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Forgeries of ancient coins and how to detect them


     The collector who is interested in studying forgeries will find this a very challenging subject, because techniques are constantly evolving. The criminals who forge and distribute imitations of ancient coins have learned many new ways to make their falsifications difficult to detect. However, techniques for detecting forgeries and authenticating genuine specimens have also advanced and collectors may rest assured that museums, numismatic organizations, major dealers and law enforcement agencies are still able to determine with considerable accuracy whether an ancient coin is an authentic specimen or a forgery.

Reference Books

    There are a number of useful references for those who want to advance their knowledge of this subject:

Classical Deception: Counterfeits, Forgeries and Reproductions of Ancient Coins by Wayne G. Sayles
Format: Hardcover, 208pp.
ISBN: 0873419685
Publisher: Krause Publications
Pub. Date: January  2001
"Classical Deception" takes an objective and candid look at the history of falsifying ancient coins. It traces the careers of well-known forgers and discusses the many fakes that proliferate in the modern market. Topics covered include manufacturing techniques, the collector response to the problem and tools and methods of detecting fakes. Special sections include a catalog of the previously unpublished work of reproduction artist Peter Rosa and extensive bibliographies leading to a wealth of technical information. Illustrated with more than 200 photos to help collectors differentiate authentic coins from fakes.
Ravel: Numismatique Grecques Falsifications

By the noted numismatist Oscar E. Ravel. An expansion and development of notes originally published in Revue Numismatique, 1933. French text, 102 pp, 10 nice plates. Ravel's seminal contribution to the never-ending struggle between coin collectors and those who would defraud them provides a basic approach toward systematizing recognition of technical and typological characteristics of modern forgeries, a detailed analysis of which is presented in discussing a variety of deceptive forgeries of Greek coins.
Becker the Counterfeiter

Author: George F. Hill

Hardbound (1979 reprint of the 1924 edition); 111 pages plus 27 plates.
Reviews the coins of this master counterfeiter of ancient coins.
Becker's die-struck forgeries, especially of the Roman series, are still very dangerous. Fortunately his dies came into the possession of numismatic authorities, and illustrations of each type are provided.
The Caprara Forgeries

Author: Philip Kinns

Hardbound (1984); approx. 7 x 10 inches; 59 pages plus 8 plates of coin photos.

The Geneva Forgeries


Author: R. A. G. Carson

Softcover; 14 pages plus 2 plates of coin photos.  Covers Roman bronze coins of the late third and early fourth centuries. Reprinted from the Numismatic Chronicle.


Imitations and Inventions of Roman Coins


Author: Zander H. Klawans

Hardbound (1977); 137 pages with photos throughout. Documents the work of Cavino, for whom the term 'Paduan' was coined. The forgeries and fantasies of this Renaissance goldsmith are considered to be the pinnacle of the forger's art.



Websites The summary of a talk given by Dennis Kroh at the Numismatic Theatre during the 99th Annual American Numismatic AssociationConvention in Seattle on Friday, August 24, 1990. It is a good overview for the beginner. Another good overview from the author of one of the best ancient coin information sites.



This section is very much a work in progress.

A forgery of a drachm from Apollonia Pontika.
A forgery of a Parthian drachm of Mithradates II. The "coin" is an impossible mule of an obverse die from c. 100 bc and a reverse die from the 2nd century ad.
A moderately deceptive imitation of a Parthian drachm of Mithradates II. The "coin" is a realistic imitation of Sellwood Type 26, however details are not as sharp as one expects in a genuine struck coin.


Next: Bulgarian Forgeries

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