Sunday 14 February 2010

New Types of Fake Roman coins on the market

Until recently collectors of such things assumed that there were relatively few fakes of Late Roman Bronzes on the market, since they had a low retail value and the costs of making them were high compared to the profit that could be obtained. There were a few rather crude fakes turning up at the end of 2003, early 2004 in "uncleaned lots" of "dugups" resulting from the fact that Bulgarian metal detectorists were unable to keep up with the demand in the 1990s for such objects as the sites they were searching became depleted (ie destroyed). Then in August last year several collectors and dealers were informed about the sale of coins coming from a "hoard" of Late Roman Bronzes from Serbia...
"found a few kilometres to the south of town Smederova in a depth of three metres. Since there’s no oxygen in this depth, no harmful corrosion could occur. That’s the reason why all coins - as usual for hoard coins - have an extremely fine, perfect condition. Every coin is extremely fine !" This "hoard" is for sale here [] [...] "Since this is a hoard, there are only quite a few coin types. There are twelve different coin types, five in large numbers and five in small numbers. The following emperors are present: Constantine I. the Great, Constantine II. Junior, Constans and Delmatius. "
The photo I reproduce here of these coins comes from the Forum coin discussion group. These coins are all fake (first proposed by dealer Zach Beasley). Interestingly they seem not to be cast fakes like the usual run-of-the-mill ancient coin scams, these seem die-struck (it has been suggested "pressed"). The same coins had appeared in July 2009 in another group also bought in Serbia, though in this case mixed up with genuine coins.

The moral is that if somebody could produce these, which apparently for a while fooled a number of relatively experienced collectors and dealers, then they can produce other common types which nobody would look twice at. The patination gave these ones away, but Chinese forgers have already found a way to make some very convincing patinas, and perhaps its only a matter of time before the Serbian fakers do too. Then all we need is for some bright guy to realise that giving them to somebody posing as a metal detectorist in Britain to slip among their "finds" they show to a new Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Laison Officer might get some of them "authenticated" and they are in business. Perhaps if the market is flooded with fakes like these collectors may start to look at where the coins they buy actually come from.

Oh, by the way, the export of Roman coins from Serbia needs an export licence, I wonder if those who were initially 'stung' by the fake seller obtained a copy of the document by which supposedly genuine coins left the Balkans.

These coins were being sold through Vienna and Switzerland. Interestingly the Swiss seller - the owner of Sacra-Moneta (the site has now been taken down) was apparently a guy called Dave Suter
"(who has been selling coins for many years under two different names) for about 10 years. [...] He is not a "well known fake seller". He has spent times abroad, helping out at archaeological digs, was a university student, and over the years has sold many tens of thousands of coins...
I am pretty sure I dug with a guy called Dave Suter at Colchester (I think, so that would be back in the 1970s). I wonder if they are the same person? There is some further discussion of whether or not he is a fake seller (one collector alleges: "He's really the worst and in the uncleaned coins business that's saying something"), but I leave that up to the reader to decide.

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