Fake PAF and PAT # pickups
Here is a sheet of typical fake patent waterslides currently on Ebay. The good thing about most fakers is they are total amateurs. The "fakeness" can be recognized immediately. This particular example is a sheet of 210 decals being offered on Ebay for $1400. I don't know who made them and perhaps it was never their intention to get it right. I see this version offered all over the place as "accurate". If you are going to do replica than at least try.
All pictures are "clickable" to enlarge.
Here are some examples of REAL pafs
Whats the difference? Lets look in detail
A Real Pat # Pickup
Pat # decal comparison
Here is a better yet still inaccurate PAF decal being offered on Ebay by a different seller. The decal is better but there is one big clue the pickup is not real.
Compared to a real one
Notes and Conclusion:
Original Gibson decals are silkscreened with solvent based inks. There are two colors, black and gold. The outline is not gold. Over time the decal material yellows and in photos the perimeter can look gold. It is not. In hand its quite easy to see. The outline is ambered (yellowed) clear. Solvent ink/pigments appear age differently than today's product. The old school decals also seem to have been done using a mesh that was perhaps to course for the job. You can see it in the gold. These decals were produced more than once as some appear messy, others quite clean. Screens can get clogged as well so a run could start clean and end up looking not so great. The size of the outline varies. Some are thin others have a larger outline. Since these decals were utilitarian and not meant to be seen by the customer, I am certain they were done cheaply and quickly. Detail was not important. The tough part is recreating the imperfections later. It takes talent.
New decals are usually made by computer reliant people with no background in old school methods. They make the mistakes of first picking a "close" computer font to the original, then laying it out with the computer which justifies letters and words too perfectly. One can adjust this but most are to reliant and lazy. Or they just don't know what detail is. Most seem to miss the letter and word placements being way off relative to each other (compared to originals). In really bad examples the decals are printed using thermal transfer printers and not silkscreen at all. The Gold on these looks like gold foil. Also very common in Fake headstock decals being sold on Ebay.
There are good fakes. Occasionally you will get a working mix like a qualified silkscreener who also is a big guitar fan. This person with the knowledge, eye for detail and a real PAF in hand could easily duplicate the decals. This has been done. Its very hard to verify these of course as they have been done correctly. You don't see this kind of product all over the place like the crap is but good replica certainly exists.
Really good replica stuff is quite hard to find. Its always a mix of trades and those with vintage knowledge. A good luthier is likely not a machinist, silkscreener, plastics experts, etc etc. see where I am going with this? Really good replica is limited to those with the time, knowledge, and connections to get many pieces of a single puzzle done. It is very expensive. Crap is cheap and easy. Its no different than any other industry. The reason fake Tiffany jewellery on Ebay is not perfect is the same as guitar replica. The details are what is expensive. Tiffany spends $ on great designs then polishes the pieces off to great finished detail. The cheap knock of cannot recreate those details on their budget (and substitutes material for gold and silver). You will see the flaws immediately in the knock off. Vintage guitar parts are certainly not Tiffany jewellery, but recreating the scars and imperfections of old can be even more difficult.