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REFERENCE GUIDES: Fakes, Forgeries and Counterfeits

Modern Fakes of Ancient Coins

becker counterfeit of postumus aureus

The earliest documented collection of ancient coins was assembled by the Este family of Milan in the late 15th century and within 100 years classical coins were a fashionable collectible among the aristocracy of Europe. Counterfeiting (faking coins to spend) is as old as coinage itself, but forging coins for the collector market appears to have begun at Padua in Italy in the mid-16th century, and has been a problem for collectors ever since. This site is designed to provide collectors with a basic understanding of modern forgery, and a way to better protect themselves against it (and to make life more difficult for forgers).

This Postumus portrait is a die-struck forgery by the early 19th-century master forger Carl Becker: one of the few forgers who could sometimes capture the spirit of a Roman coin in a die cut by his own hand. Even though a very good fake, it is not particularly dangerous to those familiar with ancient coins and the same is true of the majority of modern fakes. As you explore this site, you will come to understand why.



A FEW IMPORTANT POINTS
ABOUT USING THIS SITE

1.

It is very important to remember that the vast majority of ancient coins in the market today are genuine. Many genuine ancient coins have been condemned by people not qualified to do so.

2.

This site will not make you an expert at spotting fakes, as this is only a basic introduction on which you can build. To become an expert will require many years of experience, and you will have to handle many thousands of both known genuine, and known fake coins.

3.

Remember that most fakes copy genuine types, so the fact that a fake of a type exists does not mean all examples of that type are suspect. Too many genuine coins have been dismissed as a fake because they are "similar" to a known fake that is based on them.

4.

Please do not e-mail me images of your coins to ask me for an opinion of their authenticity as there are not enough hours in the day to answer all such requests I would receive. There are e-mail discussion groups where such requests can be directed.

5.

A proper authentication requires a physical examination of the coin and the people that provide such a service, and who really have the expertise to provide a qualified opinion, naturally do not do so free of charge. David Sear is the authentication service most commonly used and widely accepted. I will put a link to his service on the page of websites about ancient coins.

6.

You can use the navigation links in the upper left to go directly to any page on this site, but if this is your first visit to this site we recommend you use the link provided at the bottom of each page, which will guide you through the site in the order in which it was designed to be read.






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