Ancient Fourees?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Clavdivs, Mar 4, 2018.

  1. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Thanks - I have a rather rudimentary knowledge of Roman matters so it nice to get agreement. Those strange imported/copied foreign coin seem an interesting phenomenon. Reminiscent of the imported "Galley Halfpennies" of medieval England, and in a different way, the evasives of the 18th century Britain. All indications that there is something wrong with the official small change supply.

    I recall getting into a rather passionate exchange related to this matter with Ted Buttrey, and citing early 20th century Californian tokens as a further example, which he was rather unhappy with. I was leaning in my argument on a letter about them I had got from Steve Album, but feel sure Steve subsequently rather switched sides, once he saw which way the wind was blowing. Perhaps I still have the original letter though, deep in a tray somewhere?

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  3. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    In a footnote to his Thompson festschrift contribution, Buttrey refers to the famous paper about Roman fourees by M. H. Crawford, “Plated Coins, False Coins,” Numismatic Chronicle, 1968. In a paper titled “Uses and Abuses of Gresham's Law in the History of Money,” Robert Mundell, of Columbia University, who won the 1999 Nobel Prize in economics calls the theory that Emergency Owls were silver-plated, rather than pure copper, “a modern inference.”
    COPPER OWLS: THE EMERGENCY COINAGE OF ATHENS 406 BC by Michael E. Marotta. (An extended version of this article was published by THE CELATOR, October 2005)

    With perhaps the one notable exception--Athenian owls and drachma c. 407, that display a certain kind of eye known also from gold coins--all plated coins are false. I understand that people collect everything, but, to me, these ancient fakes are, at best, curios of limited value as artifacts, and of no other value.

  4. 4to2centBC

    4to2centBC Well-Known Member

    That is funny. I encourage you to extend that view to ancient coins in general. Why limit yourself?
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  5. Okidoki

    Okidoki Well-Known Member

  6. Okidoki

    Okidoki Well-Known Member

  7. 4to2centBC

    4to2centBC Well-Known Member

    My 'curio of limited value'


    Kingdom of Macedon, Alexander III 'the Great' Fourree Tetradrachm. Imitating Pella(?), circa 325-315 BC(?). Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin headdress / Zeus Aetophoros seated left, holding sceptre; AΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ to right. Cf. Price 217; cf. Heritage NYINC 3063, 33072. 14.51g, 30mm, 10h. Extremely Fine. Plated.
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  8. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Can you enumerate the reasons why you feel that fourrees have limited artifactual value? What do you consider to be "artifactual value"?
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  9. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Yes - I would more or less go along with that. I do not have specialist knowledge of Greek or Roman examples - but I have seen many of these things over the years - of ancient and medieval periods, from Europe, Persia and India. My primary observation is that in most cases the style of the dies is really excellent - so good its seems likely they were from official dies.

    Thus I came to the conclusion that in most cases this is a case of mint workers making foil wrapped flans at home, smuggling them into the mint, and most probably having them to be struck within the system and going out the door with a real one in exchange. Or some such.

    All this really tells us is that some employees sometime go to quite big lengths to steal from their employers, and always have. Its not surprising or profound, and so yes, speaking personally, there are other things we can try to learn from coins which interest me more.

    For example - was Pliny "hopelessly confused", or rather, was he telling fibs, about Graditianus? And if the latter, why?

  10. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis

    There is another possibility: transfer dies. Transfer dies were in use by forgers then and they're still in use by forgers today. Various processes can be used to make them but like casts they result in a stylistically correct piece, though they leave behind some evidence most of the time. It's not uncommon to see fourées where types originally minted decades apart are combined by a forger pairing the wrong dies. Some of these are in excellent style and likely from transfer dies, and there's no reason a mint worker had to have anything to do with their creation.

    You can see some examples of this phenomenon of fourées struck with transfer dies on Phil Davis's excellent website on imitations of Roman Republic denarii here.
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  11. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis

    Now that said, I'm not at all implying that mint workers never got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I am a believer in the theory that the control marks that are very common in later Second Century BC and First Century BC denarii suggest that the mint officials worried about and had probably had problems of dies being used to create counterfeits and so needed some way to trace coins and dies back to the striking teams they were assigned to, but given the wide variety of fourées, seemingly across all issues big and small, I think it unlikely that every single good style fouree should be blamed on mint workers.
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  12. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    No one seems to answer just how the transfer dies were made with the technology then current. I disagree that most fourrees are great style matching the official. I do believe that the more coins of a period one handles, the more one sees differences. This reminds me of my greater willingness to be fooled by modern fakes of coin I do not know well than by those of series I have studied. For example, I see more danger in the Slavei's of Augustus and Caligula than of Pescennius and Pertinax. I am really fooled by some of his Greeks but have never touched a real Syracuse dekadrachm and never plan on owning one.

    I have never had any respect to any authority who uses the argument that anything he does not know is not worth knowing. Unofficial items have been a part of circulating money since the beginning of money. It is very unlikely that we will ever know the whole story of even a small period of unofficial items but to stick ones head in the sand and declare that you do not care is not the way knowledge is advanced.

    I like my fourrees but I really like my obviously unofficial coins made of metal as good as the 'real thing'. They are just as ignored by mainstream experts but may not have been made for exactly the same reasons. I don't know. I would like to know more. Studying them will take generations.

    Faustina I

    Faustina II sestertius


    Septimius Severus (2)
    re3390bb1737.jpg re3497fd3440.jpg

    Julia Domna

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  13. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    Doug, I wrote an article about the plated Owls for The Celator, which is why I have the quote from Crawford, "Plated Coin / False Coin." It was suggested that these fourees were official issues. Crawford argued against that 50 years ago. Today, no one suggests it.

    Everything is worth studying. Not every collector studies everything they acquire. Those are two different motivations, though one person can have both simultaneously.

    I can see where a collector, even a numismatist, might want to have "just one of the kind" to have an example. People who actively collect US buy ancients and whatever else catches their eye. I have no problem with that. And I have fakes of my own, I confess. Among the examples is an official coin from the government of Greece, mimicking the Olympic coins of Ellis. Just sayin'...

    But the counterweight is my friend who was restoring a 1964 Mustang and had to deal with fake parts. No one who restores classic cars would assemble a rack full of counterfeits just to have them because they are mysterious examples of something we do not understand. Put it like that, and fourees lose some of their patina.

    That said, I was intrigued by your fakes in good metal. Now, that's interesting...

  14. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    We really must not project ourselves on the past. I am not sure that mint workers went home at the end of their shift. In fact, I am pretty sure that they did not. Without good epigraphic evidence, my suggestions are that:
    (1) They were slaves. So, they weren't going anywhere.
    (2) Mintmasters were held responsible for everything, so any cheating by the workers led to the mintmaster being punished. My evidence for that is the biography of Diogenes of Sinope.
    (3) Rather than the lowly workers, if there is a crime being committed--see (2)-- then it is the mintmaster, not the slave.

    That all aside, the fourees most likely came from outside the official infrastructure.
  15. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I have to give up when experts believe that proving one thing about one coin proves something about all others. One coin or a thousand made outside the mint does not mean there were not others made inside, by workers low or high on the sly or on order from above. Campbell showed that there were several ways fourrees were made. Who? was quite possibly as complex a matter as how. 'Unofficial' was not a mint bound to follow the rules. In the same way, I cringe when experts refer to the way 'the ancients' did anything when they really meant to say they looked at one time and place.

    Numismatic study in all its parts is a continuing effort. I have trouble separating some of the 'unofficial' from the most rare of the branch mints. Recently we have started hearing about mints travelling with the ruler as a possible answer for some coins. There are too many questions and too few resources to support needed investigation. A hundred years ago, experts had not recognized the denarii we now assign to Alexandria. 49 years ago Seaby still slipped one photo in as a Rome mint coin in Roman Silver Coins Septimius as #262 even though the mint was by then well published. Today, most professionals recognize the Septimius Alexandria coins and many even can spot the ones of other rulers (Commodus, Pertinax, Albinus, second legend Domna) only more recently 'discovered'. I do not know if this is mirrored in academic circles. A similar tale could be told regarding coins of Hadrian and a few other less than fully understood series. We make progress because there are those who look at things that are different and seek answers rather than dismissing the questions as beneath their station to notice. I doubt there ever will be an understanding of even a small percentage of 'unofficial' coins as we define them today. That does not mean we know everything worth knowing. The more I learn the less I 'know'.
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  16. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis

    I am fascinated with these types as well, though my focus is on those minted against Roman Republic prototypes. I've spent the past couple of months tracking down more papers and books describing finds of Roman Republic denarii in Eastern Europe and the more I study these, the more questions I have rather than really feeling like I've learned anything. For one, while there are published hoards from, for instance, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine, only the Hungarian coins of the Eravisci Celts seem possible to really put into any sort of structured catalog(and Torbagyi did a good job of it). These Eravisci coins form a relatively small series of tightly die-linked types, but the dies of the Geto-Dacian denarii and those of other groups are, in many cases, only known from single coins. I have no idea why this is, but it really is maddening. Some believe most of these denarii to be the product of modern forgers, but even if you remove all examples without provenance to a published hoard, it's still quite difficult to find die links, moreso than for instance with official Republican denarii.

    There's also a question that's been on my mind a lot lately: what is going on with the seemingly-cast Eravisci imitations. Most Eravisci imitations are struck, but a coin in Phil Davis's collection(E15 on this page) has evidence that it is cast. Furthermore, I now know of a second example that appears to be cast, from the Lágymányos hoard, found in modern-day Budapest and originally published by Gohl in 1903 and then re-analyzed and published for the first time with photos of some of the coins in Torbagyi's "Die Münzprägung Der Eravisker" in 1984. I am not aware of any specific gravity testing done on this coin which would conclusively prove it, but the weight is similar to that of other struck solid examples and I see no reason to conclude that these are plated coins so what's going on here? Was this what the Eravisci did to continue making coins after running out of dies? Is it perhaps the product of using the casting process to create a transfer die from an earlier Eravisci coin? I have no idea, but it's fascinating that casting was used to create seemingly solid silver coins for this brief period of time and I hope(though I don't expect) to one day have a more satisfying answer for why.


    My only two solid silver imitations(though I hope to find more):
    An Eravisci imitation of a Diana/Hound denarius of C. Postumius, from the hoard published by Rob Freeman in Essays Hersh.

    An imitation of a denarius of C Calpurnius Piso Frugi, likely Geto-Dacian:
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  17. arnoldoe

    arnoldoe Well-Known Member

    Here is my Commodus fouree (a mule with a Marcus Aurelius reverse)
    I also found out that it was part of a large series of plated coins that are found mostly in the Ukraine since it is a reverse die match to a coin on this chart of die matched coins.. All Fourees.

    It seems many of these were made, many different dies with many die links...
  18. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    As I tried to say before, the sort of problems I find interesting are ones like -

    why did Roman copper issue more or less stop after 130 BC?

    And (if Crawford was correct) why did Pliny get it so wrong?

    I fear that is what you are doing. My comment was general and if you want specific relevant evidence I would point to the records of Akbar's mint operations. All mint workers (but one) were salaried down to the guy who placed the flan on the die. He was paid a couple of coppers a day as I recall. The only guy who was not paid by the mint was the guy who swung the hammer all day. The guy who placed the flan had to recruit and pay him - out of his own meagre wage. Most probably the hammer man stood on a street corner and was pulled off the street and paid in food. A single rupee might have freed that man from a world or misery.

    Were fourees coming out of Akbar's mint? I do not recall seeing one - but on the other hand - I hardly ever saw a genuine coin that had not been test punched to see if it was a fouree.

    Getting back to the 'what is interesting problem' - many years back I took my own attempted scholarship into the early modern period, for instance the failure of copper issue in 18th century England

    If we cannot solve the fundamental key problems there - on the back of a huge mass of literary evidence - I fear all this stuff about the Romans and Greeks is in large part just pleasant pipe dreams

    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
  19. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Just to clarify my position - especially in the light of a post coming in as I wrote yesterday. It seems likely that there was something like organised crime involved with mass production of some of these fourees, in a sophisticated way, at some periods. And no doubt that contradicts (to some extent) my stated general position, without necessarily refuting it. And I have no idea to what extent ancient events involved false vs stolen dies etc. Sure, all this stuff is interesting to study.

    However looking at it from my own angle - what was going on with these Roman coins looks to me quite a lot like what went on the British pound coins - which were faked on a massive scale in recent decades by organised criminals (in Holland as I recall?) Is that matter interesting - yes. Does it interest me as much as say the political forces behind the official abandonment of silver in British coins after 1947 - no.

    What really interested me in the above was trying to figure out where Crawford stood, in connection to the quoted passage (linked by Ed Snible). About 20 years back Crawford was heavily criticised in NC by Howgego. I read that as Howgego being correct, and Crawford being way too close to the sort of ideology projected by Moses Findley.

    Back then I wanted to try to be fair minded, so I tracked down a little book on late Republican politics Crawford wrote (with a younger version of the TV star Mary Beard as I recall). I came away puzzled - since the work seemed fair and balanced to my non-expert eye. I am even more puzzled now to find him aggressively rejecting Pliny - since I think he was spot on there. Clearly things are more complex than I once thought.

    Perhaps I should add I do know quite a lot about Moses Findley, and corresponded with his official biographer on certain matters. I do not think he was a straightforward individual. About 20 years back people on discussion groups seemed shocked when I said such things. Since then a new generation of professors has grown up, I judge (post-Howgego) almost all the prominent ones are rejecting Findley, I can even find one who hints in print at what I had earlier said, on chat groups.

    I find few interested in discussing these sort of matters, which seem to me the most important

  20. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Crawford is one of those names that have been elevated to a status where questioning him flags one as a crackpot. The RIC author group (Mattingly, Sutherland, Carson, Kent) are similar and certainly made great contributions to the field. My admiration stops short of worship.
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  21. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Here's a fouree in my collection that combines the obverse of Orbiana with a reverse of her mother-in-law, Julia Mamaea. Stylistically, they are so similar to the genuine coins that I suspect the counterfeit was struck with official dies (just not a matched pair).

    Orbiana Fourree.jpg
    Fouree denarius, 2.45 gm, 18.7 m
    AD 232
    Obv: SALL BARBIA ORBIANA AVG, diademed and draped bust, r.
    Rev: FECVND AVGVSTAE, Fecunditas seated l., reaching out to child. (This is not an official reverse type of Orbiana; rather, it appears to be the reverse of a denarius of Julia Mamaea, RIC 332, issued in AD 232).

    Compare this genuine Orbiana from my collection:

    Orbiana Denarius.jpg

    Compare the reverse to this genuine Julia Mamaea denarius in my collection:

    Mamaea FECVND AVGVSTAE seated Denarius.jpg

    It's worth noting that Orbiana and Mamaea are depicted so similarly in their official coinages that an illiterate Roman wouldn't know the difference.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
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