Numismatic and History Discussions > Ancient Coin Forum

Are imitatives fake or not?

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Virgil H:
There was a post in the Byzantine section about fake or imitative coins that confused me a bit. I know I have talked about this in the past, but it got me thinking again. I decided to make a new post rather than respond there.

Here is how I have come to define coins. I would be interested if this is a useful way to categorize them. When I see coin descriptions, I put it in one of my categories.

1. Officially minted coins
2. Contemporary forgeries or imitations: coins made in the same time period of the official coins (when they were circulating) and made to deceive. Upon thinking about it now, I will drop using the word "imitation" because it is confusing. It is an ancient fake, so more desirable than a modern fake.
3. Barbaric imitations: coins made by the various tribes copying established coins from Roman and various Greek and other states. These were not made to deceive, I believe, they were often just too obvious. These are coins from the various areas that produced coinage and are separate and collectible in their own right. I think many of these also fall into Category 1.
4. Modern fake: anything made well after the time the originals were produced, and made to deceive.

My tastes run to trying to only collect Category 1 and 3, but I have one in Category 2 and one in Category 4. Categories two and four are "fakes."

For me, the word "imitation" refers to actual ancient coins that copy another coin and are made in a different place than the coin being copied.


These types of classifications are characterized by the fact that when we look at individual points, it turns out that each of them must be divided into 2, 3 ... etc.

The coins described in your step 2 cover very different phenomena. A mere fake struck for profit is far different from a situation in which city/country deciding to mint a coins that looks like another city/country's coins because the latter are widely recognized as legal tender.

Below is an example of the Gaza tetradrachm, designed in the manner of the Athenian tetradrachm:

Celtic imitation of Philip II's tetradrachm:

Indian imitation of Tiberius' aureus:

Of course, you might try to qualify them as barbaric imitations, but are all three of the above coin issuers really barbarians? Wouldn't it be appropriate to distinguish between coins that were minted as a medium of exchange and coins that might have been money or perhaps jewelry?

I also think that it is not so simple.

What exactly is an imitation? How close to the original has a coin to be to be considered as an imitation and when does it begin to be a creation in its own right?

Is "barbaric" a clearly definded scientific term? Probably not :-\.

What's about the posthumous Alexander coinage being minted for more than hundred years after his death? These are officially minted imitations made by greek cities :).
The same with the pseudo-rhodian coinage, officially imitating known coin types.

I personally don't care much about such classifications and decide on the basis of each coin whether I want to have it in the collection or not :).

Also ancient forgeries can be very interesting. For example it has long been thought that the serration of roman denarii, test cuts or the punchmarks (banker's marks) on early gold and electrum coins had been a means to prevent forgeries. But you also find plated coins with serration, test cuts or punchmarks not showing that the coin is plated :laugh:.
Or what technical effort was necessary to plate tiny coins like hemiobols? Was it really worth the effort?




--- Quote from: Altamura on July 07, 2022, 10:57:12 am ---
Is "barbaric" a clearly definded scientific term? Probably not :-\.



--- End quote ---

The term "barbarous radiates" came from early 20th century numismists who believed that these were copies of Roman radiates made by invading "barbarians" -that's to say, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who landed in Britain in the mid 5th century. This was soon proved wrong. In fact they were made contemporously within the Empire, in Britain and Northern Europe. It has been established that different areas have their own styles.

The result, though, is that now "barbarous" or "barbaric" is used to describe any coin that doesn't look quite right. It has perpetuated the idea that coins so described have been produced by barbarians.

Virgil H:
I am going to respond to Altamira's posts after I think about them a bit more. Good stuff there I want to try to be thoughtful in my response. As for the word "barbaric," I agree that is a problematic word. There are a couple words long used in numismatics that fields such as anthropology dropped years ago. Barbaric is one of them. A famous anthropologist published a book in the early 20th century called "The Sexual Life of Savages." It was a groundbreaking book in the field at the time. Using the word "savages" would get you fired today. LOL. Identifying these coins by the tribe or political unit that made them (which is done) has to be better, even though we all pretty much know what the word barbaric means in this context.



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