Featured Old Lesson from the School of Hard Knox

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Al Kowsky, Aug 22, 2019.

  1. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    After graduating high school at the age of 18, that age when you know everything :rolleyes:, I got a job working for a meat packing company on Rochester's west side. It was an awful job but the pay of $3.25 an hour (1966) was great. I used what money I could save to buy ancient coins :). There were two coin dealers in downtown Rochester at that time but only one sold ancient coins. I bought about a half dozen Roman coins from him until I got a draft notice in December of that year :sour:. One of the coins I bought from him is pictured below, it's a denarius of Geta as Caesar, circa AD 200-202, bare headed facing right, with an inscription: P SEPT GETA CAES PONT. The reverse has an image of Nobilitas, standing half right holding a long scepter and palladium, with an inscription: NOBILITAS. The coin measures 18.5 mm and weighs 4.00 gm. The coin was priced at $25.00 :eek: and the dealer wouldn't budge on the price, exclaiming that choice denarii of Geta were scarce compared to denarii of Caracalla. I had a choice denarius of Caracalla as Caesar so I shelled out the money for the Geta coin.
    IMG_8845.JPG IMG_8850 (2).JPG
    Many years after I was discharged from the Army my interest in ancient coins was renewed and I looked closer at the Geta denarius :wideyed:. A number of things didn't look right :confused:, e.g. the color looked more gray than silvery, the lettering looked strange, and the weight was heavy for that issue. I looked for other examples of that coin type and my suspicions were confirmed. See the photos of the two denarii below, courtesy of CNG.
    RIC_0013a.1, Sear 7184.jpg
    AR 3.54 gm. From the AK (not me) collection, May 2, 2000.

    RIC_0013a.3, Geta.jpg
    AR 3.49 gm. Auction # 28, sale price $51.70.

    So what did I have o_O? The answer came after I bought a copy of the book CLASSICAL DECEPTION, Counterfeits, Forgeries, and Reproductions of Ancient Coins, by Wayne G. Sayles, copyright 2000. Lo and behold, there was my coin illustrated on page 175, #269 :jawdrop:. It was a counterfeit lead strike by the notorious forger Peter Rosa. I was more angry at myself :rage: for buying the coin than the knowledgeable dealer who sold me the coin, who had long since passed away. Rosa had been selling fakes like the one I was duped with for $3.00 in the 1960s, so $25.00 was an expensive lesson. Peter Rosa is considered by many as the best coin forger of the 20th century. He started a business in 1955 in the Bronx, NYC named Becker Manufacturing Company, named after the famous German forger of the late 18th - early 19th century, Carl Wilhelm Becker. Rosa didn't confine himself to making just ancient fakes, he made beautiful copies of early American coinage too :smuggrin:. Rosa even made copies of Becker forgeries :D! Wayne Sayles got to meet Peter Rosa in 1987 and writes extensively about him in his book. In the late 1960s Rosa's company was selling over 200.000 replicas annually to 47 different countries :eek:! Rosa's success was partly responsible for the Hobby Protection Act introduced in 1969. When the bill was finally passed in 1973 all copies had to bear the stamp COPY somewhere on the coin. The coin periodicals stopped advertising for Rosa's creations that didn't follow the law :shifty:. The Hobby Protection Act of 1973 put the brakes on Rosa's company, but what happened to the hundreds of thousands of copies and fakes Rosa made before 1973 o_O? I'm sure collectors as stupid as I was unknowingly have Rosa and Becker fakes in their collections :p. Some day Rosa fakes will probably become collectible like Becker's fakes are today. Before I close this article please look closely at the three coins pictured below. They all purport to be Greco-Baktrian tetradrachms of Heliokles I, 145 - 130 BC, but one of them is a Becker forgery I knowingly bought :). Can you pick out the Becker fake :cool:? Until then Caveat Emptor.

    Heliokles I, Tet.jpg
    AR 30 mm, 16.82 gm, 6 h.

    Heliokles I, c. 145 - 130 BC.jpg
    AR 35 mm, 16.74 gm, 12 h.

    Heliokles I.jpg
    AR 32 mm, 16.96 gm, 12 h.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Thanks for sharing that story, Al - the Peter Rosa saga is interesting, if not in a good way. Too bad the dealer was so hard-nosed about the price way back when. It would have fooled me when I was starting out.

    I am assuming Rosa was pressing (rather than striking) these? The obverse on yours has that kind of flat look to it that I associate (inexpertly) with a pressed fake.

    This counterfeit talk made me nervous - I went to my small collection of Severan silver because I thought I had a Geta/Nobilitas. Mine is rather encrusted with black stuff, but I think it is ancient. I hope.

    Geta - Den. Nobilitas Dec 2017 (0).jpg

    Geta (as Caesar)
    (199-204 A.D.)
    Rome Mint - Denarius

    P SEPT GETA CAES PONT bare-headed, draped bust right / NOBILITAS, Nobilitas
    standing right, holding scepter and statue of Minerva (or palladium?)
    RIC 13a; RSC III 90
    (3.02 grams / 17.5 mm)
    Johndakerftw, Paul M., bcuda and 3 others like this.
  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Interesting story and I'm glad that you shared it with us.
  5. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Mike, Of course I'm no expert but your coin looks good to me ;). You're probably right on the pressing technique too. With the incredible output Rosa had pressing doesn't seem out of the question, although he may have had a small hydraulic die stamping machine in his workshop similar to what you might see in a machine shop.
    bcuda and Marsyas Mike like this.
  6. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    ancient coin hunter, I'm happy to share my follies with CT members :D. It's better to learn from other peoples mistakes, & I've made plenty of them :rolleyes:.
  7. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    "200,000 replicas annually"....frightening
    bcuda likes this.
  8. ominus1

    ominus1 When in Rome, do as the Romans do Supporter

    ..i'm going to guess #2 is the Becker, but that seems too obvious so it's prolly #1.......and i've bid on Becker coins before..oh, and sorry about your Geta coin...let's share a cup of forgers coffee.jpg :D
    J.T. Parker, Ryro, Alegandron and 2 others like this.
  9. bcuda

    bcuda El Ibérico loco

    I say number 1 is the forgery. Number 2 and 3 have numerous high and low spots along with toning and encrustations.
    Paul M. likes this.
  10. David@PCC

    David@PCC allcoinage.com

    #1 reverse looks odd to me.
    bcuda and Paul M. like this.
  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    OK, it looks like there aren't any chumps in this group :smuggrin:. #1 is the Becker fake :D. I added the #2 example as a lure because it's a pretty rough coin but it is genuine. You have to admit the Becker fake is a good one especially the portrait side. Carl Wilhelm Becker is the all time greatest forger of ancient coins! Becker would artificially wear his coins often by putting the coins in a bag of metal chips & attaching the bag to a wagon wheel for a period of time. Without doubt, that's what happened with this Becker fake. I bought the Becker fake at a CNG auction for $125.00 & was thrilled to get it :shame:. I love that Forgers Coffee Can :hilarious:!
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
    bcuda, Marsyas Mike, Paul M. and 2 others like this.
  12. masterswimmer

    masterswimmer Well-Known Member

    Thanks for sharing your trials and tribulations. Sorry you were taken.

    #1 looks too good to be authentic, unless of course it is such a high grade. And since you paid $25 for it (expensive in '66, cheap in today's dollars) I'm guessing #1 is the Becker.

    Btw, I'm nooooo expert.
    bcuda likes this.
  13. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    Informative story Al. I can attest to the fact that a suitable Geta is a hard find compared to Caracalla and when you do find them they seem to be 2-3x what a comparable Caracalla costs. I guess this is due to the damnatio memoriae on Geta? I was wavering on which to be the Becker and had decided on your tricky #2. I asked my wife which she thought was not genuine and she immediately said #1 commenting "too perfect". Goes to show what I know.

    Here is your Geta and the entry from Sayles' Classical Deception together:


  14. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    dadams, Thanks for doing the computer graphic work :happy:, & thanks for your honesty in being duped in the Becker quiz :smuggrin:. The irony with Becker forgeries is they often look better than the originals :nailbiting:! Pictured below is a Becker forgery of the famous tetradrachm from Naxos, Sicily that sold for $2,750.00 in the same CNG auction that I scored my tetradrachm of Heliokles I :eek:. Of course if you wanted an original of the Naxos coin it would cost you around $200,000.00 ;).

    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
    ominus1, bcuda, Marsyas Mike and 2 others like this.
  15. jb_depew

    jb_depew Well-Known Member

    I suppose we wouldn't learn from our mistakes if they didn't cost us something. I'm guessing that #1 is the fake. I don't know much about Severan coinage, but it looks wrong, and the die rotation differs from the others.
  16. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    This denarius of Geta was the first ancient coin I bought back in high school. I bought it as part of paper I wrote back then, which is long since gone. I paid $10 for it at the Gimbels Department Store coin counter in Philadelphia.

    Geta O.jpg Geta R.jpg

    Peter Rosa got to rip me off too. Back in the 1990s I knew a retired Florida dealer who was selling off his inventory in "slow motion." He would show up at the FUN show and sell is tokens to Steve Tannenbaum and Steve Hayden. I took part of a table with them at that time. He had many wonderful things, I got some good tokens from him. At one point he showed up with two and half rolls (50 coins per roll) of this Lincoln Civil War Token. It is the most common Lincoln token from the Civil War years, but to have well 100 of them was pretty impressive.

    AL 1864-35 O.jpg AL 1864-35 R.jpg

    I continued to corrispond with this dealer after I returned to Massachusetts where I was living at the time. He had some political pieces, and sold an example of this Lincoln variety to me.

    AL 1860 10 O.jpg AL 1860 10 R.jpg

    The piece was in white metal, and it had "BECKER" on the reverse. I didn't know what that was about until I learned at coin club meeting. (The dealer didn't know either, so he was not dishonest about it.) The members were talking about famous counterfeiters, and it hit me what this was.

    In this case Rosa had signed his work with the the word "BECKER", and I had been too ignorant to catch it. I sold the thing back to the dealer for a $100 loss. I chalked that $100 up to my education fund. I've contributed to that fund through the years when I have gotten stuck.

    Thanks for posting your story!
    ominus1, bcuda and Marsyas Mike like this.
  17. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    John, Thanks for sharing your experience :D. As a teenager I accumulated a nice hoard of civil war & hard times tokens for peanuts when few people collected them. I unloaded the whole group for a small profit :(, and added that one to my learning experience too :rolleyes:...
    bcuda likes this.
  18. Nvb

    Nvb Well-Known Member

    Regarding the Heliokles Tetradrachms..
    #1 seems to lack any sign of flow lines, iridescence (despite its high grade), or encrustations of any kind. That may have been enough to give me reason for pause but the stylistic match to the genuine coin is incredible - if not terrifying.
    bcuda likes this.
  19. ominus1

    ominus1 When in Rome, do as the Romans do Supporter

    ...wow...i was watching an old TZ episode the other nite (Andy Divine as Frisbee) and saw that name on Frisbee's store and looked it up out of curiosity..:)
  20. Joe kool

    Joe kool Active Member

  21. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks Joe kool :D. Who's that cute looking kid sitting next to you? A future coin collector I hope ;).....
    Joe kool likes this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page