There are three crucial tips to follow when collecting artifacts from the American Civil War era - study, study more, and study even further.Prices of these relics have skyrocketed in the past few years, thus creating an environment conducive to the production of fakes and forgeries. Poor quality forgeries fool the uninformed collector, while skillful reproductions seem to fool the rest.According to several collectors, one of the places to be most wary of is the sale of Civil War items via eBay auctions, a venue that seems to be offering fakes at epidemic proportions.Here are a few warning signs with regard to any Internet auction purchase:An auction listing that reads to the effect, “I don’t know anything about this item so it is being sold as is with a no return policy. You be the judge whether or not it is authentic.” Often access has been blocked to the bidder’s list, thus preventing others from contacting the bidders to warn of a fake. Read the feedback on the seller carefully, not just the number of positive feedbacks.An item that appears to be selling well under market value is probably not authentic. If it were authentic, collectors would have run up the bids at the beginning of the auction. Many fake items sold on eBay are originating from Alabama, Tennessee and Maine.Whether purchasing Civil War items online or otherwise, the following are tips that should be helpful:Buy only from someone who will provide a money back guarantee of authenticity. Study before buying. Know which soldier fought in which region and what state he was from. Many good buys can still be found at estate and garage sales as well as flea markets, but beware of reproductions found in the these places, too. Train your eyes to watch for telltale signs. For example, tea or coffee applied to paper or wood can make it appear yellow and aged. Ink used in the Civil War would be faded to a light gray or blue hue (depending on the type used), and would not remain a deep crisp black color. Pay close attention to detail.To simplify things, get into the habit of carrying a magnifying glass to better read the writing. Learn the weight and material used to make authentic metal pieces. Reproductions will likely be lighter in weight as well as measurements being out of proportion. Note the difference in color between original items and reproductions. People that have become proficient in forgery have also become excellent chemists, using a wide variety of substances to artificially age a product made in Taiwan only three months ago. Ask fellow collectors if there have been recent forgeries and fakes floating around the area. They’re rarely bashful about telling how much they were taken for, by whom and on what item.Collecting Civil War artifacts can be a rewarding way to pass many hours as well as gaining a wealth of knowledge. Stick to a few basics rules and you’ll be far less likely to get stuck with a fake.