Fake ancient coins | how they are first spotted | Calgary Coin & Antique

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This page is by and large about how newfangled fakes are spotted as they entering the grocery store, normally identical quickly. It will not make you an adept in spotting fakes but will give you some basic data you can build on. Some of the observations do not prove the coin is forge, but show promote investigation is needed. Others show proof a coin is imposter. If you have not already done so, I suggest you first read the preceding pages on types of fakes, as much of what follows builds on them .


The majority of actual ancient coins were stuck to specific weight standards. Ancient mint was not accurate so there is constantly some variation between specimens, but in most cases it is limited. A coin excessively heavy or light up relative to the expected standard can not be automatically condemned but should be investigated further .
A type with very narrow rate is the persian siglos struck after 485 BC for which specimens are between 5.35 and 5.60 grams and any specimen outside of that should be investigated foster. entirely rarely will a genuine model be outside that range. Always remember that many fakes will be of their correct weight, so decline weight does not prove authenticity. Incorrect with warrants far probe .
Another case are tetradrachms of Athens where the typical crop is from 16.60 to 17.3 grams. For every type it is not difficult to inquiry what the expected image should be, but there are some types with it is much broader and for those this is a less useful gauge of authenticity.


Augustus struck Gaius and Lucius coins as both silver medal denarii and gold aureii, with specific dies for each denomination. The size of the coins vary considerable due to imperfect Roman flan production methods, but Roman die cutting was more careful with the bead border of the aureus dies 19 to 19.5 mm across and denarii dies 18. Forgers somtimes cut dies of wrong size while occasionally using the like dies for more than one appellation so some of them is wrong .
Some ancient coins were struck to particular size and weight standards while others were not. It takes both experience and research to understand if a coin needs further investigation because of its size or weight, but this can be useful a useful tool .

Almost Identical Examples

corinthian metal mold fake

corinthian metal mold fake

ancient minting involved by and large handicraft which does not lend itself to minting closely identical coins. Two coins struck moments a character of the same set of die can have different focus, flan shapes and strike quality and two a identical as these juke corinthian staters made in permanent molds, is following to impossible. I have seen respective twelve of this accurate fake all this identical and any time you see two ancient coins this close there is argue for misgiving .

Too Many from the Same Dies

fake denarius

fake denarius

These Macrinus denarii were struck with the same die pair on flans of different shapes. A forger die hit has not disturb varying his flan shape, die axis, centering, and other striking characteristics. I have seen many examples from this die match and while that does not prove they are fakes it warrants far probe. In this event, the style is incorrect which shows they are fakes .
I once saw about eighty batch state Trajan Decius antoninianii with about 20 % strike from one die pair. Individually they looked good and it was alone so many from one die pair that warranted further investigation which determined they were actual. Mint country coins that travel from the mint to one owner and are then buried together will occasionally have this radiation pattern, but it is unusual .

Large Hoards With Insufficient Die Variations

How long ancient dies lasted is unknown and credibly inconsistent, but it was probably somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 coins with some dies breaking far earlier and some persistent longer. I will assume an average of 20,000 for what follows, but in truth does not matter if it was 2000 or 30,000 for the principle of what will be discussed
Hammer striking heats dies which causes die stress and deterioration. Die links suggest mints sometimes used multiple die pair together, mixing and matching as needed, so dies had time to cool after getting hot. If dies survive an average of 20,000 strikes and issue of 100,000 coins with 5 die pair has the hypothesis of twenty-five die pair combinations. With use the dies wear, so the number of combinations increases dramatically if for a particular die its newly new express is considered different than its careworn department of state. In a bombastic mint state hoard there will be some match pairs, but besides much variation .
many types of ancient coins were minted by the millions so there are hundreds of dies involved. While in mint state hoards matched die pairs are possible, one coins figure into circulation the pairs get separated and mixed in with many others including many other types. Coins worn to a degree of VF would have circulated for a decade or more, those in Fine respective decades, and those in VG a hundred or more. The chances of finding two coins from the like die pair reduces dramatically with the duration of time they are in circulation. If a large group coins with of match die pairs show up heavily circulated, the odds they will be genuine is identical broken .
very large issues of coins may have been in the millions with hundreds of dies involved. Finding matched die pairs in batch state hoards is expected, but coin have seen more desegregate of dies pairs. Coins worn to VF circulated for a decade or more, those in Fine several decades, and those in VG a century or more and over those times chances of two coins from the same fail pair staying together is dramatically reduced. The more park the type, the more likely this is .
Years ago I was shown and intact hoard of over 500 circulated 2nd to 3rd century Roman denarii and did not notice any die matches, and that that many coins that were even the same type. Another time I saw a hoard of about 100 Severus Alexander denarii in gVF to XF so had not been in circulation long, and could not find 10 fail matches .
Genuine Mesembrian diobols are common and finding two from the lapp die match is unmanageable. Some years back hundreds of what appeared to be lightly circulated examples appeared in Germany, all mint from only six die pairs. That is a near impossibly convention for a common publish, and they were quickly dismissed as talk through one’s hat and published in The Celator magazine ( I believe the article was by Frank Kovak ). It was discovered they were original sold as reproductions in the give shop of the Sophia Bulgaria Museum .

No Previous Die History

Any very common coins struck in big numbers will normally be known from many hoards and on published examples of any of the dies should not be unmanageable. A modern group coming on the market should share many of those dies so be easy to die pit. In 1999 a hoard of over 5000 Apollonia Pontica Gorgon head fluidram came on the market. The average grad was VF showing enough circulation should be full die dispersion with most if not all dies involved slowly to match to previously known specimens. A die report determined there were about 62 dies ( 31 die pairs ), not one of which of which could be matched to any previously known coin. This was intelligibly a roll up of fakes from newly made dies.

One needs to be more careful with a die discipline of a rare character where the coinage was small with very few dies involved so closely all specimens coming from only a handful of dies, and on occasion a hoard of that type might only show a few die pairs ( sometimes lone one ). Die studies are an authentication tool to be used cautiously by feel numismatists .

Stylistic Problems

As discussed previously on my page about strike fakes, copying the image of a coin is easy, capturing the style of that coin is closely impossible without using cast or impression dies which have their own problems. Among the images below are two are actual and seven fake coins .


Placing your mouse over each prototype should bring up either actual or imposter. I find even novitiate collectors with circumscribed normally have little problem spotting which is which. If you had fuss with this I recommend reviewing images of versatile similar coins in either COIN ARCHIVES or WILDWINDS and then have another look at them. With feel spotting coins of incorrect style will become second nature .
If you are on a mobile device without a mouse, but actual coins are the Severus Alexander and the Lucius Verus .

Same Die cutter on Coins Too Many Years Apart

It is unlikely any one ancient celator worked more than 25 years and my own survey suggests an average of 15 to 20 years. merely as each ancient celator had his own style, then does each modern forger. Notice how alike these portraits are .
fake denarius
These tow dies appear to be the work of one man, at about the same luff in his artistic development. The Aelius on the right can not have been struck after AD 137. The Lucius Verus on the left with the Armeniacus can not be before AD 164. A 27 year dispute is a stretch for an ancient celator, but impossibly for two dies at the same point in his artistic development. Based on this alone these coins can not be actual .

Die Matches That Should Not Exist

As discussed previously, ancient Roman dies were probably used for less than 30,000 strikes which would only take a few days or possibly a few weeks. In rare instances of one reverse die was used by two different emperors, but normally by co-emperors striking a joint neologism. Examples of dies that for one reason or another were set aside and used again years late exist but are very unusual and most people will never encounter such. now look at these two coins clearly struck from the lapp revoke die .
fake denarius
The coin on the left is a Maximinus I which could not have been struck prior to AD 235. That on the right is an Elagabalus of a character struck anterior to AD 222. The lapp revoke die used on coins at least 13 years a part is closely impossible in an official ancient mint. such matches are occasionally found on ancient but counterfeit coins for the same reason they turn up on modern fakes struck a modern workshop .

One Celator, Too Few Dies

contrary to what many think, most ancient dies took alone a few hours to cut. An ancient celator cutting on average 2 sets of dies per day, possibly 300 days a year for 15 years would have cut about 9000 die pairs. A very large emergence of coins could involve many dies but all cut by a very small act of celators. Each celators manner is be seen on many so many coins they become easily recognizable
two denarii
The denarius on the entrust is of Severus Alexander in a vogue that first appears about AD 228 and can not have been struck after AD 235. That on the right field is a genuine denarius of gordian III of this expressive style that is not seen after about AD 242 and can not have been struck before AD 238. The vogue is indeed close they have to be the oeuvre of the lapp celator, with a maximal of 14 years between them. The gordian shows a slightly finer artistic skill as one might expected with the several years and possibly thousands of dies he cut between them. If you do a little research you will find his style for many of dies of Severus Alexander, Maximinus I, gordian I and II, Balbinus, Pupienus, and gordian III all struck at Rome during that period. He worked for about 14 years cutting dies for all Emperors indeed is probable to have cut upwards of 4200 die. This is a normal pattern of genuine work by an official ancient celator .
Look spinal column at the fake Lucius Verus and Aelius above. If you do the research you will not be able to find any stylistic matches to them amount known genuine coins, and if you search data bases of forge coins you might find a few twelve dies by this hand. That identical limited number of dies is normal traffic pattern for a modern forger.

The Common Thread

What you have good been introduced to is how most fakes have major inconsistencies with what is expected of actual coins. I have only covered some of the highlights here, and used examples of fakes which are reasonably obvious so that novices can see the principles involved. As your have and cognition grow more aspects of this will come clear to you. All but the most advanced fakes will become obvious about at a glance. But that experience merely comes with time and some feat. Be careful about condemning coins besides promptly until you have it .
When it comes to the most advanced fakes such as the Katane tetradrachm I mentioned on the hit imposter page, and hash out in contingent on my examples department, they can be very difficult to spot and sometimes get pass through the hands of a few experts before they are spotted. none of us are 100 % immune to making a mistake. But all will finally be spotted. Fakes that adept are not of concern to the average collector because they are every unmanageable and time consuming to make. If the forger goes through all that trouble and make a significant number of them suspicions will be raised. Often they only make a handful of them, and sometimes alone one. They will not do that for the lower values coins most people collect. Most will be types worth more than $ 50,000 .

There is no such thing as a perfect fake.


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