Friday, 23 November 2012

More on the Proculus coins

Over on the Forum coiny discussion list there is extreme scepticism about British Museum numismatist Roger Bland's opinion that the coin now in the hands of Dix, Noonan, Webb is a fifteenth century forgery. "Pscipio" for example writes (November 17, 2012, 06:22:25 am ):
I find it hard to believe that a 15th Century (or somewhat later) forger would a.) know of the context of what were considered barbarian imitations for a long time and b.) produce a fake of this quality, with style and fabric perfectly fitting in what one would expect from original coins of an usurper in that area, with convincing corrosion, surfaces and strikes c.) the fake only showing up twice, in the late 20th and early 21st Century under such circumstances as we see it here. Style, surfaces and find circumstances thus seem to be convincing to me and I so far fail to see a reason to doubt the authenticity of these coins - other than that the extreme rarity, which understandably raises initial doubts. But if the name on the coins is the only reason to doubt them, while everything else seems to be pointing towards authenticity, I don't think they can be condemned.
"Mark Fox" is of a similar opinion (November 16, 2012, 06:21:29 pm ):
For me, the quality and style of the engraving, the way in which it was struck, and the fabric of the flan, all work together to rule out a 15th century fantasy. An inventor of such a fraud would have to be extremely ingenious to copy a debased antoninianus over some showier denomination and then give a distinct barbarous flare to the inscriptions and "Gallic" look to the designs, just as someone might expect from a coin minted in the late 3rd century AD in an area of Gaul without access to an official imperial mint, but instead to local minters of barbarous radiates. Compare the situation of Regalian. What's more, the simple obverse inscription IMP C PROCULUS AUG does not correspond to Hubertus Goltzius' supposed recording of a Proculus coin with the more fanciful reading of IMP C T AEL PROCVLVS P F AVG. See page 75 of his Thesaurus rei antiquariae huberrimus (1579).
On the Mauseus blog ('Proculus, a British Museum comment on the find') there is a comment in similar vein from "Angelo di Ragusa" [18 November 2012 23:19]:
I find Mr. Bland's comments very hard to square with a serious academic opinion. Who would have forged in the 15th. century of all times a coin of an unheard of usurper? Furthermore, if as it seems the coin has been made by a Gallic local mint , the metal content can be compared to the other coin in Munich and other products of the same time from the same area. Not rocket science.
So here we have an interesting confrontation of views between coin collectors and shopkeepers and the (real) professional (museum) numismatists. Who is correct? Frankly, from looking at the photo as a mere 'dirt' archaeologist, I'm (this time) on the side of the coineys. I do not think either coin is a fake.

The PAS still have not answered a perfectly civil email asking about this coin sent three days ago. I bet a tekkie would have got a quicker answer.

Anyway, for the record, here is what "curtislclay" says on the Forum Discussion list about the first coin sold for 92,000 DM by Bankhaus H. Aufhäuser, Versteigerung 8 (1991), 640 and now in the Staatliche Münzsammlung München (November 16, 2012, 05:26:56 pm)
I asked Hubert Lanz about the first Proculus coin, since it was sold in Munich and was purchased by the Munich Coin Cabinet, but then later (I had heard) was condemned as a forgery. Dr. Lanz responded that that first specimen had a very convincing provenance: the British coin dealer Richard Swan, who lived in Munich for many years, "got it from a large lot of late roman Ants found in England which he cleaned." So it would seem that the antiquity of the two coins can hardly be doubted. [...]
An unrecorded hoard dug up by metal detectorists in England and flogged off on the continent? How many times has that happened? Anyhow - to judge by the price they were willing to pay - the buyers of that coin seem to have no doubt about its authenticity as a third century issue.

Also of interest in the thread are the contributions of one of the "mates" ("David J6") of the finders. The thread begins with him asking "how much is this coin of Proculus werf then?" on 8th November. The odd thing is that the coin had been found the previous day, in Yorkshire, had been identified by "Jules" in Hertfordshire (how?) and posted on Facebook and the forum by ten in the morning the very next day (Nov 8th) ("all the hype and story from the guy Mark Hildreth"). By one in the afternoon the same day we see this: "the finder has been contacted by a major Auction house and it is being placed in an auction March 2013. Coin has also been authenticated by museum". Well, now we know that on the 8th November the coin had NOT been "authenticated", the museum lady apparently had said its probably a fake. So why is that not being mentioned by the bloke trying to draw the attention of US (mostly) coineys to it? [rhetorical]. On the basis of all this, there is something rather fishy about this story and some clarification would be in order. Like for example ("Glasgow Fourth Alert") was this coin seen and signed over by the landowner before "Jules" identified it?

Vignette: Roger Bland said this coin was the product of post-medieval antiquarians (William Camden (1551-1623) )  

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