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Ancient Counterfeit Coins

Counterfeits of some of the very earliest coins prove that counterfeiting is nearly as old as coinage. The coins on this page are not the official issues of the various Greek cities or kings, or of the Roman or Byzantine empires, but they are all ancient, historic, and collectible. These are not modern replicas.


Caligula, 16 March 37 - 24 January 41 A.D., Divus Augustus Reverse

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Tiberius left his estate and the titles of the principate to Caligula and to Tiberius' own grandson, Gemellus, who were to serve as joint heirs. Although Tiberius was 78 and on his death bed, some ancient historians still conjecture that he was murdered. Tacitus writes that the Praetorian Prefect, Macro, smothered Tiberius with a pillow to hasten Caligula's accession, much to the joy of the Roman people. Suetonius writes that Caligula may have carried out the murder himself, though this is not recorded by any other ancient historian. Seneca the elder and Philo, as well as Josephus, record that Tiberius died a natural death. Caligula had Tiberius' will nullified with regards to Gemellus on grounds of insanity, but otherwise he carried out Tiberius' wishes.
SL88182. Fouree silver plated denarius, cf. RIC I 2, RSC I 11, Lyon 157, BnF II 3, BMCRE I 4, SRCV I 1808 (official, silver, Lugdunum, 37 A.D.), NGC VF, strike 4/5, surface 1/5, core visible (2490386-001), weight 3.336 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 315o, unofficial counterfeiter's mint, 37 A.D.; obverse C CAESAR AVG GERM P M TR POT COS, bare head of Caligula right; reverse radiate head of Divus Augustus right, flanked by two stars; rare; $380.00 (334.40)


Imitative Byzantine Anonymous Follis of Christ, c. 970 - 980 A.D.

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Of this type of imitative, Lampinen writes, "The second phase of Balkan coinage production goes into high gear with the introduction of the anonymous follis series during the reign of John I (969 - 976). The explicit Christian imagery must have struck a chord with the recently converted Balkan masses because the official mint issues were accompanied by a fair quantity of copies, to meet the excess demand. These Christian issues would also be the prototypes for the initial coinage of several medieval Christian states, such as the first Crusader issues of Edessa and Antioch, medieval Armenia and distant Georgia in the Caucasus."
BZ89911. Bronze anonymous follis, See Lampinen Imitative p. 154 for a similar imitative; for the likely prototype cf. official Byzantine anonymous class A1 folles; SBCV 1793, VF, green patina, double struck, porous, crude and blundered, weight 6.880 g, maximum diameter 26.3 mm, unofficial (Balkan?) mint, c. 970 - 980 A.D.; obverse facing bust of Christ, wears nimbus cruciger ornamented with two pellets in each limb of cross, pallium, and colobium, Gospels in both hands, blundered imitation of the abbreviation: IC - XC (Greek: Iisos Xrists - Jesus Christ) across field; reverse blundered inscription imitating: + IhSuS / XRISTuS / bASILEu / bASILE (Greek: Jesus Christ King of Kings); rare this crude; $300.00 (264.00)


Lot of 16 Roman Empire, Unofficial Ancient Counterfeits, Imitatives and Limes, c. 50 - 250 A.D.

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LT89856. Mixed Lot, 16 Roman Empire, plated fouree ancient counterfeits, bronze fouree cores, limes or imitatives, F - VF, most with flaws, unattributed to type, no tags or flips, the actual coins in the photograph, as-is, no returns; $200.00 (176.00)


Romano-British Empire, Carausius, Mid 286 - Spring or Early Summer 293 A.D.

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The legends are mostly off flan. Reverse legend possibilities include LEG XX V V, LEG XX AVG, LEG II PARTH, LEG V [...] S M AVG. The mintmark may be retrograde MC, which is known for Camulodunum (Colchester, England), but no boar standing right types are published for Camulodunum. Perhaps the mintmark is retrograde ML, but that too is unpublished. This was likely struck in an unofficial mint (an ancient counterfeit?). Carausius' legionary boar types are highly desirable, and all seem to be quite rare. We do not know of another specimen of this variety.
RA73285. Billon antoninianus, cf. RIC V-2 82 (R2), Cohen VII 148, Hunter IV 13, Webb Carausius 97 - 99, Askew 151, SRCV IV 13617, aF, green patina, earthen deposits, tight flan cutting off legends, a little rough, weight 3.769 g, maximum diameter 19.3 mm, die axis 45o, unofficial(?) mint, c. 287 A.D.; obverse [IMP CARAVSIVS P F AVG?], radiate and draped bust right, early reign 'moustache' portrait; reverse L[EG...], boar standing right, large tusks, prominent ridge of spinal bristles, [reversed C?]M in exergue; from the Charles Peters Carausius Collection; very rare; $190.00 (167.20)


Cilicia, Tarsos, c. 425 - 400 B.C., Ancient Counterfeit

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Tarsus is a historic city in south-central Turkey, 20 km inland from the Mediterranean. With a history going back over 6,000 years, Tarsus has long been an important stop for traders and a focal point of many civilizations. During the Roman Empire, Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia, the scene of the first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.
GS90992. Fouree silver plated obol, cf. SNG France 207, Trait II 530bis (official civic issue, silver, square dot border within rev. incuse), VF, minor plating breaks, scratches, weight 0.726 g, maximum diameter 8.4 mm, die axis 0o, unofficial counterfeiter's mint, c. 425 - 400 B.C.; obverse forepart of a winged animal (griffin?) left; reverse ankh-like Persian dynastic symbol, within incuse square; very rare; $160.00 (140.80)


Agrippa, Military Commander, Friend of Augustus, Grandfather of Caligula, Ancient Unofficial Cast

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This coin is clearly cast and not an official struck mint issue. Many unofficial counterfeits or perhaps semi-offical local imitations were struck and cast in Gaul, especially during the reign of Claudius (up to 50% of the bronze Claudius coins found in some areas), apparently due to shortages of official coinage. This coin was probably cast at that time.
RB88887. Cast bronze as, cf. RIC I Gaius 58, BMCRE II Tiberius 161, BnF II Caligula 77, Hunter I 1, Cohen I 3, SRCV I 1812 (official, Rome mint, struck under Caligula), F, green patina, corrosion, casting seams and sprues, weight 15.775 g, maximum diameter 30.7 mm, die axis 180o, unofficial mint, 38 - c. 60 A.D.; obverse M AGRIPPA L F COS III, head left wearing a rostral crown; reverse Neptune standing facing, head left, nude but for cloak draped over arms, dolphin in right hand, trident vertical in left hand, large S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field; $150.00 (132.00)


Marcus Aurelius, 7 March 161 - 17 March 180 A.D., Ancient Counterfeit

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There are no clear breaks to the copper core but the lamination defects are typical of a plated fouree.
RS89769. Fouree silver plated denarius, cf. RIC III 424a, RSC II 451, BMCRE IV (A. Pius) 277, Hunter II 4, SRCV II 4786 (official, silver, Rome mint), VF, well centered, light toning, nice portrait of slightly unusual style, double strike, light marks, lamination defects, edge cracks, weight 2.982 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, die axis 0o, unofficial counterfeiter's mint, as caesar, c. 140 - 144 A.D.; obverse AVRELIVS CAESAR AVG PII F COS, bare head right; reverse PIETAS AVG (to the piety of the Emperor), implements of the augurate and pontificate: secespita (knife), aspergillum (sprinkler), ewer (jug), lituus (augural staff), and simpulum (ladle); $150.00 (132.00)


Roman Republic, Unofficial, c. 169 - 91 B.C.

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Crawford notes, "The very common quadrantes with M and N (as Milan 351) are clearly unofficial."
RR79715. Copper quadrans, cf. Milan 351 (from Crawford appendix p. 309 unofficial issues of bronze coins), Sydenham -, VF, centered on a tight flan, light marks,, weight 4.182 g, maximum diameter 18.2 mm, die axis 135o, unofficial mint, c. 169 - 91 B.C.; obverse head of Hercules right, wearing Nemean Lion scalp headdress, three pellets behind; reverse prow right, ROMA below, three pellets before, M above; ex Forum (2006), ex Goodman collection; $125.00 (110.00)


Domitian, 13 September 81 - 18 September 96 A.D., Ancient Counterfeits

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Many ancient plated counterfeits have an obverse and reverse that do not match. The dies were likely created using impressions of genuine coins. Two different coins had to be used because producing each die destroyed the coin used to create an impression. The forgers were apparently unconcerned about mismatched types. The silver from the destroyed coins could then be used to make the silver foil for plating.
RS91042. Fouree silver plated denarius, cf. RIC II-1 720 for obv. (silver, official, Rome, Sep 90 - Sep 91); RIC II-1 789 for rev. (silver, official, Rome, Sep 95 - Sep 96), F, many platting breaks, weight 2.286 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 180o, unofficial counterfeiter's mint, c. 95 - 99 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR P X, laureate head right; reverse IMP XXII COS XVII CENS P P P, Minerva standing left, helmeted and draped, thunderbolt in right hand, spear vertical behind in left hand, grounded shield at feet behind; $60.00 (52.80)


Gordian III, 29 July 238 - 25 February 244 A.D., Ancient Counterfeit

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After Apollo insulted him, Eros (cupid) shot Apollo with an arrow that caused him to fall in hopeless love with Daphne, a mortal woman. Eros shot Daphne with an arrow which made her incapable of loving Apollo. Nevertheless Apollo pursued her, and out of desperation Daphne escaped by having herself turned into a laurel. Ever after, winners of the games to honor Apollo wore wreaths of laurel in honor of Apollo's Daphne.
RS91600. Fouree silver plated antoninianus, cf. RIC IV 89, RSC IV 261, Hunter III 37, SRCV III 8648 (official prototype, silver, Rome mint), VF, nice portrait, excellent centering, minor lamination flaking on edges revealing baser core, reverse center not fully struck, weight 3.462 g, maximum diameter 21.6 mm, die axis 180o, unofficial counterfeiter's mint, 242 - Jul 243 A.D.; obverse IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse P M TR P V COS II P P, Apollo seated left on throne, nude to waist, himation around hips and legs, laurel branch in right, resting left arm on lyre; from the Maxwell Hunt Collection; $60.00 (52.80)




  



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REFERENCES

Campbell, W. Greek and Roman Plated Coins. ANSNNM 75. (New York, 1933).
Metcalf, W. "Two Alexandrian Hoards" in RBN CXXII (1976), pp. 65 - 77, & pls. 1 - 2.

Catalog current as of Monday, October 14, 2019.
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Ancient Counterfeit Coins