Becker lately. Was he a skilled artist or a crook ? Before you answer, let’s examine who he was and what he did. THE CROOK 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 THE ARTIST 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.