How do you know a coin is fake?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by randygeki, Jan 12, 2019.

  1. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    We get a lot of post here asking "well, how do you know it's a fake?"

    For some coins it's hard for me to put into words.

    This one, the pearls on the bottom row in front of the ear as well as the "o" in reparatio looked odd. Other than that, it's a convincing fake.

    While some are quite a bit easier to describe, like this one (which was never intended to deceive anyone). Wrong style, wrong size/weight, wrong metal, wrong fabric...


    A good comparison might be morgan dollars. To me, I can't tell the difference between the real and the fake but like with the Constans, the fake has sings that an experienced collector would spot. While the silver round is much easier to spot the differences: Wrong style, wrong size/weight, wrong metal (purity in this case), wrong fabric



    Silver round

    Instead of going on, I think I'll leave this open ended and ask you all how do you know a coin is fake?
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  3. Hookman

    Hookman Well-Known Member

    I know a coin is a fake when I ask someone who knows more than I do and they tell me it's a fake.
    Another way I can tell is when I'm on eBay and I click on a coin that appears to have a bid of only a few dollars, and I get to the page only to find out that "low bid" is actually the price, and the seller is based in China and I find the words "commemorative" or "collectible" somewhere hidden in the description.

    Seriously, I can't tell. I keep hearing the phrase " mushy details ", but the only mushy I know is when my breakfast cereal sits in the milk too long before I eat it.
  4. Smojo

    Smojo dreamliner

    Research and more research :cool:
    Know the coin I'm buying or know/trust the seller :)
    If it's a whim purchase I go back to the research, look at other known coins of the same example.
    Look for the obvious fabric, weight, size, casting seams or bubbles. I will try to spy out any doubt I may have on authenticity the best I can from a photo then again when I have it in hand.
    When in doubt I ask someone with more knowledge than me.
    So far I've been lucky but I also mostly buy from trusted individuals or a trusted venue.
    Hookman, Kentucky and randygeki like this.
  5. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Well-Known Member

  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    It would be hard for me to make any determination of that first coin you showed, Randy, because of the dark and poor images!

    There isn't any quick or simple way to tell whether a coin is fake. It takes study and experience. It isn't always possible to condemn a coin as fake with images alone.

    (Below is a cut and paste from this handy thread,’-faq-thread.324858/)

    Resources for learning how fakes are made and how to detect them:

    Forum Ancient Coins' "Learn to Identify Fakes Coins" (part of CoinTalk member @@Valentinian's extensive website about ancient coins)

    Databases of known fake coins:

    Extensive lists of known sellers of fake coins (heavy on eBay dealers; always check for the seller name here before considering purchase of an eBay coin unless you know the dealer to be reputable):

    Forum Ancient Coins "Notorious Fake Sellers List"

    Warren Esty's (CoinTalk's @Valentinian) list of disreputable sellers
    Hookman, Kentucky, Nyatii and 10 others like this.
  7. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one step at a time Supporter

    Style, fabric, weight, metal as you've mentioned, which only work when you know the coin well and have seen a lot of them. Pictures alone are not enough. Looking for known fakes is a useful tool:

    When I want to be sure, I get a trusted expert opinion (in hand - not just from photos on CT).

    I like also asking the reverse question: "how do you know it is real"? Die matches to a known authentic coin is an also interesting concept as databases get bigger and image search technology gets better, but not a quick answer to "fake or not", I recently stumbled on this match to a CNG coin in wildwinds - with thanks to @TIF for image comparison & animation tips.

    The coin below is a 4.6g, 20.6mm fake. A Fake Reports database search for "GORDIAN and AEQUITAS" does quickly turn up a match to my fake below:
    Fake Gordianus.jpg

    While I don't recommend cutting into your coins to determine authenticity, it can be interesting to cut into a fake to see what it is made of - in this case "soft unidentified yellow metal with silver plate/wash" - my guess is brass.

    non-silver metal.jpg
    The first coin in the your OP looks pretty close to both of these in the fake database:
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  8. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    A few more examples of the first coin.
  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    All this is just fine but we have to realize that there are many kinds of fakes and each require different considerations.

    If a coin is cast from a mold made from a real coin, the style will be just like the real coin so it will appear not only as a die duplicate but will also copy the centering, cracks, faults etc. A faker that knows his business can make the weight right. There is no reason to believe a coin made of good silver is safe especially if the coin being copied was from an issue that used poor silver. I have seen fakes of Pescennius Niger with much better silver than the best of his real coins.

    If a faker cuts new dies from scratch and strikes coins on well prepared blanks, the style will not be perfect. If he makes a copy die from a real coin and strikes fakes, none of them will have details missing from the original coin even if the flans he used had metal large enough to receive the details had they been on the die.

    If a faker uses real coins on which to strike his fakes (perhaps upgrading a Commodus to a Didius Julianus) the metal will be deceptive but if he melts down old modern silver coins, you might think it strange that his coins of the first century and of the third century look alike.

    If the faker strikes coin dies with a hammer, the coins will appear different than coins made by slowly pressing the dies together with a hydraulic press. Ancient people did not have hydraulic presses.

    We could go on and on listing mistakes that have caused is to recognize fakes. It is not a simple one variable question. I am fooled by more fakes than the guys who 'grade' ancients for NGC and have handled 10,000 times as many coins both good and bad. We can introduce beginners to the subject but we risk creating people who think they are safe when they have not even started on the study. All this is why we suggest buying coins from people whose honesty you trust and whose expertise you value over your own. We have to decide if the fear of a mistake on one in a thousand coins (or ten or ten thousand?) will keep us from enjoying the 999 good coins.
    Hookman, JeffC, Kentucky and 9 others like this.
  10. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    But there are always times when everything you believe turns out to be false.
    Most fakes look FAKE. Most of the time when the price seems to good to be true, like the collector who posted about getting a Balbinus aureus for a couple of thousand.:inpain:
    However, when you see a coin like that Ahenobarbus Aureus in NFA (at the time the most prestigous ancient auction site) offer that at a veeery high estimate. All the numbers added up/ famous auction house/ high dollar coin that looked 100 percent geniune.....I am sure everyone on this forum would have been fooled by that example. There are some very skilled artisans, too bad they do not work for the modern day mints, since they are not producing great looking coins these days.
  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    How was the Ahenobarbus Aureus in NFA outted as a fake? Did they find two of them? Did they find the dies? I have the catalog and know there were several fakes including that one but I never heard the backstory.
    Kentucky and panzerman like this.
  12. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    I know there are 12 known examples/ five in private collections/ all have same temple reverse. would be interesting to know the whole story. Last one sold for 400K Swiss francs in Ars Classica auction. It was near EF/ =CNG "VF" The NFA one was MS a think. They also had a FDC Alexander of Carthage Aureus/ wonder if it was real?
  13. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one step at a time Supporter

    @panzerman - although the estimate was ~400K, the Ars Classica coin sold in 2015 for $697,882 (650K Swiss Francs) . Here's a little of the backstory:

    A Roman Republican Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus Aureus, mint moving with Ahenobarbus in 41 BC, was auctioned by NFA in 1989 with a price realized of $140K. After close examination it was condemned as a modern forgery minted by the team known as "The Galvano Boys" and by pseudonyms "Costodoulos" and "Gulyas" believed to be operating in Greece.

    The forgery was exposed by Silvia Hurter and Alan Walker and published in the "Bulletin on Counterfeits" (reading their bios perhaps illustrates the importance of trusted expert opinions and research):
    - The British Museum Forgers, or, "Costodoulos" and "Gulýas" BoC 17, no.1, 1992, S.2-48.
    - The Galvano Boys - Part II BoC 17, no.2, 1992/3, S.2-11.

    The forgers were initially called the “The British Museum Forgers” because some of their dies were created from casts of electrotypes of coins from the British Museum. The pair also made their own original engraved dies and enhanced transfer dies from genuine ancient coins. They were renamed to the "Galvano Boys" when the British Museum challenged the use of their name in reference to the forgers. The Ahenobarbous Aureus was reported to be a copy from a British Museum electrotype. The British Museum began selling electrotype copies of coins in its collection in the 1850s.

    Dealers who were misled contacted the purchasers and refunded their money, but the forgers were still active years later.

    1. Silvia Mani Hurter Bibliography
    2. 2009 Obituary Silvia Hurter,
    3. ACSSearch Numismatica Ars Classica Auction 46 Lot 454
    4. The Celator Vol 3, No. 7, July 1989, p.V. Ad for Numismatic Fine Arts Auction XXII – has a photo of the Ahenobarbus coin
    5. Dr. Ilya Popov’s Fake Ancient Coin Reports Note: reference to IAPN BOC Vol 17, No. 1 in 1992 - Example 17
    6. IAPN BOC on
    7. Modern Owl Forgeries
    8. British Museum electrotype sold at auction
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
  14. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    Thanks so much for that great writeup! Now, I know why the coin looked real to me,
    Hookman likes this.
  15. NormW

    NormW Student Of Coinology Supporter

    I just visited a local dealer who does not specialize in ancients. He showed me his latest acquisition of 8 or 9 bronze imperial roman coins, for my opinion. They were very, badly worn. To the point that most of them were not identifiable. There was only one that I could confidently say had Mark Anthony's portrait. But then I also couldn't help but have the feeling that they were also fake. Is there any record of fakes of this, super worn type? Maybe to sell to tourists in the middle ease?
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  16. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Fakes of the lower-end common/worn type do indeed exist. Three are below. The Hadrian as is particularly convincing if you take a poor photo of it and list it on eBay (har). Note that the plating along the reverse edge appears to be peeling. The Gordian was in a bezel and I gambled on it being real. The Max is probably a "museum copy". All are underweight.

    Fakes - 3 Roman AE 2017-2018 (0).jpg
    Fakes - 3 Roman AE 2017-2018 (6).JPG
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  17. Hookman

    Hookman Well-Known Member

    You know guys, this fakery is the 2nd of 2 reasons why I don't dabble in Ancients.
    The 1st is that I can't afford them.
    panzerman likes this.
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