Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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January 5, 2014

01/05/2014 — Lee Ward: Rich should put money into truly important matters

ASHLAND — I knew there were those who copied great works of art and claimed them as authentic. Forgers, they’re called. I didn’t know there were forgers of wine.

A few weeks ago, a broadcast feature story told of a man who collected wine forgeries. It went on to discuss the more undesirable situation of forgeries being sold as the real thing.

One man had paid $400,000 for a bottle of wine purported to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson. When he found out it was a fake, he was livid, going on to spend thousands more dollars in court to prosecute the person or persons responsible for the scam.

Forgery, whether of wine or art or anything else collectible, is the equivalent of plagerizing, in my line of work.

While plagerizing is stealing someone else’s words to claim as one’s own; forgery is creating something and claiming it as someone else’s work to profit from it. Any way you view it, they are both stealing and they are wrong.

As I listened to this ultra-rich dude talk about how angry he was to have been fooled and how he was going to devote a good portion of his life to bring the forger to justice, I couldn’t help but think of all the money that will go toward resolving the issue. The case could go on for years, as many do. That, in the realm of the wealthy, could mean millions.

Think about all the money that went into that bottle of wine. The price tag was $400,000, but there likely was money that went into the research and negotiations to obtain the bottle.

Before that purchase, how many purchases had that collector made? How much did it cost to create a wine cellar to keep that collection in? What is the average cost of a bottle of wine owned by that collector?

And now, for the more philosophical questions:

Why would one collect wine, something meant to be consumed, enjoyed and celebrated for the contents, not the outside? Why would someone pay thousands of dollars for something meant to be drank but not drink it¸when you could pay $10 or less and get a bottle of wine you can drink and it tastes just fine. Why would someone be so determined to get justice over a material item?

The answer to all those questions can be boiled down to appearance. It appears extravagant to onlookers to collect wine, to pay thousands of dollars for a bottle of wine to look at and it hurts a rich man’s ego to get fooled and not get the full amount of justice he believes is due him, that is, if justice can really be measured.

I would love to hear about a rich person who enjoyed collecting good deeds and spent lavish amounts of money on racking up things like donations to soup kitchens, clothes closets, childen’s hospitals, animal rescues and environmental cleanup projects. Those projects sound so much more satisfying than a bottle of wine that sits on the shelf, never to be enjoyed and it’s unlikely any of those projects would turn out to be fraudulent.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.

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