There has been a seemingly endless supply of very suspicious Riga Minox cameras coming out of Eastern Europe lately. Two sellers on eBay who are from Latvia tend to be the most common sources of these cameras but there have been other sellers who have offered cameras which are also suspected of being "less genuine" than they are represented to be.
I've grown suspicious of these cameras lately and, upon close examination, have concluded that there must be some clever craftsmen making Riga cameras up TODAY from mostly old parts (most likely left over from production or QC rejects). I've studied some of them very closely but am reluctant to publish my findings because I don't want to "give away" the tell-tale signs which I have found that tip me off that these cameras are "modern classics" and not from the original production in the 30's and 40's. Whenever I have published my findings in the past the clever craftsmen have incorporated my findings into their new products to make spotting them more difficult. While this sounds like some paranoid conspiracy theory I assure you it is true. Just after I published my pages about Riga #1401 being a fake I found several newer versions which incorporated the comments like the serial number style and the number of screws found on the end of the shell case. Now, these newer fakes are much more convincing and harder to spot but, alas, these guys don't know all of their "flaws" and I'm not telling.
Suffice it to say the craftsmen have overlooked a few details that only, upon very close expert examination will tell the story about these pieces. In general and without giving away too many secrets I will tell you that you should be very wary about buying ANY Riga Minox coming out of the Baltics today. Even those with seemingly early serial numbers are not what they appear to be. "Special Collectable" cameras like those with "mistakes overlooked during production" and special engravings ("Made in USSR" and Nazi marked cameras) have appeared and I can tell you that I am sure these are being assembled today from old stock parts. Any camera which is supposed to be 60+ years old and yet looks brand new is a bit of a clue. Also, if you see someone offering a super-rare variant on eBay with a low starting price and no reserve it is also a tip-off of a possible rip-off. Be wary of sellers using "private auctions" as they usually do this to prevent others from warning the buyers of their "less than genuine" wares.
Are they "FAKES"? I am reluctant to use the word "fake" since these are real Riga cameras made up from real parts (for the most part) but I will use the word fake when I know the engravings on them are modern and intended to fool collectors into buying what they think is something old and rare. For this reason I will break the suspect cameras into two categories; those with serial numbers higher than 15000 are all suspect as the parts left over from the original manufacturing were known to have chassis that were pre-engraved with later serial numbers. The numbering goes all the way into the 17,XXX series. These cameras which have been sold with the "standard" engravings on the bottom are not really fakes in my opinion, although the engravings themselves are not old in many cases. I would call these "modern collectables" because they are being made from vintage parts (for the most part) and would be equivalent to assembling an old car from parts. As long as all of the parts are correct and are "vintage" it is still an old car, but it is not "original" so I guess that's what these are, "un-original" Riga cameras. In most cases these sell for around $600-$800 US and are probably worth that much, assuming there is not an endless supply of them out there.
The second category is much more sinister. These are the "rare variants" which are made to deceive collectors and fleece them of their money. Models with the "Made in USSR", the old VEF scroll engraving or no engravings at all or "mistakes" such as mis-engraved shutter speed or focus dials are sold for a premium, sometimes 2 or 3 times what a typical camera sells for. These are flat-out fakes because they are not what they are represented to be and those people making them are criminals and should go to jail for fraud. If you suspect one of your cameras is from these lots and want me to confirm whether I think it is genuine or not, send me some good photos and I can probably give an opinion without even seeing the camera in person. You can email photos to me at: email@example.com