I get asked a lot for opinions on whether a given piece was really painted by Mose Tolliver, or by one of his relatives. Though I'm no expert, I have seen a great deal of Mose's work, both at his house and in private collections. So I've put together some tips that might help you avoid getting one that isn't painted by Mose. Of course, if you really like the painting, then it doesn't really matter who painted it. As long as it gives you pleasure, in some ways, the exact identity of the artist is irrelevant.
First, if you're not sure about a piece, I'd recommend checking with an expert. Marcia Weber, a Montgomery based Folk Art dealer has been following Mose's career closely for many years now. She's got the best eye of anyone I know for spotting Mose's work. She's a very friendly person and will generally let you know what she thinks about a given piece. By all means contact her, or visit her website. Yes, this is a biased opinion here, as Marcia is a personal friend, but she is very willing to help you out, and has probably visited with Mose every week for decades now.
"Saddle Horse"
Now, on some pieces, like Mose's watermelons, it's completely impossible to tell who painted it. Many of the pieces signed "Mose T" are very clearly not his handiwork, however, many are tough to gauge. As a rule of thumb, if a painting looks wildly different from anything else you've seen by Mose, odds are he didn't paint it.

When visiting Mose's house, it was really easy way to tell what he'd painted: one look at the cans of paint he currently had open would tell you. Mose would only open 4 or 5 cans of paint at a time, and would use them until they're empty. If the piece you were looking at was done in radically different colors than what he had open, you probably wanted to avoid it. Now that he's no longer painting, remember that everything for sale at his house was painted by a relative.

Compare this real self portrait by Mose (left) with the works he had for sale one day in 1995. Notice the roundness of the head in the real deal, versus the more oval shape in the paintings by his relatives. Notice the simple color scheme and the heels painted on the feet. And no, those Santa Clauses behind Mose probably weren't painted by him either.

Know that any work commissioned from Mose is likely not to have been painted by him. Mose liked to paint what he wanted to paint, not what other folks told him to paint. If you "ordered" a given piece, he'd probably farm it out to one of his children. I saw some stunning portraits that his son Charles had done (more on him below) when people had left photographs for Mose to paint. They got gorgeous portraits, but they got the work of Charles Tolliver, not Mose Tolliver. Also, Mose never learned to read or write much, so if there's a written explanation or title on the back of the painting, odds are Mose didn't write it.

As for spotting the real deal outside of Mose's house, it takes some work. The best thing you can do is to see a lot of Mose's paintings and familiarize yourself with how they look. Look at the shape of his birds, for example. His relatives all include birds, but they don't look quite the same as Mose's. Notice the shapes of his animals (see the two horses above). Most of his animals (cats, horses) look a lot like these. If they're very differently shaped, they may not be by Mose.

Some general tips:

You can judge the age of a Mose Tolliver painting by the method of hanging. Mose first pounded tacks into the backs of his paintings and strung dental floss between them. Later (mid 1970's) he came up with his famous use of the pop-top from a canned drink as a hangar. Again, you can get some idea of the age of a piece by the type of pop-top--the old style that came off completely, or the newer kind that just fold down and stay on the can.

Square Noses--Every person that Mose has painted in the last 15 or so years has a square nose. You can see some with round noses on my Mose T page, but note that these are very early pieces. If the piece has a modern pop-top hangar and a round nose, it probably wasn't painted by Mose.

"Me When I Was Young and Used To Smoke A Pipe Riding A Horse"
"French Birds"
"Eagle Box"

Heels: Most of Mose's people have heels on their feet/shoes. Look for these.

Fine detail: Mose didn't do a lot of fine detail in his work. Stick with simpler pieces and you'll be better off. His daughter in law, Victorine, will usually paint very fine crosses near a figure's neck. Mose also did these crosses, but his are thicker and stronger.

Colors: Mose didn't generally use more than 4 or 5 colors in the same painting. If there are a ton of different colors, Mose may not have painted it. Also, look out for paintings that are predominantly black and grey. These are usually by Charles Tolliver. Charles, Mose's son, is perhaps the most talented artist in the Tolliver family. His use of blacks and greys is wonderful. But, he can get more money for a piece if his Dad signs it, so he hasn't established himself as an artist yet. His pieces are great, but if you really want a Mose T, don't go for these darker ones.

Note the round head, heels on the feet, simple lines and limited color pallette.

To make things even more confusing, Mose, ever the savvy businessman, would see paintings by a relative sell well (for example Victorine's angels), so he'd start doing his own versions of these images. So sometimes it's incredibly obvious, and sometimes you never know. There's a long tradition in folk art of getting your whole family involved, and supporting your relatives through the art. Mose certainly isn't the only artist who has done this.

Hopefully that will help you on your way to getting an actual Mose T painting. Many works, I still can't tell. But the important thing is for you to get a piece that you like. In some ways, if you love it, and it's not by Mose, it's better not to know.