As the previous blog post notes, there have always been coin forgeries. When putting together the latest weights auction (MB77 24 August 2016) Howard came across some curious contemporary forgeries, i.e. those made at the same time as the circulating coinage they imitate (lots 334-338).
Basically there are three sorts
- Plating of gold on base metal
- Making a cast out of a lead or tin alloy with a low melting point
- Die struck, using the wrong metal
You’d hardly take this example for a real gold coin – it’s gold on copper alloy weighing a mere 2.71g instead of the more usual 4.3g for a Byzantine Histamenon Nomisma.
A similar technique is used for the following lot, purporting to be an early Umayyad (Islamic) gold dinar.
You can see the base metal clearly showing through.
Cheating on the metal takes many forms. It is relatively easy to make a tin or lead alloy which has a low melting point to imitate a large and more costly silver coin. The example given below is a cast tin or tin alloy forgery of a Mexico mint 8 Reales, 1733. Imitations in tin were made and circulated in Indonesia in the 18th and 19th centuries as local currency where tin was a currency metal (so a fiat currency if you like). However, as this is a direct copy of a genuine coin, rather than an imitation, we’d rate it a contemporary forgery.
Tin when new is so shiny bright that it could easily pass for silver. Not now though! Not with this example.
Finally there are the die-struck counterfeits such as the Charles I ‘silver’ halfcrown made of base metal, probably using lead tin alloy blanks (given its sorry state, we think it’s die struck but perhaps cast, definitely fake)
More worrying is the counterfeit of a French Louis XIII ‘silver’ Ecu, with blanks made from a copper alloy. Plated, newly minted, it could pass.
One question arises: should we even be offering these pieces? As a collector you need to know what was circulating, what was official and what was not. When a lot of forgeries have survived from a particular period, this indicates that there were serious problems in the administration of the coinage and therefore the economy in general. None of these examples pictured above would pass for real now mainly because of their condition which clearly shows their faulty manufacture and composition. But when they were newly made? That’s a different story. Caveat emptor always.