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New Counterfeit Coin Hoards

by Ilya Prokopov

Recently I have seen groups of several dozen fake small coins batched into fake hoards. These fake coins are initially produced by either casting or using "cold technology" (the term is mine). In both cases, the initial process is followed by an additional electro-galvanic silver plating used for further surface shaping. Then an artificial patina is applied.

Such fake coin hoards are normally initially distributed in Southeast Europe but so far these fakes have been distributed by direct export, singly or as hoards, to the USA. I have no information about possible distribution in Western Europe. Recently a shipment was confiscated on the Bulgarian border in a package addressed to the USA. I have examined these coins and photographed them for publishing in my next book. Border observations indicate this shipment was not the first. These fake coins,which are produced by "cold technology" or by casting, are already present somewhere in North America and will appear on the market sooner or later.

I would like to warn that it is easy to be mislead if you look at these fake coins without great magnification. Their weight and appearance are quite similar to the genuine coins and besides they are very small. These coins are fairly exact copies of the genuine ones and this additionally makes their identification difficult.

Attached below are photographs of two fake coins of Apollonia Pontika and one of Istros. The Apollonia coins were cast and Istros coin made by "cold technology," that is cold pressing a powdered material consisting of glues and metal particles. Then an electro-galvanic process was applied to both types. Silver was applied on the surface one or more times according to forgers' desires.

To identify these fakes you can do the following:

First, look at them under great magnification - this surely will show many suspicious details. Some examples of suspicious details are visible on the attached enlarged photos and identified in the photo descriptions below. On the Apollonia coins there is a fake net like structure on the surface, typical for ancient coins that have suffered fire and were then wrapped in cloth and left in the ground for a long period. When the cloth decomposes the organic elements of the threads settle on the metal, which as a result corrodes with a patterned surface. This patterned surface does not always prove a coin is fake but it is an indicator for these fakes. The attached photos clearly show this patterned surface.

Second, check the level of hardness. It can be done on the edge with a nonmetal object which should be softer than silver. It could be plastic, wood, bone, etc. Fake coins that are cold pressed or cast of easy to melt metals and alloys are softer than the genuine and pressing the edge with a suitable object will leave traces. A genuine original coin would not be damaged. The Istros coin made by the "cold technology" is so soft that it crumbles when you press its edge with your nail.

The third test is with fire (match, lighter, etc.). This test should be carried out only when there is any uncertainty about the hardness, i.e. only after the second test. The coin should be held with tweezers and slightly, at the very edge, submitted to direct flame for several seconds; the time exposed depending on the coin size (the smaller the coin, the shorter the time and the opposite). If it is fake, its covering material or the core periphery will melt (when the core is different from the cover material).

The fourth test that everybody should do is to check the patina for colors that are unusual for the metal characteristics. In this particular hoard besides the usual nuances in black and dark brown, we also see rust color, light brown, red, blue-green, etc.; colors which are impossible for coins struck with pure silver. These colors, from glues and mechanical components, are not usually mixed in natural patinas.


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.

Coin 1. Apollonia.

Obverse: The partial deformation at the Gorgona Medusa nose is clearly seen. The image at the eyes has lost its quality as well.

Reverse: High edge and remains of the extra material at the anchor arrows. The letter A is blurred and has very low relief.


Coin 2. Apollonia.

Obverse: There is a photograph of the highest part of the relief the nose of Gorgona Medusa.

Reverse: The image of the crayfish in the low surface is not well formed.


Coin 1. Istros.

Because of the weak solder lots of material has crumbled.The artificial patina was applied on the eroded surface.


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