Spotting Fake Ancient Coins

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by jmast3045, Feb 18, 2005.

  1. jmast3045

    jmast3045 New Member

    Hi Everyone,

    I am new here and also new to coin collecting. I have started buying a few lower priced ancient roman coins and uncleaned lots on ebay until I get more familiar with what I am looking for.

    I was wondering how you go about detecting when a coin is a fake?
    I have been researching online and found alot of helpful links, but it can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating as well.

    Would anyone have suggestions for a newbie...I am not looking to spend alot right now, but I would like to be sure what I buy is in fact authentic and not a forgery.

    Thanks in advance,
    Julie :D
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  3. zvez

    zvez Junior Member

    I also collect ancient coins on a small scale.

    One way to pick out, a lot of the fakes are cast metal. Some of the higher quality ancient coin references list weights of the coins, so a good electronic scale is helpful there.

    There is a guy in eastern europe who's quite famous for faking ancients, can't remember his name, but he actually put out a catalog of fakes at one time, do a net search.

  4. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    I am sorry to say that there is no easy way to know. I spoke on the subject, "Counterfeits: Threat or Menace?" at the ANA convention in Pittsburgh in 2004 and among my visuals was an article from a recent issue of The Celator about how fakes were being salted in to bulk lots of low cost "uncleaned" Roman coins.

    Regarding U.S. coins, we know of problems finding genuine 1916-D Mercury Dimes, US $20 Gold, (all US gold, in fact), and so on -- and these are coins where we have good evidence at the detail level of what a genuine one is supposed to look like. When it comes to ancients, you are even more exposed, and even dealers can be fooled.

    On the other hand, the fact that you have to take responsibility for your own purchases will help to make you something of a minor expert in your own right.

    (1) I never shop on eBay. I know that others here disagree with me. My advice is to get your coins from a dealer who is a member of the ANA at least. That way, you have some protection.

    (2) You can get a sample copy of The Celator for $3, I think. Their website is In each issue, you will find up to 100 advertisements from dealers who have some visibility and status in the hobby. Many of those also participate online in VCOINS, what I regard as a trusted venue for ancients. Among the dealers that I have looked to in the past for low-cost ancients are Frank Robinson and Francis Rath, Celator advertisers, who are not on VCoins.

    (3) Also, it is a good idea to start as you have with a small purchase. That is very sensible. That said, every dollar you spend now is a dollar you will not have for a nicer coin later. Buy 25 junk coins for $1 each from the time of the "military anarchy" and you just prevented yourself from having a silver denarius from the Pax Romana.

    (4) In numismatics, we quote Aaron Feldman who popularized the saying, "Buy the book before you buy the coin." There are a lot of good resources online, of course. The point is that whether a book or a bookmark, knowledge is more important than "stuff." One thing I do to validate a dealer is to look them up in the American Numismatic Society library database ( Many dealers have written books and articles. Of course, you have to know their real names, which is harder with eBay dealers. Among the books are the Ancient Coin Collecting series by Wayne Sayles, available from many booksellers. Wayne Sayles is a VCoins dealer and sells his own books, of course from that ring. ( and from there find the name.) Volume 1 is an Introduction. The $25 or so you spend on this book will take you farther in your hobby that 25 coins at $1 each.

    (5) You might find some easy diagnostics (soapy surfaces, casting seam at the edge) and so on, but basically, all those old telltales seldom apply any more. The technology of counterfeiting is beyond the point where a few simple rules will work. The only way to know is to know. You handle enough of them, and you learn.

    (6) Again, instead of spending your money online, you might find that a state, regional, or national numismatic convention will come your way. It is quite a treat to sit at a table with a couple boxes of 1000 common coins at $2 to $5 each and pick the ones you want, even if you spend two hours doing it.
  5. zvez

    zvez Junior Member

  6. satootoko

    satootoko Retired

    I hate to break the news Chris, but Bulgaria is an independent country, not a province of Romania, it's neighbor to the north. :p They don't even speak the same language. :cool:
  7. ccgnum

    ccgnum New Member

    I have to say I rarely seen ancients for under $10, not where I am, and I'm in a larger city. That's another of the problems, and why people turn online.
  8. zvez

    zvez Junior Member

    Yep, for some reason had it in my head that the guy was Romanian, then after reading the link I recalled he was actually Bulgarian, my bad.
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