Featured BECKER: a CROOK or an ARTIST ?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, Sep 6, 2019.

  1. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    I read many post talking about the famous forger Becker lately. Was he a skilled artist or a crook ? Before you answer, let’s examine who he was and what he did.
    Carl Wilhem Becker
    is born June 28 1772 in Speyer , a town located beside the river Rhine. Founded by the Romans, It is one of Germany’s oldest city . His father owned a vineyard and was in the wine business, and also occupied the position of Syndic, probably similar to what we call a mayor today. In his youth, Carl was not interested in wine trade, but would rater study in art and become a sculptor. He was sent at Bordeaux for his training in the wine making profession. He married a woman of Mannheim in May 1795 and opened his own wineshop in this city. From 1798 to 1803 he set up there as a draper but became bankrupt. His personal diary indicates that by 1796 at the latest he dealt with coinage. There is a ( true? ) story explaining the origin of his forgeries ; he had purchased a false gold coin of Commodus from a certain Baron Von Schelm. When he complained about it, he was answered : « It served him right ; people should not deal in what they do not understand ». Years later he got his revenge by making and passing off a fake gold coin to the Baron in return.

    A silver dekadrachm of Akragas by Becker.

    A Pertinax imitation

    In 1806 we find him working in Mannheim as a journeyman goldsmith. Later he moved to Munich and received a training at the Royal Mint in the art of engraving steel dies. Around 1806 he was living permanently in Offenbach where he established himself as a dealer in works of arts. That’s when he was first called the « Antiquary Becker ». Johann Goethe, the famous German scientist, visited him in 1815 and wrote: « Herr Becker, a most excellent numismatist, has judiciously arranged an important series of coins of all periods, to illustrate the history of his studies ». In this period of time, he was claiming to have engraved dies imitating the finest and rarest coins so that collectors could buy copies of those which would otherwise be beyond their reach. On the other hand, he had a network of agents, like this couple in London , who sold his forgeries as originals...He was a very cautious and wary man, so Becker dispersed a lot of his forgeries by the intermediate of the Frankfort’s Jews. The Italian numismatist Domenico Sestini , in two pamphlet published in 1825 and 1826, warned all collectors about the forgeries of un certo Becker di Hanau and described several of his coins. Now feeling the heat, in an attempt to preserve his reputation of honesty, he published in seven pages a catalog of 296 specimen which he made in an « educational purpose ». This list, written without date, is very incomplete. Why did he forget many of his creations ? Was he still selling a portion of them as originals ? Or maybe the others were made after the catalog was issued ? He also offered to sell his dies to the Imperial coin cabinet in Vienna in order to present reference collection of base metal impression from the dies that would make such fraud impossible ! Becker finally died on the 30th April 1830 at the age of 57 years old. He left no fortune behind him.

    A die of Aemilian

    A die of a Dekadrachm of Athen

    A very skilled engraver, Becker used no mechanical methods of reproduction, nor did he cast dies, cutting them freehand and occasionally inventing new coins to fulfill his fantasies. It is still a mystery how he could possibly produced about 350 pair of dies without having any associate for helping him. When he wasn’t able to acquire an original to work from, he copied a cast in sulfur or plaster. Maybe he used drawings or engravings to create his less successful copies. The metal of the dies was steel , embedded in soft iron. After he had struck off a certain number of pieces, Becker have from time to time worked and made tiny modifications on his dies. In some of them artificially imitated the effect of double striking, by giving two outlines, one deeper than the other. The striking was done in the ancient manner with a sledge hammer. It is known that he used common ancient coins as planchets to strike his rare specimen : the colour of the metal was right, the weight was similar ( but it seems that he didn’t care about this detail ) and mostly the edge was preserved. Sometimes he used genuine coins and restamped them on one side only, providing a rare type on that side instead of the common one which was seen on the original. How did he do that without wiping out the other side of the coin ??? He was also « taking his old gentlemen a drive », meaning he used to place his coins in a little box containing iron fillings, which was screwed on to the springs of his carriage, and driving on the road between Offenbach and Frankfort for giving them the appearance of age.
    He is said to have given his coins the recognize smell and colour of antiquity, by burying them in manure...Becker was also paying close attention with the lettering on his forgeries, knowing it is a very tell-tale of an imitation.

    It is true that if someone carefully compare a genuine coin with one of Becker’s forgeries of the same type, it will be easy to detect the difference of style in the treatment of different details. But everyone had not the opportunity of making such a comparison 200 years ago...
    In 1836, A.Steinbüchel printed in Vienna a more complete catalog of Becker’s forgeries. A wider and more accurate list was made later by M.Pinder of Berlin in 1843 with a total of 331 different coins. Finally, in 1924, G.Hill published Becker the counterfeiter containing illustrations of some 360 examples of Becker’s work. In the history museum of the city in Offenbach is the largest collection with a total of 550 coins of Becker.


    As recently as the publication of Historia Nummorum Italy (2001), many scholars had dismissed this issue as the product of modern forgers (cf. HN p. 193). This conclusion was primarily founded on the forgery of this type created by Becker in 1828 (Hill 14), combined with the extreme rarity of the extant examples. Nonetheless, a few examples are known that are clearly not pieces from Becker's dies .
    Perhaps most significantly, these scholars overlooked the existence of an example in F. Carelli's manuscript catalogue of 1812, which clearly existed at least 15 years prior to Becker's forgeries.

    CONCLUSION : Was he a dishonest man ? Absolutely ! Was a a skilled artist ? Of course he was ! So the title of this thread shouldn’t be :BECKER: an artist or a crook ? but instead :
    BECKER : an artist AND a crook. Please give your point of view about him or show us your Becker example.

    longshot, Ajax, ancientone and 25 others like this.
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  3. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    Becker was well liked in many circles and had his defenders. Many continued to buy his coins even after they were commonly known to be false. If I remember right he also sold genuine coins as well. I only have one, this neat tet:

    Carl Becker Forgery, 19th Century, Gela – Messana Hybrid
    Silver Tetradrachm, 26mm, 12.25 grams
    Obverse: Charioteer driving walking quadriga right, Nike flying above.
    Reverse: MES S A NIO N, Hare springing right, head of youthful Pan below.
    Hill 18, note
  4. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    I have no Beckers. I have been trying to get the lead version Neapolis gorgoneion stater without success for many years. I almost acquired one from the medal dealer Paul Bosco but it got away.

    I do have something nearly as old, a first edition of M. Pinder's Die Beckerschen Falschen Münzen from 1843:
    becker.jpg becker2.jpg

    The book includes a forward, a catalog (both in German), and two plates of line drawings. You can view or download your own copy from archive.org.
  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Thanks for the history of this Enlightenment age con man/artist. I had never heard of him before but I assume it is best to stay away from these types unless one is buying as a known forgery.
  6. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks @Ed Snible for the link about Pinder’s book. I didn’t know it was available online. Here is the Athen 68 from the illustration of your book above.

    Marsyas Mike, TIF, TheRed and 2 others like this.
  7. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    I enjoyed that writeup. Thanks!
  8. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, Excellent article ;)! Carl Wilhelm Becker was a crook & an artist, but he was much more. He was the greatest coin forger in history who had a knowledge of numismatics that few people could equal. He was a connoisseur of art, expert in ancient & medieval history, & master celator. He snookered many arrogant art experts & museum directors with his forgeries & fantasies. Pictured below are photos of a Becker fake I won at auction last April, & posted recently. This coin is good enough to fool many collectors & dealers today :smuggrin:.
    Hill 128, obv.JPG Hill 128, rev..JPG
    Ryro, Marsyas Mike, TIF and 5 others like this.
  9. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    great story..i consider his coins treasures in their own right and would love to have one :)
  10. Lolli

    Lolli Active Member

    It seems like Dr. Lanz is splitting up a complete or almost complete Becker tin collection!
    He is adding several Becker forgeries every week!

    See here a REAL NAXOS BECKER offered by DR. LANZ

    Compare the style and right becker matrixes with the cng pieces (Bm electrotype) that was wrongly sold as Becker forgery

    CNG has sold an electrotype of the authentic Naxos specimen in BM as Becker forgery !


    Mother in BM identical, edge cracks, flan, shape, dies and die state, wear, centering


    Becker forgeries sold by Lanz within the last weeks


    Currently for sale Becker forgeries by Dr. Lanz

    Becker dekadrachm


    To lazy too list all but if you enter Becker in DR. Lanz´s online shop it will show you his Becker forgeries currently for sale, 39 examples


    To evaluations, generally do only people evaluations , who were more satisfied and happy with a product or service than expected or opposite less or much less satisfied with and happy with a product or service than expected. The normal people for who the product or service met the expectations will generally not evaluate.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
    Sulla80, ominus1, TIF and 2 others like this.
  11. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    ominus1 likes this.
  12. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    I believe they are restrikes made with the originals dies of Becker after his death, aren’t they ?
  13. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Silver concoctions by Becker have toned and look like this.

    The description of the lot of 329 Becker "coins" auctioned in 2007 gives the basic timeline of the white metal pieces:

    "Becker’s death in April 1830 left his family with little money and a quantity of forged coin dies. From these dies, sets of coins were struck in a lead-tin alloy (actually a poor quality pewter) and sold to collectors and institutions. At some point Becker’s family sold the dies to the Saalfeld Museum, from whence they finally were given to the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum in Berlin in 1911."
  14. Lolli

    Lolli Active Member

    I did not expect that the much more common tin strikes would realize so high prices, if I would have know, I would have bought this set of almost complete set in original box for 14000 Euro last year (only 3 were missing of 324) and then slitting it and making much profi. I have enough original siver Becker forgeries, paid much less than they realize when being sold by LANZ or CNG.


    Screenshot_2019-09-08 COLLECTION OF 19th CENTURY.png
  15. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Assuming 20% buyers fee and no VAT, that set sold for 51.85 euro per coin (=$57.72). Lanz' Syracusan dekadrachm has a bid nearly four times that but the rest are currently lower. We shall see.

    Petr Sousek and Pavel Neumann sell their own tin replicas for 6 to 18 euros. [Sousek's dekadrachm]. Is a 150-year-old Becker worth 10x a Sousek?
  16. Lolli

    Lolli Active Member

    Average price.jpg Lanz has sold so far 101 Becker forgeries for about 9774 Euro.+
    9774 : 101 = 96,77 Euro average price!
    I did not calculate numbers behind comma except 0.99 I was rounding up.

    Lets do 96,77 X 321 = 31.063 Euro

    Set was sold for 14000 Euro + about 20 % buyers fee and tax = 16.800 Euro

    The homepage picclick.de, was calculating average value of sold Becker forgeries,too

    "Sales Analytics: 100% Durchverkauf für die letzten 100 angebote, 100 der letzten 100 angebote verkauft, EUR 96,85 Durchschnittspreis der verkauften Artikel."

  17. HaleiwaHI

    HaleiwaHI Active Member

    Stories like this bit of history continue to prove that there's no lack of imagination since the beginning of time on creating "look alikes". You just gotta love peoples creativity.
  18. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Personally, while I respect his skill, he is only a crook to me. The hobby has to be extremely wary of giving validity to any counterfeits, if only to not encourage the next Becker.

    I enjoy contemporaneous forgeries, since they were made at the same time as official coins, but summarily reject and abhor all of those made later to fool collectors. I would think those of us who own fakes would feel the same way......
  19. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Having read this, he was an artist, but he was more of a crook. I hope I have not purchased one of his creations.

    I know that will anger some people by saying this, but I view Dan Carr as a modern day Becker. He has made some great looking fantasy pieces, but the possibility for defrauding less experienced collectors in the future will always be there.
  20. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

  21. Heavymetal

    Heavymetal Well-Known Member

    Edit:My error
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
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