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Author Topic: Cheap Commodus medaillon  (Read 4375 times)

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Offline Numerianus

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Cheap Commodus medaillon
« on: December 28, 2009, 04:05:58 am »
At several forums there are  intensive discussions of a nice Commodus  medaillon which will be auctioned by a well-known auction house. The particularity of this story is that it was started another famous auction house which alerted fakehunters on it. A feature of the medaillon is a very low estimate (only 50KUSD), that is much lower than the price realized for a poor specimen on the other auction.
These medaillons are quite specific but they can be found in collections of major museums:
I believe that they are worthy to look at.
http://virtualcohen.com/commodus-66

 

Offline areich

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2009, 04:34:37 am »
I don't understand what your point is.
Andreas Reich

Offline Numerianus

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2009, 04:42:33 am »
The point is that the upper specimen is quite different from others.
Of course, I am not an expert for such objects, but  at the first glance I would say that
it is modern even without comparison with authentic examples.
Does it hurts eyes other members?

Lloyd Taylor

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2009, 05:44:07 am »
My immediate reaction is that it looks to be from modern hands, so it doesn't pass the Gladwell "Blink" test. I doubt that I am alone in this reaction. Closer examination including comparison to the other two genuine examples reinforces the perception, with many anomalous aspects ranging across the areas of style, proportions, lettering and coin fabric.  Very troubling is the latter, which includes the absence of the circular bimetallic rim boundary on the problematic coin.

In considering these aspects it serves to remember that such medallions were struck in limited numbers, to a consistently high standard.  Do the variations you see between the coins suggest that this is the case with the anomalous example?

Offline xintaris75

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2009, 07:14:27 am »
BM example
Ω ΖΕΥ, ΠΑΤΕΡ ΖΕΥ,
ΣΟΝ ΜΕΝ ΟΥΡΑΝΟΥ ΚΡΑΤΟΣ.
ΣΥ Δ' ΕΡΓ' ΕΠ' ΑΝΘΡΩΠΩΝ ΟΡΑΪΣ
ΛΕΩΡΓΑ ΚΑΙ ΘΕΜΙΣΤΑ.
ΣΟΙ ΔΕ ΘΗΡΙΩΝ ΥΒΡΙΣ ΤΕ ΚΑΙ ΔΙΚΗ ΜΕΛΕΙ.

Offline byzcoll

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2009, 10:17:11 am »
Hi,

I am not at all an expert on these coins. However, what jumps into my eyes is the face of Hercules on the reverse of the upper coin: it has full features engraved into a completely flat background, i.e. it looks like a graffiti placed onto a worn-off surface. So I would suspect that the face is either tooled or a (transfer?) die has been "enhanced" where there was just a peg instead of a face.

byzcoll

Offline curtislclay

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2009, 02:19:35 am »
I think the Commodus medallion in question, about to be auctioned by Bernardi and Lanz in NYC, is authentic, but extensively tooled.

The obverse die is well known on authentic pieces, for example Gnecchi pl. 83.5, but on that die Commodus' bust was draped only. On the Lanz piece, the tooler has added all the detail of the cuirass and shoulder flaps below the clasp on the emperor's right shoulder.

The reverse type has been even more extensively reworked. Hercules' "six-pack abs" are a modern creation, his facial features too, as Byzcoll correctly pointed out. The ears, eyes, snout of his lionskin, hanging down beside the altar, are an invention of the tooler; on genuine pieces the lionskin ends shortly below Hercules' knee.  His quiver hanging in the tree has been transformed into a thick branch and his bow, just above the quiver, has been tooled away. I suspect that this die started as the same as Gnecchi pl. 83.5, in which case a major change has also been made in the relationship between Hercules' head and club and the title IMP VII in the legend. That is the same reverse die that was used for the second, third, and fourth medallions shown above. I don't exclude, however, that it could be a new reverse die, so far unknown to me in its untooled state.

In my opinion $50,000 is not cheap, but rather far too much money for such an extensively remade piece!
Curtis Clay

Offline Numerianus

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2009, 04:01:21 am »
Thanks a lot, Curtis! After your detailed analysis it remain only two (rhetoric) questions:

1. Are here, on the reverse, not newly created details?
2. Did other parts of the obverse enhanced to be in conformity with brand new cuirass and drapery?

Offline Robert_Brenchley

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2009, 04:09:20 pm »
As a piece of modern art, it's definitely not worth fifty grand!
Robert Brenchley

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Offline quisquam

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2009, 04:47:17 pm »
If it's this obverse die, there is not that much tooling on the obverse. Or is this medallion tooled in a stikingly similar way?

http://www.acsearch.info/record.html?id=39106

Stefan

Lloyd Taylor

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2009, 08:06:10 pm »
If it's this obverse die, there is not that much tooling on the obverse. Or is this medallion tooled in a stikingly similar way?

Tooled or perhaps obverse copied from the same host coin with some minor reworking in the process?  The points of difference appear negligible.  Amongst other things, the identical centering of both matched obverses is suggestive of a common host. Note in particular the common edge nick at 4 hours, adjacent the B of BRIT... chances of this happening on authentic coins?

These are both fakes in my opinion, probably with the obverse derived from an authentic host coin, but paired to two modern reverse molds. The result: two distinctly different fake medallions derived from one authentic obverse. Given the rarity and expense of these coins the faker only gets one shot in the market and doubling up the obverse with distinctly different reverses makes discovery less likely.

Offline commodus

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2009, 12:44:23 am »
The particularity of this story is that it was started another famous auction house which alerted fakehunters on it. A feature of the medaillon is a very low estimate (only 50KUSD)

"Only"!!!
A steal is right, though methinks "fraud" would be the better term. If not altogether fake then heavily tooled, which is appreciably the same thing in the end.
The price it is offered for is about $50K too high either way.
Eric Brock (1966 - 2011)

Offline curtislclay

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2009, 02:03:39 am »
The duplicate obverse pointed out by Stefan leads me to the same conclusion as Lloyd T: both of these medallions must be modern fakes, since their obverses derive from one and the same mold.

Apart from the identical centering and the same fault at 4:00 pointed out by Lloyd, both obverses have the same fake shoulder flaps and lunate section of the cuirass above the flaps, which as I stated above are not present on the ancient die that they duplicate.

It is unlikely that this is an alteration made by the mint on the original die in the course of its life, for I have images of 18 strikes from this obverse die, and only the two in question have the added cuirass flaps on the shoulder. The other 16 pieces all show just the emperor's smooth shoulder below the clasp of his cloak.

Both reverses also derive from genuine prototypes, but have been more clumsily and extensively tooled than their obverse.

Apparently the forger has done a good job of making his products appear ancient, even under close examination in hand: they are being accepted into top-flight auctions, and the piece shown by Stefan sold for $60,000 in 2006!
Curtis Clay

Offline antoninus1

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2009, 05:23:13 pm »
Have also a look at the obverse at 7 o´clock.
On the first specimen some material is missing, on Stefan´s specimen there is also "something" at 7 o´clock, maybe filled?

gavignano

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2009, 09:47:09 pm »
Although I am probably in the minority who would put weight on correct anatomy, but wow the first pic reverse is a disaster!! Ancients rarely got it wrong. This is a huge giveaway!
Compare with the second pic, which is beautiful anatomy. The "six pack" on the first pic is not even close to true anatomy (i.e., the muscle rectus abdominus isn't even close to right) - also the pectoralis muscles on the first pic look like a case of roid rage, notice the beauty of the contours on pic 2. The quadriceps muscles have an unnatural contour on pic 1, on pic 2, perfection!

Offline Numerianus

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2009, 04:13:37 am »
Although I am probably in the minority who would put weight on correct anatomy, but wow the first pic reverse is a disaster!! Ancients rarely got it wrong. This is a huge giveaway!
The same observation could be applied to the reverse of the NAC medaillon.
Where are the experts? Presumably, dies for medaillons were cut  by the most skillful engravers.
So, the most kind suggestion is that the reverse is heavily tooled to the extent that it must be considered as
modern.
Who on earth pays such huge money for this crap?
I have a suspicion that the money paid are not proper to the individual. So, probably, a bank... 

Lloyd Taylor

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2009, 05:06:37 am »
Although I am probably in the minority who would put weight on correct anatomy, but wow the first pic reverse is a disaster!! Ancients rarely got it wrong. This is a huge giveaway!

As Malcolm Gladwell would say ...BLINK... if it don't seem right on first glance it is unlikely to be right, even if you cannot put your finger on the reason why immediately.

Who on earth pays such huge money for this crap?
I have a suspicion that the money paid are not proper to the individual. So, probably, a bank... 

Possibly, but I would also suggest that money laundering is a frequent and commonn activity that may be involved.

In summary: It seems pretty clear that these are both high quality cast fakes, with the obverse derived from an authentic host coin, the cast of which is then lightly tooled, but paired to two modern reverse molds that have been heavily tooled so as to divert attention from underlying fake nature of the coins.

The result: two distinctly different fake medallions derived from one authentic obverse.

Given the rarity and expense of these coins the faker only gets one shot in the market and doubling up the "quality" obverse with distinctly different reverses makes discovery less likely. Most buyers would focus on the "quality" of the obverse portrait for which they will overlook the obviously tooled character of the reverse, convinced that they are dealing with a tooled genuine item.

It is a nice psychological ploy by the faker, which shows deep understanding of his market.

The nuances involved would be easily overlooked by those less than genuine numismatic collectors, who "invest" for financial return, among other motives - as you suggest .... "not proper to the individual. So, probably, a bank... "  who in this case may be "hoist with their own petard"!



Offline curtislclay

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2009, 10:20:46 am »
Are there reports on any other list that Lanz has been informed?

This medallion should be withdrawn before somebody else pays $50,000 for a fake! The auction will be held in NYC on 4 January.
Curtis Clay

Lloyd Taylor

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2009, 06:12:36 pm »
Are there reports on any other list that Lanz has been informed?

This medallion should be withdrawn before somebody else pays $50,000 for a fake! The auction will be held in NYC on 4 January.

I've indirectly raised the matter on CFDL by asking:  Will the Lanz specimen still make it to auction?

Perhaps I should be more explicit so I'll send a note to Cliff Laubstein who has put together the brilliant attached composite, which really tells the story.

Curtis - thanks for the insight regarding the shoulder flaps and cuirass, this proved instrumental in the evidentiary line of proof of fakery. It is readily seen in the comparison image below.

Lloyd Taylor

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2010, 07:58:33 pm »
Are there reports on any other list that Lanz has been informed?

I understand that Lanz is a CFDL member, so the ball is in their court. 

Come Monday, I'll watch lot 114 with interest http://sixbid.com/nav.php?p=viewlot&sid=201&lot=114

Offline aragon6

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #20 on: January 01, 2010, 08:37:16 pm »
If I was to put up that kind of money for a single coin I would want a recognized third party to authenticate it before the handing over of any money for it, or putting up a bid.  As it has been said before even reputed dealers can be in error.

Offline byzcoll

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2010, 02:02:54 pm »
At sixbid the medallion is now classified as "Lot unsold". However, it is not stated that (or whether) the lot has been withdrawn.

byzcoll

Lloyd Taylor

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2010, 04:08:50 pm »
At sixbid the medallion is now classified as "Lot unsold". However, it is not stated that (or whether) the lot has been withdrawn.

Not an uncommon practice. It avoids any overt admission that the coin is a fake and it remains to surface in another time and place, once the "storm has passed by".  After all, only if someone documents it on a fakes database does any record of the problem exist.

Lloyd Taylor

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #23 on: January 07, 2010, 06:03:28 am »
However, it is not stated that (or whether) the lot has been withdrawn.

Dr Lanz advises that is available as an unsold lot at 80% of the estimate, so it was never withdrawn.

According to Lanz it is original, although no explanation is provided for any of the observed anomalies, which are apparent when compared to demonstrably authentic coins.  Lanz does not acknowledge that any of the documented anomalies exist!  However, plausible deniability of evidence does not equate to proof of authenticity.

Lloyd Taylor

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Re: Cheap Commodus medaillon
« Reply #24 on: January 07, 2010, 06:17:37 am »
I thought it would be nice to end this thread on a positive note with a beautiful example of a genuine Commodus medallion (albeit a different variety) from Nomos AG's latest list... one which clearly shows the bimetallic character and is relatively untouched, other than perhaps some light smoothing.  Enjoy!

P.S. By the way it was cheaper than the "cheap" Commodus medallion that started this thread... little  wonder then that it was snapped up within minutes of listing.

 

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