What is the point with fourrée?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Herberto, Aug 7, 2018.

  1. Herberto

    Herberto Well-Known Member


    Not a new coin, I have shown it before.

    The above is my only fourrée, it is of Tetarteron with 2,5 gram and 19 mm. It is holed because someone used it as button.

    A normal gold Tetarteron has a weight of 4 gram.

    I just wonder: why would people mint a fourrée? I mean it really cheats nobody I think, because when you hold it on hand you can obviously feel that the weight is so wrong.

    Was it intended to fool someone who never held gold coins before?
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  3. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

    It was probably a lot closer to the real weight before it was chipped and holed.
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  4. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Fourrées were meant to fool people, whether struck officially or unofficially.
    benhur767 likes this.
  5. Ken Dorney

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

    The intention is profit, plain and simple.
  6. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I think this piece was meant as a decoration, not a coin, and not made for profit. You have all seen a belly dancer with a belt of gold "coins" jangling around her waist. Rather than use real coins which would be extremely valuable, some dancers used imitations. The holes were used to attach the pieces to the belt. It might be old or very old, but it was not make to pass as a genuine solidus.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
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  7. Ken Dorney

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

    I'm not so sure. There are certain types of mint issue medieval Turkish silver coins that are more commonly found holed than not (I have no idea if the belly dancing community was booming at the time, so I dont know the reason for it). If it was made specifically as adornment it likely would have been cast with the holes already in the mould.

    I see no reason why this example could not have passed for a real coin. The type is certainly crude enough as it is and there are plenty of other fouree's out there which are cruder that this one.

    My assumption would be that this was made to pass as real but at a certain point the core showed through revealing the deception. Likely the last person 'holding the bag' was unable to pass it off as any denomination and at some point it was turned into jewelry.
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  8. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I think you overestimate the amount of familiarity most people use when looking at money. I understand the current UK one pound coins are heavily faked and there are many people using them in daily transactions. I doubt many Romans knew the bad coin was bad until they happened on someone who refused to take it in commerce. When the plating broke, more would question it but not all would even know that they weren't all plated. By then, the maker was long gone.
  9. Ken Dorney

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

    I completely agree with this statement but would add that it is very sad that it's true. I recently popped into a convenience store to buy a cold drink and noticed the wall behind the cashier was papered with about 50 counterfeit notes. I asked the clerk if those were the ones they were defrauded with and she said no, those were the ones that got caught and they took the note from the customer. She said that many more are passed successfully and accepted by other clerks and they go into the deposit bag and on to the bank where they then confiscate the notes.

    So, many more bad notes are out there passing at least for a while before they get to the bank. Now, my teenage son would never be able to tell the difference as he lives in his own largely cashless society as I assume most young people do.

    I see no reason why this example here would not have passed as genuine.
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  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    The famous coin tale is when the mint first issues V nickels without the word cents. People would paint them gold and hand them to a clerk for a small purchase who might give change for a $5 gold piece but if he didn't the crook could claim they were only expecting it to be taken as 5 cents. Is this story true or did the mint add 'cents' to later nickels just for fun?
  11. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    Not the current UK pound coins. The ones you are referring to were phased out in 2016 and replaced with a bi-mettalic coins in an attempt to limit the forging of the coins. At the best estimate about one in 30 of the coins in circulation when they were withdrawn. This was somewhere in the order of 75 million in circulation. I have several early examples of these fakes in my black cabinet. The early ones were quite primitive (gold paint over white metal) but they continued to try to keep one step ahead of the coin machine industry.
  12. JBGood

    JBGood Collector of coinage Supporter

    The good news is: the op coin is a coin more or less, it is ancient, and it has a great story to tell....the button angle is interesting and makes it come alive.
    Thanks for sharing!
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  13. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Many scholars, including the late Philip Grierson (a Byzantine expert), have asserted that gold was always weighed in transactions. When a coin is supposed to be 4.45 grams, a piece under 3 grams surely would be noticed and the person who attempted to pass it severely dealt with. A single gold coin was more than a month's pay for a legionary, so its modern-day equivalent must be over $1000. Worth paying attention to, don't you think? Many current-day local convenience stores won't accept $100 bills because they might be fake. Who would accept a $1000 coin that is clearly too light? Gold coins were too valuable to use in daily commerce. People involved in big transactions that needed gold coins were surely careful enough to spot a coin that far from genuine. We are collectors and know such a coin is worth under $1000 and we pay enough attention to notice it is too light. Ancients would have too.

    I very much doubt it is ancient and contemporary with the type it imitates.
  14. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    This is a fascinating discussion. I wonder if the forged gold coin could be part of a bulk payment in a context in which it would not be expected to be individually weighed. Salting a gold lot with fakes could be a way of saving some money. But such bulk payments would be exceedingly rare, and this coin would be struck long after the days of paying off the Huns in wagons of gold. Plus, I think even then, the bulk gold was weighed.
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  15. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    In the article below, the author states that money-changers would sell gold coins to persons needing them to pay their taxes; perhaps such persons (not “soldiers, officials, landowners”) would not typically be accustomed to handling gold coins.

    “Before examining the debasement, it is useful to outline the basic Byzantine monetary system in the eleventh century, before the reforms of Alexius I in 1092. The state in this period operated a tri-metallic coinage system, but with distinct preference for gold, which was the required means of payment of taxes. As has been revealed by a twelfth-century treatise known as Palaia kai Nea Logarike, taxpayers before the reforms of 1106-1109 were required to pay their taxes in nomismata, and if there was a fractional liability of over two-thirds nomisma, the taxpayer was required to pay it in a whole nomisma, the tax-collector returning the difference in small change. The lower denominations of the nomisma (the semissis and tremissis) had disappeared by the eighth century, so the gold coin was not used in low-value private transactions, a role performed by the bronze and silver coinage. The state derived most of its income from land and personal taxes, with only a small proportion coming from trade. The main way of feeding gold coins into the economy was through government expenditure, which consisted largely of wages paid, most of them in gold, to the army and the civil service. It has been proposed but without any evidence that taxes represented 57 percent of all coins in circulation and that the monetization level in Byzantium was around 45 percent of GDP in the twelfth century.5 No records indicating the size of the imperial budget survive, but estimates range from four to six million nomismata for the beginning of the eleventh century. The state obligations were denominated mainly in gold, sometimes expressed by number of nomismata and sometimes by their weight. This money was then spent in the economy, with the largest proportion going to landowners and peasants in exchange for food, who then gave part of it back to the state in the form of taxes. Some of it clearly escaped this cycle and entered the area of commerce, both home and abroad, but the bulk did not. Owners of gold coins (soldiers, officials, landowners) could go to money-changers to obtain small change for their expenses, and the latter could then sell those gold coins to individuals who wanted them to pay their taxes, or even back to the state. Money changers belonged to a state-regulated guild whose rules survive in the tenth century Book of the Eparch. They played a role in the state's occasional efforts to control the composition of the circulating coinage: for example, early evidence shows that money changers were at times obliged to sell gold coins to the state as they received them from the public. With respect to mints, following the centralizing reforms of Heraclius (610-641) in about 629, there was one main mint, that of Constan- tinople, which was entirely owned and controlled by the state. Early legisla- tion prohibited the minting of private bullion by state mints though it seems that this law was relaxed (for precious metals) in the twelfth century.30 The importance of the military use of coinage is suggested by the fact that the was much smaller territorially and trade had picked up) the corresponding percentages were calculated to be 80 and 20. One would expect, therefore, that in the period we are interested in (eleventh century), the percentages would be somewhere in between. See Hendy, "From Public to Private," pp. 32-33. Laiou ("Byzantine Economy," p. 1155) estimates the proportion of revenue from agriculture in the twelfth century to have been just over 80 percent. master of the mint belonged to the department of the vestiarion which was also responsible for the manufacture and provision of military equipment.31 Unfortunately no Byzantine mint records survive.”

    The Debasement of the "Dollar of the Middle Ages"

    Author(s): Costas Kaplanis

    Source: The Journal of Economic History,

    Vol. 63, No. 3 (Sep., 2003), pp. 768-801

    Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Economic History Association

    Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3132307
  16. Multatuli

    Multatuli Homo numismaticus Supporter

    I totally agree with Doug. Fourrée coins were struck since the earliest days, as early as the sixth century BC, as soon as Kroysos struck the first coins. In relation to the silver fourrées, there are some theories that speculate that the Roman State itself produced 1: 7 in proportion fourrées and regular. Imagine this on an exchequer with millions and millions of denarii. I believe this because there are denarii fourrées that are perfect, certainly struck by official dies. If this was done unofficially, by a corrupt moneyer who wanted to gain an extra money and risk himself being thrown to the beasts, we don´t know. There are, of course, coarse/rude fourrées, which are clearly ancient fakes. With gold, of course it is more complicated and I doubt that the State was behind anything. But that were certainly used in conventional circulation, to deceive the bearer, this I have no doubt. Not all of them are of dissimilar weight: some were minted on a silver core, lead, or their thickness was slightly larger than conventional.
    Of course, it would be a great chagrin if you found a coin holder that was worth more than a month's salary, but some of our Roman ancestors certainly were ...
    Here are two examples from my collection of gold ancient fourrés:

    DIVUS VESPASIAN, posthumous memorial fourrée gold aureus, copying an issue struck by TITUS, 79 AD. DIVVS AVGVSTVS VESPASIANVS, laureate head of Divus Vespasian right. Reverse - S C inscribed on shield supported by two capricorns, orb below. RCV 2569. The gold plating would have been quite convincing when it was intact. 17mm, 3.7g.
    Arcadius fourrée Solidus (383-408 AD). Imitating Constantinople mint issue of 388-392AD. DN ARCADI VS PF AVG/ CONCORDIA AVGGG. RIC IX 70c, 21mm 3.01g.
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  17. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    I'm not so sure. While I don't believe it is impossible I think most cases where a fouree appears to have been struck by official dies are not what they appear. For one, we know that the technology to create transfer dies existed in ancient times. A hoard including such dies for striking imitations of Roman Republic denarii was found years ago in Tilisca, Romania and I have seen a handful of coins, at least some of which I know to be hoard finds, which show evidence of having been struck with such transfer dies. An example was sold recently by Agora Auctions which I believe to be almost certainly authentic but struck in ancient times with such a transfer die and I can probably find pictures later if anyone is interested.

    What I have yet to find are two denarii struck from the same apparently official dies, one of which is definitely solid and the other definitely plated and for which a transfer die can be ruled out. There may be evidence out there and if so I'd love to see it, but I haven't yet.

    I've also completely ignored the fact here that often fourees do have stylistic problems that betray their true nature.
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  18. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I have heard the claims of transfer dies but have not seen the proof of their existence meaning the transfer die has to be transferred from a genuine coin and not from a master hub that is just as fake as the dies and coins it produced. Lack of a pair of solid/plated coins proves nothing since you can never prove something is not and never was because you have not seen it. Certainly most fourrees have no possibility of being from official mint operations but if I were a mint official producing fake coins on the side, I would never use the same dies and would be sure to mark the fakes so I could tell them. This also would work the other way since a plated coin overstruck with official dies would still be plated even if the mint doing that striking was not aware of its status. Parthian fourrees are quite rare. Below is a plated Parthian drachm. Can you prove that it was not struck on a Roman Republican fourree? Proof is not something that allows assumptions. We do the best we can and are slow to trust experts who know the answers before they hear the question. I am particularly slow to trust Roman Republican experts who believe their experience applies to all coins of all periods and places.
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  19. R*L

    R*L Well-Known Member

    My one and only fourrée - sharper in hand than in picture, I suspect before the plating broke it would have easily fooled my ancient Roman equivalent based on looks alone, although at 2.90g it's weight may have given it away as it's about .8-.9g lighter than good genuine examples of type and .5g lighter than the average given on OCRE (but then again it's not outside the range of wieght for genuine coins of this type and presumably it was a bit heavier prior to the silver coming away and corrosion setting in, so maybe it wouldn't have been too suspicious).

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  20. Multatuli

    Multatuli Homo numismaticus Supporter

    That’s the point. Most of the fourrées are easily recognized today, both for the style features and for the core's exposure. But there are fourrées that certainly had their dies made by celators and moneyers working officially on Mint, so there are today some lack to recognize fourrée dies that match with the official dies, but would have been made “extra-officially”.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  21. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Whether this is the case has been the subject of scholarly dispute for decades. I know; I was closely involved with numerous die studies and followed the literature. If it were true, it would be possible to prove with examples. If the examples were convincing, a scholarly consensus would result. The fact there is no such scholarly consensus (yet) shows that it is not "certainly" the case.

    If you are personally convinced that some fourrees were struck with dies made by official mint workers, I assure you scholars would welcome the evidence. You could write an article for a serious numismatic journal, or if you don't know how, collaborate with someone who does. Solid evidence really would be welcome. But, others have been looking for convincing evidence for decades and it has not appeared.
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