ROBINETTE, GEORGE WILLIAM

Copyright 2000 - 2019 John N. Lupia, III

George and Sidney Robinette with their Exhibition Cabinet of their Indian Relic Collection.

George William Robinette (1851-1916), was born on May 19, 1851, in Russell County, Virginia.

On April 27, 1872, he married Sidney Jane McReynolds (1853-1937). They had twelve children of which three were sons, one died at birth.

Like most American farmers from the beginning of American farming history men enjoyed antiquarian studies and in the process acquired stamps, curios, coins, and other collectibles and George W. Robinette was no different. What makes him stand out in American numismatic history is not his coin collection which was probably a trifle. But, we must be objective and come to the realization that many of these insignificant collections often contained what are todays coveted rare gems selling at auction for small fortunes. What numismatic gems or trite pieces graced the drawers of his cabinet have not been recorded, or at least such record is not known to have survived. What significance G. W. Robinette has in American numismatic history is the jeopardy he placed the Chapman Brothers in, particularly Henry Chapman, Jr., the resident Indian relic expert, who sold many of Robinettes fakes. A nation wide scandal and investigation into the fake Indian relic industry was being systematically exposed in a series of articles in The Archaeologist in 1898. Henry Chapman's name surfaced since so many purchased these from him, he was a national suspect.

Robinette advertisement published in The American Magazine of Natural Science, Vol. 1, No. 3, August (1892) : 24

Robinette selling and trading his Indian relics to the Chapman Brothers, postmarked October 1, 1897, Flag Pond, Virginia. Note the Roman numeral three penciled in lower left corner. This was inscribed by Fred Langford a famous stamp dealer who going through all of the mail sorted them by classification to identify rare stamps. In this case the postage stamp Scott #252a with a CV = $20, for the stamp alone. Rare labels and obscure scoundrels add $100+ then add historic significance value which is priceless. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive. For sale. This item and his family of over 28,000 are looking for a good institutional home. 

The American Archaeologist, ran a very lengthy series of articles on counterfeit American Indian relics in 1898. In the course of publication and replies from readers a very intriguing story began to unfold focusing on different kinds of fake relics but also their geographic regions and names of known sources. Among them were a certain class of Indian relics traceable to G. W. Robinette, Flag Pond, Virginia. He in turn was the supplier to Henry Chapman, Jr., who now needed to be exonerated since Chapman sold a great number of Robinettes fakes to his clients and his innocence needed to be attested to.  Fortunately, a Philadelphian aware of the situation who knew Henry and the bad press stories in which he could easily have been caught in the crossfire, came to his rescue with an editorial.

"In your May number you exposed the "flint crook," a unique type with which the country is now flooded. The gentleman who seems to be able to furnish any quantity of these "crooks" is G. W. Robinette, of Flag Pond, Va. Some time ago  a dealer in the west shipped me over a dozen of these "crooks" and stated that he had at least twenty on hand. He said he got them mostly from Robinette.

A few days ago Mr. Chapman, of Philadelphia, a dealer, called at my house and stated that he would like to sell me some rare Indian relics. Among these, he said, were one dozen flint crooks, the property of a Southern collector, who had parted with them with reluctance, as in doing so he had depleted his own collection. Mr. Chapman said, in addition, that the Southern collector had given him to understand that he (the collector) was selling out his duplicates and dealt only with Mr. Chapman. Mr. Chapman, who seems to be a victim in the matter, added that the name of the Southern collector was G. W. Robinette.

In the June number of The Archaeologist, page 163, you give the name and address of another person who is supplying Robinette's "crooks," so it would seem that Mr. Robinette can turn out an unlimited supply.

I have submitted to the National Museum ten of these fraudulent "crooks." Tfie experts of the museum are familiar with their character.

The Archaeologist is doing a good work in exposing theBe fraudulent productions. While it may not be a felony to make these things, it certainly is a prison offense to sell them as genuine. CLARENCE B. MOORE.

Philadelphia, Pa."



Once these stories ran in the press other editors soon chimed in. The editor of the Virginia Philatelist wrote "G. W. Robinette, Flag Pond, Va. "Is a fraud," says Mr. A. F. Berlin associate editor of The Archaeologist, who had defended this "crook" for several years--during all of which time he practiced his nefarious business. We're sorry we carried his ad, and hope none of our friends fell into Flag Pond."


News story about Robinette black listed as a notorious swindler selling fake Indian relics especially one known as the "flint crook" an odd sculpted object that resembles a tool with a sickle shaped curved hook. Virginia Philatelist, Vol. 1, No. 7  (1898) : 128

Bibliography :

The American Archaeologist, August (1898) : 212-215, on counterfeit Indian relics.
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