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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Antiquities  |  Other Metal Antiquities (Moderator: otlichnik)  |  Topic: Authenticity of Roman 'Bust' 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Authenticity of Roman 'Bust'  (Read 148 times)
SeptimusT
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« on: February 10, 2019, 01:20:42 pm »

I was wondering what opinions I might get here regarding the authenticity of this piece. I have gotten conflicting advice on it, and every time I settle my opinion new evidence makes me question it. It is a bust, probably used as a steelyard weight (similarly designed ones are common, and there is a hole within the crest of the helmet) depicting Minerva or Mars, supposedly of British origin.

However, since I acquired it numerous identical examples have appeared, usually showing mushy features, severe casting flaws, and/or obviously fake patinas. A much more convicting piece, but still identical, was sold by TimeLine Auctions. Many similar objects (although not of the same mould) can be found from documented Roman contexts.

Mine does not exhibit the poor casting or (to my eyes) obviously fake patinas of some of the fakes, but the fact that they are duplicates makes it highly questionable. At the same time, it is not entirely impossible that the fakes originated from an original, or that multiple authentic examples (such as the TimeLine example) could be cast from the same mould (such cases, though rare, can be found within the Portable Antiquities Scheme).

Would anyone with more experience be willing to look at the patina and design and share their thoughts? I know what the answer probably is, but I want to be abundantly cautious, as well as to get as many examples of it out there as I can. I share an example of mine as received (dirty) and post-cleaning. The light patina on the chest and nose was not caused by cleaning, but was present beneath the dirt. 

My example is ~4cm long, and weighs 17.03g (almost identical size to the TimeLine example, but a bit lighter). 

Mine

Prior to cleaning:




After:





Patina close up:



Timeline Auctions:



Various bad fakes:





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otlichnik
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« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2019, 06:34:54 am »

Sadly I think you do need to be worried.

I have been in the same situation.  Many years ago I bought a couple of Greek-era fibulae from the Balkans.  They seemed to pass all the tests.  They were correct in style and design compared to documented originals, reference books showed that genuine ones were found in the same part of the Balkans that they came from, the patina looked good to my eye at that time - it was complex and layered and not the simple fake you often see.  I was happy with my purchases.

Then I began to see the exact same thing for sale.  Over and over.  It was clear that someone was either casting from an original, or from a well-researched and made copy, applying a good fake patina and then distributing them via many different routes.

Mine now rest in my fake bin.

Yours certainly seems to have a better patina than some of the others but it does not look like it would be impossible to fake.  More work than simply applying the cheap fake-patina products but there are ways to add fake accretions and/or dirt, use chemicals to corrode, etc.

If yours was only close in style I would be far less worried but it does seem to be identical, indicating the same mould.....

SC
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SC
(Shawn Caza, Ottawa)
SeptimusT
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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2019, 07:42:15 pm »

I agree that I have reason to worry, and my gut feeling is that it’s probably a forgery. However, it is possible that there is an authentic original out there (or even more than one from the same mound), so I wish that I could be more certain. I would hate to condemn it if I’m not sure.

I tried dipping it in acetone tonight to see if it would have any effect on the patina, but it did nothing. Can you think of anything else I could try to help determine authenticity? I’ve heard of microscopic analysis of a cross section of the patina as well.
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SeptimusT
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2019, 11:22:50 am »

Not to spam the thread, but I've done a bit more research and found that some artificial patinas are true patinas that aren't removed by acetone or alcohol. However, those sound like they would tend to take a lot more effort; would a relatively cheap fake be expected to do so? In all frankness, this cost less than $40.
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Plumbata
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2019, 09:51:21 pm »

Sadly my suspicions are raised as well, finding multiple matches for an antiquity like that is usually not a good sign. Regarding the creation of patina composed of true copper salts which are not affected by acetone, forgers possess an arsenal of different cheap chemicals and techniques which don't really require much direct effort to deploy, just time to soak. While a variety of conditions can leave a genuine artifact or coin with a "thin" patina or even none to speak of at all, I've noticed that many genuine UK found bronze or copper alloy artifacts and coins tend to have a measurably thick patina which due to differential conversion to copper salts may display spalling, or chipping/erosion on edges or high points due to the fragility of the thick patina; a feature I haven't really seen on fakes and don't see on the item in question.

"British found" antiquities fetch a high price in the market because of strong demand and lower supply relative to Balkan/eastern European sourced material and the dealers and forgers are aware of this, so such claims must always be scrutinized. The infamous Saxbys Coins was notorious for doing this, and among the clear fakes he also offered genuine artifacts, some of which I knew came from hoards dug up in the Carpathian Basin by folk I communicated with for example, but mysteriously were listed as "British found" when he sold them. If you don't check it already, the http://ancientartifakes.net forum has a good but incomplete list of fake artifact sellers that may be helpful.
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otlichnik
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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2019, 08:40:05 am »

Plumbata is right about that UK phenomenon.  I am always surprised at the number of fleabay dealers listing "UK finds" that consist largely of lists of Byzantine coins and items only found in the Balkans.....

As for patinas.  Acetone only strips the simple "painted on" style of fake patinas.  Forgers are getting more clever than that.  You can create "real" - that is true chemical reactions that build up to create hard patinas - by more complex chemical means.  Treat a big group of items together and the cost and effort don't add up to much.  When I used to collect WWII uniforms, there were forgers who would take modern creations and bury them in the ground over the winter, then dig them up and sell them in their "aged" state.

Another dangerous sign is the price you paid.

No one would sell that item, if genuine, for under $40.  No one.  Market price for an original starts at 10 times that and goes up.  Finding something for half of market price is possible, if you have good knowledge and connections, but not less than 1/10th.

One big problem of course is that things like fleabay, and the few notorious sellers of fakes, have already created a "history" of prices for such fakes.  $40 might seem fair compared to a listing of other fakes.  But search the forum, vcoins, auction house catalogues, etc and the real price will become evident.

SC
 
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SC
(Shawn Caza, Ottawa)
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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Antiquities  |  Other Metal Antiquities (Moderator: otlichnik)  |  Topic: Authenticity of Roman 'Bust' « previous next »
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