by Ilya Prokopov

This article supplies a method for detecting one type of modern coin counterfeit, a type made using dies cut with a modern engraving machine. I will illustrate this detection method with counterfeits of coins from different periods, each made today in the same place and using the same technology. The examples I provide include three ancient coins, solidii of Zeno (474-475), Basiliscus (475-476), and Anastasius (491-518). The coins are made of the same metal, a low grade gold, which does not correspond to the metal used to strike the original coins. To conceal this, the producers coated them with an artificial patina. These coins can be easily detected as fakes when we see them together. However, individually and without great magnification, they could be misleading.

So, how can we detect this type of forgery when we only have one coin? To ensure we are not cheated, we definitely must be alert and look for other indicators of forgery. Fortunately, there are obvious signs that help us refute the authenticity of these forgeries. The signs are the marks left by a modern engraving machines on the coin matrix. The use of such machines is possible only in well equipped workshops, almost as sophisticated as a real mint. However, to achieve the maximum effect, elaborate and labor-consuming hand work is needed to hide the tracks of the engraving machine cutters. As can be well seen on the photos, they are comparatively deep and parallel, applied uniformly and can be seen under magnification. These cuts, or tracks, must be hand processed to be concealed. First they are obliterated and then areas smoothed so that after striking of a new fake coin there should be no traces on its edge. Usually, the tracks on the flat surface are easy to erase (again with machines followed by hand work) but eliminating the tracks on slopes of the relief is more difficult. Working in these areas could more easily cause damage to the matrix. Such work requires people with special qualifications, people with steady hands and some talent.

I have also included photos of a silver medieval coin and a rare modern coin. Both show the same engraving machine traces. On the medieval type forgery the traces can be easily seen on the relief slopes. On the modern coin, however, the tracks were left on the edge, where the machine was used to cut an elaborate inscription.

All five coins were produced by the same technology. So far, I have seen more than 100 specimens.

As a conclusion, if you notice such or similar tracks on a coin, please treat it with great attention.


Click the thumbnails below for very large photos.  Your browser may automatically resize the image view to fit the screen.  If so, I recommend clicking on the photos to view them full size. 

1. FORGERY - Gold coin of the Roman emperor Zeno Obverse, Reverse and 2 details


2. FORGERY - Gold coin of the Roman emperor Basiliscus Obverse, Reverse and 2 details


3. FORGERY - Gold coin of the Roman emperor Anastasius Obverse, Reverse and 2 details


4. FORGERY - Silver medieval coin from 14 c. Obverse, Reverse and 2 details


5. FORGERY - Modern coin from 1916.

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