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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Numismatics| ▸ |Counterfeits||View Options:  |  |  | 

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.

Nero, 13 October 54 - 9 June 68 A.D., Roman Provincial Egypt, Ancient Counterfeit

|Roman| |Egypt|, |Nero,| |13| |October| |54| |-| |9| |June| |68| |A.D.,| |Roman| |Provincial| |Egypt,| |Ancient| |Counterfeit||tetradrachm|
In 1933, J.G. Milne wrote, "There are scarcely any counterfeits or forgeries of Alexandrian coins in existence, other than those made in modern times." This coin is, however, an ancient counterfeit, a die match to two specimens in William Metcalf 's "A Hoard of Forgeries from Luxor" in Revue Belge de Numismatique CXXII (1976), pp. 65 - 77, pls. 1 - 2 (Available Online). Metcalf records a hoard of ancient Alexandrian forgeries in the American Numismatic Society collection, acquired at Luxor in March 1908, by the E.T. Newell. The 76 pieces in the ANS not be the entire hoard, since Newell was in the habit of disposing of duplicate or damaged specimens. The coins are of acceptable weight and struck, not cast, and copied coins struck 41 - 161 A.D. The hoard was clearly as intended, a hoard of counterfeits only, likely the forger's own stock. There are two specimens from the same dies in the ANS. Our coin may have been part of this original hoard or it may be a coin that the forger had already put into circulation.
RX93591. Billon tetradrachm, Metcalf Forgeries p. 72, obv: IX / rev: 17 & obv: pl. 1, 11 / rev: pl. 2, 13 (for prototype see Dattari 256, struck 67/68 A.D.), VF, very close to official style, light marks, tight flan, edge cracks, weight 11.725 g, maximum diameter 23.6 mm, die axis 0o, criminal mint, c. 161 - 165 A.D.; obverse NEPO KΛAY KAIΣ ΣEB ΓEP AY, radiate bust of Nero left, wearing aegis, L I∆ (year 14) before; reverse ∆IOΣ OΛYMΠIOY, laureate bust of Zeus Olympios right, no star; ex Naville Numismatics auction 51 (21 Jul 2019), lot 241 (not identified as counterfeit); $400.00 (€368.00)
 


Erythrai, Ionia, c. 550 - 500 B.C., Ancient Counterfeit

|Archaic| |Electrum|, |Erythrai,| |Ionia,| |c.| |550| |-| |500| |B.C.,| |Ancient| |Counterfeit||1/48| |stater|
During the second half of the 6th century, Erythrai struck an extensive issue hektai with head of Herakles on the obverse and an incuse square on the reverse. The earliest coins had a crude archaic style head and a simple square punch. The later coins were more refined archaic style with a quadripartite incuse square reverse. We do not know of any official coins of this small denomination.
GA97741. Fouree electrum plated 1/48 stater, cf. BMC Ionia p. 117, 7 (electrum hekte, 2.55g, official, Erythrai), aVF, areas of missing plating, bumps and scratches, weight 0.370 g, maximum diameter 6.0 mm, unofficial counterfeiter's mint, c. 550 - 500 B.C.; obverse archaic style head of Herakles left, wearing Nemean Lion's scalp headdress, almond shaped eye, large nose; reverse irregular roughly square incuse punch; $200.00 (€184.00)
 


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

|Anonymous| |Folles|, |Imitative| |Byzantine| |Anonymous| |Follis| |of| |Christ,| |c.| |970| |-| |980| |A.D.||anonymous| |follis|
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: Ihsoús Xristós - Jesus Christ) across field; reverse blundered inscription imitating: + IhSuS / XRISTuS / bASILEu / bASILE (Greek: Jesus Christ King of Kings); rare this crude; $195.00 (€179.40)
 


Neapolis, Campania, Italy, 275 - 250 B.C., Possibly an Ancient Counterfeit

|Italy|, |Neapolis,| |Campania,| |Italy,| |275| |-| |250| |B.C.,| |Possibly| |an| |Ancient| |Counterfeit||drachm|
Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the second millennium B.C. The city was refounded as Neapolis in the sixth century B.C. and became an important hub of Magna Graecia, playing a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society. Naples remained influential under Rome and more so after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Thereafter, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.
GI95913. Silver drachm, cf. Sambon 546 (controls); SNG BnF 865 (same); SNG ANS 420 (same); HN Italy 588; HGC Italy 456 (R2) (all solid silver, official, none with BΦ), F, a few bumps, encrustations, corrosion, no clear core exposure but the weight is light and signs of possible plating exist, perhaps a silver plated fouree, weight 3.092 g, maximum diameter 17.4 mm, die axis 0o, Neapolis or unofficial(?) mint, 275 - 250 B.C.; obverse diademed head of nymph (Parthenope?) left, BΦ behind neck; reverse man-faced bull (river-god Achelous) walking right, head turned facing, Nike above flying right and placing wreath on bull's head, IΣ below, NEOΠOΛITHΣ exergue; apparently unpublished with BΦ behind the Nymph's neck, we were unable to find another specimen with this control mark; from the Errett Bishop Collection; very rare; $150.00 (€138.00)
 


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

|Cilicia|, |Cilicia,| |Tarsos,| |c.| |425| |-| |400| |B.C.,| |Ancient| |Counterfeit||obol|
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, Traité 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; $125.00 (€115.00)
 


Faustina Sr., Augusta 25 February 138 - Early 141, Wife of Antoninus Pius, Ancient Counterfeit

|Faustina| |Sr.|, |Faustina| |Sr.,| |Augusta| |25| |February| |138| |-| |Early| |141,| |Wife| |of| |Antoninus| |Pius,| |Ancient| |Counterfeit||denarius|
The pulvinar (plural pulvinaria) was a special couch used for displaying images of the gods, that they might receive offerings at ceremonies such as the lectisternium or supplicatio. In the famous lectisternium of 217 B.C., on orders of the Sibylline books, six pulvinaria were arranged, each for a divine male-female pair. By extension, pulvinar can also mean the shrine or platform housing several of these couches and their images. At the Circus Maximus, the couches and images of the gods were placed on an elevated pulvinar to "watch" the games.
SL79707. Fouree silver plated denarius, cf. RIC III AP339(a) (S), RSC II 219, BMCRE IV AP139, Hunter II 5, Strack 405, SRCV II - (solid silver, official, Rome mint, 139 - early 141 A.D.), NGC VF, strike 5/5, surface 1/5, ex jewelry (5771210-002), weight 3.069 g, maximum diameter 17.9 mm, die axis 180o, unofficial mint, c. 140 - 142 A.D.; obverse FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust right, hair elaborately waved and banded, drawn up at the back and in a round coil at top; reverse IVNONI REGINAE, draped throne (pulvinar of Juno), transverse scepter resting against the left side, peacock below before throne standing slightly right with tail in splendor (spread); NGC| Lookup; $110.00 (€101.20)
 


Julia Domna, Augusta, 194 - 8 April 217 A.D.

|Julia| |Domna|, |Julia| |Domna,| |Augusta,| |194| |-| |8| |April| |217| |A.D.||denarius|
Coins struck by the imperial mint at Emesa are crude and legends are often blundered, but this coin is exceedingly crude and the reverse legend is nearly nonsense. Perhaps it is an ancient counterfeit.
RS92843. Silver denarius, unofficial(?); cf. RIC IV S632 (S); RSC III 194; BMCRE V p. 105, S423; Hunter III -; SRCV II -, F, crude portrait, porous, weight 2.440 g, maximum diameter 17.1 mm, die axis 180o, Emesa (Homs, Syria)(?) mint, 193 - 196 A.D.; obverse IVLIA DOMNA AVG (blundered), draped bust right, hair in waved horizontal ridges, bun at back of head; reverse VENERI VICTR (severely blundered), Venus standing right with back turned facing, nude to below the buttocks, resting left elbow on waist high column, transverse palm frond in left hand, apple in extended right hand; scarce; $100.00 (€92.00)
 







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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.

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