Next club meeting Monday 5th December 2015.

  • Subject -  Winter bourse & Members Evening

The activities will be as follows:

1.    The main feature will be a mini coin fair. Tables will not be charged for & there will be a collective members table.

2.    A coin quiz

3.    Members to bring along one or two items that for some reason are considered special (e.g. recent acquisition, a long sought after piece, an unusual find, an oddity etc.). A brief written explanation as to why the piece is special to you.

4.    Christmas buffet!

Meetings are held at the Abbey Baptist Church, Abbey Square, commencing at 7.00 p.m.




·         Please continue thinking about Short Talks for January, and Auction lots for March!


November Meeting

The speaker for November was Stephen Alexander who gave an illustrated talk about fakes and forgeries, with special emphasis on Roman coins, after finding an As of Claudius in an Italian railway yard. But he had always found fakes interesting. Ever since silver coins were invented, people have been faking them, even the very first coins, from Lydia, were being faked using a precious metal plating on a copper core within a few decades of their introduction.

 In honour of this, Michael brought along a part of his ‘Black Museum’ – some of the fakes and forgeries he has had through his hands since he’s been in the trade.

Not all fakes are intended to deceive. Sovereigns were made in Beirut during the time when it was the numismatic faking centre of the world - of the correct purity and correct weight. Who was being fooled as they were priced by weight and a small premium?

Modern fakes, intended to fool the collector, are a daily hazard. They come in all shapes & sizes and degrees of skill. The easiest to dismiss are the “tourist” fakes offered all over the world. To anyone who has seen an original they are obvious, but the unwary are caught. Do not let your critical faculties desert you on holiday! Like the Green Cross Code, the advice is “Stop, Look, Listen, and Think”.

The more serious fakes are those designed to fool the collector. They have been around for centuries and some are collectable in their own right. Many of the Renaissance medallions, which were probably designed to fill the demand for classical coins, often have impossible combinations of obverse and reverse. As classical copies, many are just fantasies. There were many very good craftsmen in the 19th & 20th century who produced fakes that would deceive even the best scrutiny. One of the more dangerous historical fakers was Becker. He carved the dies, very skilfully, struck them often on blanks made from old silver and artificially aged them.


But these days fakes from China, especially in the Roman series, are exceptionally difficult to identify. There are several on-line forums which list them. There were, more interestingly, contemporary forgeries, designed to fool the unwary merchant or consumer, but some contemporary imitations cannot of been designed to deceive anyone, and must have been simply a means of trading.

Imperial Roman mints produced staggering quantities of coins numbering in the 10’s and 100’s of millions each year. Forgery was always a problem: contemporary forgeries, or counterfeits, were produced for: 1) straight cheating; 2) semi-official local production; 3) money of necessity when supplies were interrupted and, possibly, 4) by the Army. Effectively, the Army’s economics ran the Roman Empire. Rome was a moneyed society, evidenced by extensive wear on the surviving coins that often circulated for 150 years. Coins were used for tax payments and daily transactions. The best evidence for the daily usage of coins comes from the “frozen” city of Pompeii where finds of coins show 48% silver 48% copper and 4% gold.

“An As of Claudius, based on a Lugdunum (Lyons) mint design. Struck by the Roman Army in the South of England AD44 to pay the troops?”

In considering counterfeits, why and where they were made, it is necessary to try to establish costs in Roman times and how these costs related to coin production. Very relevant to the counterfeit story is the cost of transport. When the Romans first occupied Britannia in 43AD the weight of coinage needed to pay 20,000 legionaries & auxiliaries was prodigious and transporting it a real headache. The Romans were a very practical people. Given the enormous costs incurred in transportation, is it unlikely that, somewhere in the Empire, perhaps in Cornwall, they mined, smelted, cast into ingots huge quantities of copper and then transported it to Rome where it was melted, cast into blanks, struck and then transported all the way back to Britannia?

There is no one reason why coins were counterfeited. At different times, with different economic drivers, and particularly the isolation of the border regions, counterfeits were produced for several different reasons. Stephen felt sure that the army was very active in official & unofficial minting. Hoard finds show that the fakes must have been widely accepted, just like modern £1 coins of which anything up to 5% are forged. If you get one in your change you don’t care as you know someone else will accept it.

One of the most celebrated plated coins was produced towards the end of the Peloponnesian War 431BC-404BC. The authorities in Athens were denied the silver mines of Laurion and they needed to pay the mercenaries. They resorted to plated coins which might have been purely “token” payments in that they might have been redeemed in proper coins after the victory - which of course never came. But, over the centuries, many plated forgeries of Athenian Owls were produced all over the Middle East. There is a tendency for coin dealers to label all plated owls as from the Peloponnesian war.

One real denarius had enough silver to plate 10 counterfeits. When you consider the rate of production, the danger of being shopped, and the costs of getting the coins unobtrusively into circulation, the returns were hardly spectacular. A method of producing a silver layer that was used by the official mints & forgers was pickling. The blanks were pickled in chemicals which preferentially dissolved the more reactive copper in the outer layer leaving silver. When struck an acceptable, but temporary, layer of silver was left on the surface.

Looking at coins generally, some years ago Seaby’s Black Museum was sadly broken up. It was an accessible source of knowledge about fakes designed to fool. However, as an optimistic postscript, an American dealer purchased a rare Year 5 Shekel which he spotted to be genuine. He made a lot of money on the transaction. And, in another series, it was pointed out to Stephen by Howard Simmons that he has never seen a Low Countries Lion Daalder that isn’t plated –so maybe it was an official issue.

The Club thanked Stephen for a very interesting presentation.


Future Events.

  • Morton & Eden Auction – St. George St., London – 2nd December
  • London Coin Auctions – Grange Hotel, Bracknell – 4-5th December
  • Birmingham Coin Fair - National Motorcycle museum – 11th December
  • DNW Auction - 12-13th December

Past Events

In November 1976 Dr. John Kent gave a talk entitled "Sixty Glorious Years, the Development and Content of Victorian Medals".


November 1986 saw members hearing a talk on "Tudor Coinage" by Barrie Cook.


Ten years later in 1996, John Crowley gave a talk on "Primitive Currencies".

November 2006 had Tim Everson giving a talk entitled Royal and Rose Farthings of James and Charles I.


Club Secretary.