Do not let the excitement of a new find distract you from careful consideration of the authenticity and the history of the point or tool you are contemplating. If a story sounds too good to be true, likely it is too good to be true.
Develop a relationship with the seller so that you can decide the level of trust you can place in his or her word.
Ask for as full an account of the history of the point as may be available. This is called the "provenance" of the point. It should include the name of the finder, the place, the date, and a description of the circumstances or special conditions under which the discovery was made. Also you should ask for a full list of previous owners of the point or tool, if you are not obtaining it from the original finder.
Whenever possible, you should inquire about and even require a certificate of authenticity from a respected source.
Almost any collector to whom you speak will have a story of how he bought a point from someone whom he thought was trustworthy, only to later find out that the point was either unknowingly or deliberately sold as authentic, when in reality it might have been a modern-made copy or reproduction point.
For example, when you are looking at supposed "Paleo-Indian" artifacts, it would be well to keep in mind that, in most parts of the country, these are extremely rare. I know life-long students of archaeology who have worked all over the country on projects covering many eras of human occupation in this continent who have only ever found one or two authentic Paleo-Indian relics such as a Clovis spear point or a Folsom dart point.
When these points are found in scientific excavations they are celebrated and then carefully cataloged for future study and scientific reference. If they are found on private land, these points and tools are most often preserved and put away, well out of the public eye.
As a result, you will not find a point like this for sale often. At least, not an ancient, authentic point of topmost form and quality. You may see a few broken or partial points. And sometimes, if a collector has had a good Paleo-Indian point which has been certified and authenticated, he might be tempted to sell it, but this would be unusual.
No artifact dealer would ever want to sell a high quality Folsom, Clovis or Cumberland point, for example, without suggesting a substantial price.
I say this to caution you and to encourage you to carefully consider claims of age, culture and authenticity which you will hear from collectors and/or sellers of possibly ancient artifacts.
F. Scott Crawford
Arrowheads On Line -- 2010
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
F. Scott Crawford, Carrollton, Texas, USA
You are invited to visit my web sites for more background information and photographs related to the making of arrowheads: http://www.Arrowhead-MakeYourOwn.com