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Forgeries of ancient coins and how to detect them

Bulgarian Forgeries

In earlier days Beirut was the hub of activity for forgers, and many very dangerous forgeries still originate in that area. Since the fall of the Communist regime, Bulgaria has also emerged as a major center of forgery activity in many different areas, one of which is ancient coins.

The best known Bulgarian imitator of ancient coins is Slavey Petrov. He is presently a dealer in coins and antiquities in Munich, who formerly had a workshop and gallery in Haskovo, Bulgaria where he produced a variety of imitations of ancient coins. The best description of his work is that he did not attempt to exactly imitate ancient coins, but instead produced imitations according to his own artistic interpretations. In many cases these interpretations were very different from the originals, however he sometimes achieved striking works of art. A catalogue of his known coin imitations has been posted online and may be viewed here. He signs some of his more artistic dies, and examples of these may be viewed here.

Bulgarian coin imitations come from many different studios and die engravers, with varying levels of talent, but they are all commonly referred to as Slaveys, a tribute of sorts to the best known Bulgarian imitator. Very few of the imitations commonly referred to as Slaveys are actually from the hand of Slavey Petrov.

Even the best Bulgarian imitations are easily recognized by an experienced numismatist when closely compared to a genuine example. When encountered in circumstances that do not permit such close study, at coin shows for example, they can sometimes be deceptive, especially when post striking conditioning (including artificial wear and toning/patination) is well executed.

Reference Books

    Four useful reference books have recently been published on Bulgarian imitations and forgeries:
          
 (to acquire one of these books click on the image)

MODERN COUNTERFEITS AND REPLICAS OF ANCIENT GREEK AND ROMAN COINS FROM BULGARIA by Ilya Prokopov, Kostadin Kissyov and Eugeni Paunov.

Format: Softcover, 76pp.
ISBN: 954-91396-1-1
Publisher: Stoyan Popov
Pub. Date: 2003
This book began as a pamphlet or privately circulated manuscript in 1997 by three well qualified Bulgarian numismatists concerned about the proliferation of Bulgarian imitations of ancient coins. It was revised in 1998 and finally published in 2003.  204 replicas in gold, silver and bronze are described. Many are from the hand of Slavey Petrov.

Referred to as Prokopov et al. 2003 when cited.

CONTEMPORARY COIN ENGRAVERS AND COIN MASTERS FROM BULGARIA - "LIPANOFF" STUDIO by Ilya Prokopov

Format: Softcover, 88pp.
ISBN: 954-91396-3-8
Publisher: Stoyan Popov
Pub. Date: 2004


Prokopov continues the series with an in depth discussion of the productions of another well known Bulgarian imitator of ancient coins.  Some of these imitations are deceptive.

Referred to as Prokopov Lipanoff 2004 when cited.

CAST FORGERIES OF CLASSICAL COINS FROM BULGARIA by Ilya Prokopov and Eugeni Paunov  (Coin Collections and Coin Hoards from Bulgaria no. 3)

Format: Softcover, 88pp.
ISBN:
954-91396-4-6
Publisher: Stoyan Popov
Pub. Date: 2004

The third book in this series.  112 modern or ancient cast forgeries of Greek and Roman coins in gold, silver, copper and bronze are catalogued and illustrated. 11 contemporary Roman cast counterfeits from Moesia are discussed. Next a pseudo-hoard of 76 fake and genuine Roman Imperial coins is presented. A special section is devoted to a rubber/plastic negative matrix for making cast copies of Roman Imperial denarii.

Referred to as Prokopov Cast Forgeries 2004 when cited.

COUNTERFEIT STUDIOS AND THEIR COINS  by Ilya Prokopov and Rumen Manov (Coin Collections and Coin Hoards from Bulgaria no. 4)

 Format: Softcover, 88pp.
ISBN:

Publisher: Stoyan Popov
Pub. Date: 2005

This book presents 109 Bulgarian coin imitations, 70 of which are newly discovered forgeries. With almost every example there is a detailed analysis of  how to examine the specimen to successfully recognize it as a forgery, and an attribution to the  forgery studio that produced it.  30 examples from the private collection of Mr. Rumen Manov are next presented. Many were previously catalogued in another book which could not be published, and  are shown here with better illustrations.  9 uncertain examples are then presented for discussion of whether or not they are forgeries.

Referred to as Prokopov Counterfeit Studios 2005 when cited.

 

Some Bulgarian Forgeries

The "coins" illustrated here were all intentionally acquired as imitations,  for purposes of study.

Imitation Description Genuine Example Reference Comments
Istros Drachm   Not by Slavey Petrov
Lysimachos Drachm   Not by Slavey Petrov
Nikomedes Tetradrachm   Not by Slavey Petrov
Philip II Tetradrachm Prokopov et al. 2003, 99 Not by Slavey Petrov
Augustus Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov

a "mule" of two genuine types

Augustus Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Caligula Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Drusus Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Nero Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Vitellius Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Titus Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov

Genuine type is an aureus

Lucius Verus Denarius A fantasy piece, there are no genuine examples of this reverse type. It appears in genuine coins of Gordian I.   Not by Slavey Petrov
Pertinax Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Pescennius Niger Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Septimius Severus Denarius A fantasy piece, there are no genuine examples of this type Prokopov et al. 2003, 142? Possibly by Slavey Petrov
Septimius Severus Denarius A fantasy piece, there are no genuine examples of this type   Possibly by Slavey Petrov

Same obverse die as last example

Diadumenian Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Orbiana Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Aquilia Severa Sestertius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Gordian I Denarius Prokopov et al. 2003, 158? Possibly by Slavey Petrov
Gordian II Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Gordian II Denarius A fantasy piece, there are no genuine examples of this type Same obverse die as last example Not by Slavey Petrov
Otacilia Severa Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Otacilia Severa Sestertius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Uranius Antoninus Tetradrachm A fantasy piece, there are no genuine examples of this type   Not by Slavey Petrov
Paulina Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov
Trajan Decius Denarius   Not by Slavey Petrov

Genuine type is an aureus

Herennia Etruscilla Denarius A fantasy piece, no genuine denarii of Etruscilla exist   Not by Slavey Petrov
Licinius Argenteus A fantasy piece, no genuine examples exist   Not by Slavey Petrov

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