What is the point with fourrée?

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

  1. Multatuli

    Multatuli Homo numismaticus Supporter

    Thank you, @Valentinian. I don't think I have enough technical knowledge to write numismatic articles for renowned journals. I'm just an amateur numismatist, that love classical numismatics.
    However, I do believe that some dies have actually been opened by celators and moneyers, just for making fourrées. Perhaps for this reason there are fourrées practically perfect and with a stylistic pattern of leaving many good official coins diminished. I have a Gens Minucia denarius that I only know is a fourrée due to a small break in the edge of the flan, seen under the microscope. In some cases, with a perfect coin, considering the stilistic point of view, I don't think that vulgar counterfeiters could get that capability without actually being trained, or having worked on some Mint. Of course, not considering the usual types, easily identifiable by us. I also don't know if a better reinforcement in the die was needed to ensure a better adhesion of the silver blade to the copper core. And as I wrote before, I believe in the possibility of the Roman State itself producing fourrées. Imagine the silver gain, and consequently the financial income for the Roman Treasury...
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  3. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    This seems reminiscent of the sort of thesis championed in articles by such as Francoise Velde in recent years. I do not recall it being a line taken by Grierson. Can you help with a more specific citation? Thanks, Rob T
  4. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    He probably wrote it somewhere, but my statement is from having him tell me personally when I was at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge.
  5. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Be Brave • Fear God • Honor the King Supporter

    It's a bit like the many supermarket food packaging tricks that we encounter. Opposed to a solid silver coin there may be a thin silver veneer coating a cheap base metal. It's to fool folks into thinking they're getting more than what they're actually getting. My question is: What was the penalty for passing such currency if it was not a state authorized coin?

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018
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  6. David@PCC

    David@PCC allcoinage.com

    I could be wrong (since I am not a Republican specialist) but I thought Sulla minted serrated coins to combat forgeries such as these?
  7. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Fourrees of serrate Roman Republican coins are common.
    r15410bb0273.jpg r26310bb0133.jpg
  8. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    Well, here's my prize winning fourrée, that has me worrying since I discovered it. When I bought it (for about 300 bucks) I was very happy because of the exquisite barbarous style, an early imitation of a Philip of Macedon tetradrachm. But when I received it, it turned out to be a fourrée with the bronze shimmering through the edge and a little on the reverse. The description of the seller didn't mention it.

    4005 s m.jpg

    Eastern Celts, Lower Danube. Uncertain tribe. Early 3rd century BC. Early imitation of a Philip II tetradrachm of Amphipolis. Obv. Laureate head of Zeus t.r., behind it, a leaf. Rev. Jockey and horse riding t.r. Under it, labda over a bucranium. Under the prancing leg of the horse, an A. 24.5 mm, 13.85 gr.
  9. David@PCC

    David@PCC allcoinage.com

    I've seen many serrated fourree's but remember reading it somewhere. Had to search for this and I have no idea if it is accurate but thought it was interesting.

    Cited from

    Also of interest they mention punishment for counterfeiting.
  10. Multatuli

    Multatuli Homo numismaticus Supporter

    For just passing fake coins, I don't know. But the act to counterfeit coins: damnatio ad bestias (a form of Roman capital punishment in which the condemned person was killed by wild animals) if of course, you are a free man. If you belong to patriaciate, or other roman elite's ranks, you probably shall be condemned to be exiled to an island, or more , to kill yourself.If you are slave, go to the mines or be crucified (lex iulia).
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  11. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    If we turn to a period we have better records for we find William Chaloner making plated guineas in the 18th century. His plans ultimately failed because he was caught and hung, not because his plated coins always failed to pass.

    We have the physical evidence for apparently similar activities in ancient times, and its entirely reasonable to suppose that those items sometimes passed too (at great profit to the con artist).

    It seems odd to me that Grierson would say that gold was "always weighed" in the context that you apply it. Hence my request for a citation to written work so I can get what specific context is being assumed. (I found him rather cautious in conversation.)

    I only recall Grierson writing (see his "Numismatics", 1975) that Medieval European states initially opposed the production of check weights for gold coin altogether, as they did not wish circulation be impeded by weighing. But that seems to put some people very much in opposition to your own position
  12. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    The context was at least every Byzantine-empire transaction involving gold. Usually the official strike of a gold coin is regarded as an official statement about both weight and purity. But, of course, clipping, or forgery, is possible and sometimes seen on Byzantine gold. Grierson, at least in discussion with me, said the ancients regarded gold as so valuable and there was so much to lose if a piece were light, that it was "always weighed."
  13. Multatuli

    Multatuli Homo numismaticus Supporter

    As much as this has been deeply studied by Grierson and other scholars, I believe it is only an assumption, and that, of course, in day-to-day business transactions, this probably was not so. It is enough to observe the greater quantity of Byzantine gold fourrées than Roman. That is, if they often falsified Byzantine gold coins, is that because it should be worth it.
  14. Ken Dorney

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

    These are my thoughts exactly. While it might seem logical to weigh every coin and transaction (and it is just a theory, or assumption as mentioned above) this obviously never happened. It could not have, otherwise nobody would ever have attempted to pass plated coins. The vast quantities in which they survive today tells us that not only did they frequently pass as 'good' coins, but that it was quite profitable for the forgers. Weighing each transaction just could not have been logical, possible, or even profitable for merchants, unless they were suspicious that they were being cheated. Considering governments weighing coins, that could be, but in the quantities they would be measuring there would certainly be a large margin of error, and a few grams here and there certainly would not have been noticed.
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  15. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I have collected fourrées for thirty years. I wrote a website on them in 2002 and it has an extensive bibliography (not updated for about a decade).


    There is very little in the literature about gold fourrées. I think they are, and were, quite rare, but we see some because some were made and they don't get destroyed.

    I have seen late Roman gold imitations and do not think Byzantine gold imitations are more common proportionally. The coins we call Byzantine were minted for hundreds of years, much longer than Roman solidi, and Byzantine solidi are much more common, so we would expect to see far more Byzantine gold imitations than Roman gold imitations, even if the relative frequency of imitations to official coins had not gone up.

    Keep in mind that I do not think the OP piece is ancient, so pieces like that those do not count for me. I wrote above:

    I believe that when a counterfeit was discovered, it was often holed to condemn it. So, it is possible the OP piece is ancient and the holes were to condemn it.

    I cannot deny that there were ancient gold fourrées intended to deceive. The ones I have seen were usually significantly underweight, which could have been detected by a vigilant person who "always weighed" gold coins. So, there must have been some exceptions--some circumstances where passing bad gold for good worked. (Why do drunks gambling in a tavern come to mind?) There have always been criminals who attempt illicit gain. Many of the gold imitations we see have been holed which I thinks means they were discovered in antiquity and they still exist because the finder didn't know what to do with them other than toss them (later to be found in modern times).

    Here are some late Roman gold imitations from my site:

    18 mm. 5:30. 3.55 grams. (Extremely light for an aureus.)
    MAXIMIA-NVS PF AVG, laureate head right
    /CONCORDIA AVGG ET CAESS NNNN, Concordia seated left, holding out patera, with double cornucopia in left, AQ in exergue
    Ref: RIC VI Aquileia 2b "R3", which should be c. 5.3 grams. Although the style is excellent, it is hard to imagine this fooling anyone because gold is too valuable to accept without close scrutiny (either in ancient or modern times). Lead is dense, but not nearly as dense as gold, and this piece is simply too light in the hand


    20mm. 6:00. 1.98 grams (extremely light for the denomination which should weigh c. 4.45 grams.)
    DN VALENTINI-ANVS PF AVG, pearl-daidemed, draped, and cuirassed bust right
    /VICTOR-IA AVGG, two emperors (with Valens) seated facing, together holding a globe and behind and between them a Victory with outspread wings. Between them low, a palm branch.
    In ex: TROBT
    Prototype: Old Sear 4089, plate 12. RIC Trier 17b, AD 367-375.

    Constantius II
    21mm. 12:00. 2.60 grams (very light -- the denomination should weigh 4.45 grams.)
    Holded, probably to condemn it. Much of the gold is gone from the surface.
    Helmeted and curiassed bust facing, holding spear and shield, spear back across right shoulder
    /GLORA REIPVBLICAE [illegible]
    Roma and Constantinopolis seated, holding shield inscribed
    The mintmark is too weak to make out. This type was minted c. 350-355 at most mints.
    Old Sear 3988
    I think it was pierced to condemn it as a fake.

    If anyone knows of any articles that discuss ancient gold imitations, let us know about them.
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  16. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Thanks - it seems we both agree that Grierson was wrong - or perhaps misspoke on that occasion?

    I agree with your last. Will mention a couple of things I have seen which seem relevant

    Plated fakes of ancient Mauryan silver karshapanas are very common - I have seen scores of them. But they all seem to come from surface scatter - I never saw one in a hoard. Reason? My guess - they were almost all rapidly spotted and thrown away in disgust by diligent users.

    This ancient gold fourrée situation is maybe the same. Any throwing away in disgust may well lead to them being over represented in modern finds.

    Even stranger, I once plotted the weights of some medieval commercial lead weights in two groups - some that were in good condition and some that were worn. The result was weird. The worn weights seems more accurately adjusted than the minty ones! Reason? My guess again - a proportion of the minty ones got thrown away early on - either because the vendor saw the market inspector heading his way, or maybe even an irate customer threw it at a miller as he fled? Ha! be careful about quoting this as it is a fairly flimsy guess - but still - the basic facts seem to be there.

    Anyhow getting back to the main point I started with - which was really to do with the general idea that in the good old days a pound of silver weighed a pound, and that we ought to revert to something like that practice. That idea is perennially popular. It became very popular in England around the 1670's, and again in the 20th century in the USA, at least in say the influential fiction of Ayn Rand etc.

    In both cases it got backed by influential thinkers. In 17th/18th century England by John Locke. I judge that turned out to be a very serious mistake. So did Adam Smith.

    In the 20th century USA senior academics like Miskimin and Velde have aggressively pushed the idea that coin always circulated by weight. I judge that too to be a very serious mistake. So did John Munro - maybe have a look at the paper he gave at Utrecht on Velde - its somewhere on the web. Seems to me he got quite angry about what was being put - (perhaps in part because it was written by a Federal Reserve bank employee - although that was never said)

    I see I am getting no "likes" for my position here. Oh well. One of my favourite books is Bertrand Russell's "Unpopular Essays"

    Rob T
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
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  17. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I wouldn't quite say that. The universe of discourse was "sober transactions". You must be right that "always" is too strong, but if we get mathematical there are (almost) always exceptions to "always" statements. Okay, upon reflection it should not be stated with "always." Maybe when accepting tax payments the government always weighed the coins. I wonder what the written evidence is, if any, for that.

    By "coin" do they mean gold and silver (i.e. precious metal) coins? Many Roman second and third century denarii have pretty erratic weights but circulated together as denarii. We see Gresham's Law in operation when metal values get too far out of line (save a 4-gram silver and spend the 2.8-gram silver. I even spend a ripped dollar bill and keep the nicer one).
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  18. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I would wager that coin 'professionals' of the day could sense by touch weights and fineness to a degree that no one alive today could match. I would love for the Severan mintmaster of 'Emesa' and a banker from the town central market to examine my coins and point out the ones that they found deviant. They would know what we never can. Given ten gold coins of the same denomination, I would expect a pro from the place and time to be able to arrange them in weight order by touch in a few seconds. That was what those people did for a living.
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  19. Multatuli

    Multatuli Homo numismaticus Supporter

    Indeed. But that is if we consider until the monetary reform of Alexius I, in 1034. I don't see as many difficulties in finding gold byzantine fourrées of solidii in the market (not that they are common), but personally, never saw of histamenons (introduced shortly before the monetary reform) , aspron trachii or hyperpyrons. The Roman gold coinage of the fourth and fifth centuries in my view is a continuum with Byzantine coinage, even considering Anastasius' reforms in 498.

    We must consider that the Byzantine gold coinage was not restricted to the empire alone. By contrast, Byzantine gold, until to the Venetian rise, was the international monetary standard in the Mediterranean and Levant, just as the English pound was in the nineteenth-twentieth century and the dollar is still today. Many local gold coins were minted imitating the Byzantine solidus pattern, the so-called bezants. That is to say, in the practice of international commerce, just as with counterfeiting dollars, euros, and pounds today would naturally falsify the coins, and of course, one would try to push them toward someone more unaware. I do not believe that all gold coins, especially in large quantities, in trade between caravans, merchants based in Constantinople, or any other city of the empire could not go unnoticed, especially if well made.
    The natural problem of the golden fourrées is that it is enough a little peeled to denounce them, ending the party. But until then, the forger will be rich and far away from there. That is to say, they were not restricted to being stuck in the local commerce, or even in some division of the Byzantine Treasure, where surely the control would be much greater and the risk of the forger to lose the head as well.
  20. Multatuli

    Multatuli Homo numismaticus Supporter

    I do not rule out a theory for that some gold fourrées including the possibility of have an emergency currency role sometime, as the noodmunten were during the Eighty Years War between Netherlands and Spain, or if we focus on Antiquity, Athenians tetradrachms, struck with this role during periods of monetary scarcity.
    In this case, they could have been "officially" minted by the State to pay for Byzantine soldiers or mercenaries on the battlefields or for long periods of siege (such as tokens), which could then be exchanged for real gold coins if the bearer survived for it, or if the government in question was there to receive it. As with limes denarius.
    Of course, this is only a theory, perhaps stupid, which obviously would not apply to any fourrée.
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  21. R*L

    R*L Well-Known Member

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