed the laws of the land. He answered candidly, “All the good ones.”           

Who determines which are the ‘good ones’? Different countries as well as different states and counties have different laws. Most political entities have laws on their books covering fraud, counterfeiting and intentional misrepresentation.           

Without going through a course in International Law and independent research looking up ‘all the good ones’, I think we can all safely agree that none of us likes getting burned in a transaction and should use common courtesy, sense and honesty in all our dealings.            As long as people collect and place values on antiques, art, coins, stamps, guns and old BMWs, there will be a few dishonest people who will counterfeit, deface or otherwise knowingly misrepresent their wares.           

I am not trying to put any caps on how much someone should ask for their bikes. That isn’t the point here. As a friend told me waaayyy back when I was young, “A man has a right to ask anything he wants for his merchandise.”  But he doesn’t have the right to cheat the buyer.           

Two millennia past, the Romans collected antique statuary dug up from what was then ancient ruins. People even then were interested in collecting something that would represent their ancestry or provide a link with the past. Counterfeiters were also busy sculpting crude artifacts and burying them with iron filings and other minerals that would give the ‘artifacts’ an aged patina. Unsuspecting wealthy Romans bought them, and the illicit trade flourished. Today, those counterfeits are collectors’ items in themselves. But, back then, they were worthless when the truth was uncovered.           

We have  similar circumstances today with pre-war R12’s, R71’s, R66’s and R35’s, plus post war R68’s. It’s easy to counterfeit an R68 if an R69 engine and an R51/3 frame are available. Simply remove the existing serial numbers and stamp in new ones. Even the BMW roundel stamps are being accurately reproduced and available to anyone who wants them.            Doctored up vintage bikes are showing up on the internet and in the market place. Pre-war plunger framed series (twins) and R35’s seem to be the most common and easiest to fake.

The R35 was made after the war at Eisenach, in the former DDR, or the Soviet Occupied Zone. The post war R35 was assembled from existing stocks of parts. Because most of the tooling was still available, production resumed with some minor changes in the design. This new R35 was at first sold as a BMW, until BMW won litigation against the factory at Eisenach in 1949, after which the name and logo were changed to EMW. Eisenach built about three times as many R35’s as did pre-war BMW. Though the EMW’s are good bikes, they are not pre-war BMW’s, and should never be represented as such. But they are being offered for sale to unsuspecting buyers as though they were!           

The R61, 71, 51 and 66 are all part of the pre-war plunger framed series. R71’s are being counterfeited using Russian M72 and Chinese Chiang Jiang parts. Some of these fakes are crudely done and would not fool anyone, while others are difficult to tell from the originals. The same goes for the R66, a somewhat high dollar bike today.            

Armed with available parts, today’s technology and the will to deceive, dishonest people are making a living by selling these fakes to a growing body of BMW collectors.           

When the laws of a country become too stringent for these people, as in Holland, they simply move to another country such as Belgium where they can continue their trade unopposed.

The point of this editorial is to remind prospective buyers that ‘Caveat Emptor’ is still the rule. ‘Buyer Beware!’ See it, feel it, touch it. Get a second opinion from a trusted expert before you transfer your hard earned cash.

Personally, I do not want to wait around two thousand years for a fake today to become a valuable collector’s item. 

Richard Sheckler


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 29 July 2008 )
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