Wednesday, 21 November 2012

PAS Says Proculus Coin a Fake?

In the post above I discuss news reports about a new coin find that has got simple folk wittering on about "history being changed" when nothing of the kind has actually occurred. The coin is of short-lived emperor Proculus (c. 280AD). Interestingly there was initially some debate as to whether the coin was real or not (see Daily Mail : Debate over 'Roman' artefact coin of Proculus found in field by metal-detecting friends', quoting Roger Bland):
specialist and renowned academic Roger Bland, who is Keeper of the Prehistory and Europe Department of the British Museum, disagrees that the coin is genuine. He said: 'I don't believe any coins of Proculus were ever made and this one is probably a 15th century forgery. The only source for our knowledge of him is a controversial history book, written at the end of the 4th century AD, much of which was made up.'It says that there were 30 tyrants who all vied for control of the Roman Empire when things got a bit messy in the late 3rd century AD and lots of people were declared Emperor.  'Many of these 30 tyrants never had coins made, which is a sign of a true Emperor. 'But in the Renaissance, when coin collecting was fashionable, people thought these men should have had coins so they made them. This coin has been made from the same dye (sic), or mould, as another in the Munich Museum, which is widely believed to be fake. There is no context to this find either - only single coins, not hoards, have been found so their provenance is difficult to assess. 'Unless someone finds a hoard of these coins, I'm going to remain very sceptical that there were ever any coins made for Proculus.'
Here, one may assume, he is quoting the authors of RIC V, Part II (1933): "Of Proculus no genuine coin is known, but a few pieces bearing the name of Bonosus deserve consideration. Like so much of the local coinage of Gaul, they are blundered". However Bonosus' coinage now seems to be a product of the dugup coin market (D. Salzman 1981, "Die Münzpragung des Bonosus - eine moderne Fiktion" pp 49-58 of Festschrift für Peter Berghaus zum 60. Geburtstag... Munster ) where the known examples are shown to be tooled and fake coins). The name Proculus does not figure in the drop-down menu of the PAS "Roman numismatic search" facility. Now, presumably Dr Bland had not yet spotted this coin on the UKDFD pirate database (posted there a full week earlier), did he even know of its existence before contacted by the question-asking journalist? But then, how odd to see him quoted as specifically saying "This coin has been made from the same die, or mould, as another in the Munich Museum, which is widely believed to be fake". Had he seen the Wildwinds page showing the two together? But if he had, why would he suggest that the 1991 Staatliche Münzsammlung München coin was a cast forgery?  Still less would he have suggested that either coin was a fifteenth century forgery. 

(can't resist though reporting one "Dirk"s comment in response to Bland's statement: "Historian makes up some mad story due to hard evidence not verifying his version of history").

The mystery is explained (or maybe deepened) by a story written the next day by Mike Laycock: "Roman coin find ‘is genuine’ ", York Press
Rebecca Griffiths, finds liaison officer at the Yorkshire Museum, said yesterday she had seen the coin but had not recorded it, as the metal detectorists had claimed, because she had concerns it might actually be a fake from the Renaissance period.
What? The finder brought this find in and were turned away by Ms Griffiths? There are some odd tweets on this episode between Ms Griffiths ("pygmy warrior") and Dan Pett. Who told whom the coin was a post-medieval fake and when, and based on what evidence? According to the latest tweets from the Yorkshire FLO which do not retract her original verdict, she is still convinced that the coin is a fake. There was talk about releasing her record of the find "so people can see what we think", but I could not find it this morning on the PAS database (last accessed 12:29). Are the PAS still standing by their diagnosis that the coin is a fake?

Anyhow, the coin which the PAS refused to authenticate was handed over to coin dealers Dix Noonan Webb on Friday 16th November (so, nine days after it came out of the ground) and apparently will be auctioned next March. According to Mike Laycock's article ("Roman coin find ‘is genuine’ ", York Press
A Coin expert says he is “100 per cent sure” that the Roman coin found by two York metal detector enthusiasts in a field near Stamford Bridge is genuine. Jim Brown, of Dix Noonan Webb, specialist auctioneers and valuers of coins, travelled to York from London yesterday to examine the silver coin. ...] Mr Brown, who said he had been involved with coins for almost 40 years, said it was definitely not a Renaissance fake. “I am absolutely sure it’s Roman – 100 per cent,” he said, before taking the coin to London for safekeeping.
and perhaps a discrete bit of tarting up. Now, this is what the so-called Renaissance forgery looks like:
authentic or fake? (Mauseus blog)
I am puzzled why the PAS thinks this is Renaissance in date. it looks nothing like the Paduan medallions of the Renaissance, or any of the earlier post-Renaissance issues. Has the PAS any parallel to the style of this coin as a renaissance forgery? We are told the coin was found in a field with a load of other Roman stuff (and is it a coincidence that Ms Griffiths was recording a number of Roman coins on the day the finders apparently came in with this object? Are they from this findspot?). Yet how would they explain a Paduan medal being found in a remote Yorkshire field? Have they any other material from that field (like hig status pottery showing the disposal of refuse from the home of a 15th century magnate) which would lead to the conclusion that this is a post-medieval object?

Or do they think the metal detectorist ("partners") are trying to pull a fast one, pretending to have found a fake coin  which they bought (for example) on eBay in a field which produces Roman finds?

All very odd, and I am sure the numismatic trade will want to weigh in on the discussion with British Museum numismatist Bland and Ms Griffiths (whose numismatic credentials are at present unknown to me).

UPDATE 24.11.12
Readers might find it difficult following the FLO's thoughts on any further developments of this case on her Twitter account, by sheer coincidence, no doubt, soon after some posts on it were referenced here, she blocked access. So much for 'transparency'. If the PAS cannot be open about discussing portable antiquities, how can anyone expect artefact hunters to be? Why all the whispering behind closed doors?

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