By Jim Phelps
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138), an interesting series of coins were issued to commemorate his visits to the Roman provinces, to inspect troops and make needed reforms. These coins are often referred to as "Hadrian's Travel Series", and the coins are highly sought after by many collectors. Unfortunately, popular coins make excellent targets for the work of forgers. This page explores the possibility that some of these coins offered recently are modern forgeries. Though it would be rather unusual for 3 examples of this coin from the same die pair to show up for sale in a 3-month period, all of the coins having a remarkably similar flan, striking, and centering bring the odds to a staggering amount.
In April 2004 a coin from this series was sold on eBay. The coin commemorated Hadrian's visit to Egypt, and had the reverse legend "AEGYPTOS", showing the personification of Egypt reclining to the left, holding a sistrum (an Egyptian musical instrument), with an ibis at her feet. The buyer listed it on eBay the following month, no doubt hoping to turn a profit on an interesting and highly collectable coin.
At the same time, another eBay seller put a curiously similar coin on eBay. When the similarity between the two was pointed out, the first buyer/seller stopped his auction immediately, sending the coin off to a third-party grading service. This shows excellent responsibility on this person's part, but perhaps sending it to a service that specializes in ancient coins (or a large ancient coin auction house) would have been better. The service he sent it to has only recently started grading ancient coins, and their website shows no mention of authentication - only grading. The coin was slabbed and returned to the sender, who unfortunately took this as a guarantee of authenticity. Meanwhile the auction of the second coin continued and ended normally, the buyer receiving the coin according to the feedback.
Another month later and a third example of this coin went up for auction on eBay, by the same seller as the first one. This one has a variation, a small test cut on the obverse. When contacted, this seller says the two of this type were part of a mixed 300-coin group of denarii purchased from a dealer in Munich. Most of the coins were sold a few at a time on eBay, with an additional 50 sold to a few dealers at the 2004 Long Beach coin show. This seller does offer a money-back guarantee, and recommends David Sear's certification service in her auction text.
These coins were pointed out on the Moneta email list, and a debt of gratitude is owed to "Giacomo" for first mentioning this to the list, and to Curtis Clay, Robert Kokotailo and Susan Headley for their posts about this. Note that I do not claim to be an expert on forgeries - I created this page because this particular series of possible fakes does not seem to be documented elsewhere. This is not to accuse the sellers of knowingly dealing in fakes - it's investigating the possibility of a series of fakes infiltrating the market. The pictures on this page have been edited as follows: In most cases (coins 1, 1a, & 3) I have joined separate pictures of the obverse and reverse together for ease of viewing. Also, I have joined all 4 obverses and reverses together as collages, below. No further editing was done on these pictures by me.