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Counterfeits & Forgeries

Counterfeits
Forgeries


The following coins are not genuine or have been modified, either contemporaneously or in more modern times. They are presented to help you understand and identify fraudulent coins. In general, coins made in the same era, by other than the authorized minting authority, are called counterfeits, and those imitations created in more modern times forgeries. Even coins in reputable collections of major institutions must be considered suspect unless the provenance (a pedigree or "proof of origin") establishes the coin as found in context at a controlled archeological site.

Counterfeits are difficult to identify because they were made in ancient times, probably by artisans familiar with the methods used to mint the genuine coins, or possibly illicit manufacture by mint personnel. We do not yet fully understand the methods used to mint Parthian coins, nor the contemporary imitations. Counterfeits are of special interest to numismatists since they were made to deceive people of the time, and thus may represent coin designs or inscriptions copied from genuine coins otherwise unknown to us.

fourrée (plated) coins may be genuine or fall into either the counterfeit or forgery categories. Due to their special nature, I treat them as a separate category. See the fourrée coins page.

Modern forgeries are not a recent phenomenon. In Hamadan, apart from coins, few objects ascribed to the Hellenistic, Parthian, or Sasanian periods have been reported. The suspicious absence of other antiquities but plentiful supply of coins was noted by both Brüsch (I, p. 364) and Flandin (p. 383). They refer to a thriving trade in the mid-1800s producing fake antiquities for the European market, especially Hellenistic and Sasanian coins bearing the effigies of Alexander or Ardashir, but assuredly also Parthian coins. In the late 19th century, the excavation for antiquities in large areas in and around the city of Hamadan was "a systematic industry, farmed out by the government for revenue." (Wilson, p. 156) In the mid-1970s, I observed the large quantity of fraudulent Parthian coins in the bazaars of Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz, Damascus and Kabul. There is no reason to believe this trade has abated, and thus purchasers of Parthian coins must be very wary. Additionally, the latest technologies are adopted by forgers who are now producing ultra-modern fakes from electro-erosion copied dies.

For an excellent study, read the IBSCC Bulletin on Counterfeits, Vol 19, no. 2 (1994/1995). This richly illustrated issue contains "Forgeries and Inventions of Parthian Coins : Gold Coins of Vonones I and Silver Drachms of Osroes I, Vologases V and VI, Artabanus IV, and of Artabanus IV with the name Tiridates" by Dr. Alan Walker. The condemnation of the coins by Walker and the International Bureau for the Suppression of Counterfeit Coins was contested by Dr. G. R. F. Assar, and the issue went to binding arbitration. The expert assigned to arbitrate was Prof. T. V. Buttrey, noted numismatist and Keeper Emeritus of the Fitzwilliam Coin Cabinet, Cambridge University. The arbitrator decided in favor of Dr. Walker and the IBSCC; a précis of the expert's report was published in the Counterfeit Coin Bulletin, November 2001.

Please leave your comments on the feedback page where you can post a public message or send private e-mail on this topic. However, I will not provide authentication of your coins. For an excellent discussion of authentic versus fake ancient coins, see Ancient Coins & Modern Fakes by Dennis J. Kroh.


Counterfeits

There are three coins in the American Numismatic Society coin cabinet listed as Parthian counterfeits, but I have not yet determined if they are contemporaneous counterfeits in the context of the definitions above: Artabanus III (ANS 1986.69.20), Mithradates II (ANS 1986.69.21) and Menander (ANS 1984.66.43). I would not normally carry a coin of Menander as a Parthian coin, but will leave it listed with the ANS "Parthian" attribution until I have inspected it.

Counterfeit #1

No image availableMithradates II (c. 123 - 88 B.C.) Contemporary Counterfeit
AR Drachm, 4.01 g, die axis 12h
Mint/ (counterfeit), undated
Obv/ male head left
Rev/ figure seated
Location/ American Numismatic Society
- ANS 1986.69.21 (as counterfeit)


Counterfeit #2

No image availableArtabanus III (c. A.D. 80 - 90) Contemporary Counterfeit
4.26 g, die axis 12h
Mint/ (counterfeit), undated
Obv/ male head left
Rev/ figure seated
Location/ American Numismatic Society
- ANS 1986.69.20 (as counterfeit)


Counterfeit #3

No image availableMenander (c. 160-140 B.C.) Contemporary Counterfeit
AR Tetradrachm, 9.37 g, die axis 12h
Mint/ (counterfeit), undated
Obv/ Menander, head left
Rev/ Athena standing
Location/ American Numismatic Society
- ANS 1984.66.43 (as counterfeit)


Forgeries

Forgery #1

ForgeryVologases III (A.D. 105-147) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm
Mint/ Ecbatana (forgery), undated
Obv/ Bust left, beard of medium length and triangular, hair in three waves, ear visible, diadem of three bands, two loops and three ends pendant
Rev/ Beardless archer, wearing kyrbasia and cloak, seated right on throne; in right hand, bow; in front, no pellet above bow, below bow monogram 26.
Photo/ by permission of coin dealer Michel Prieur at CGB in Paris. He notes: "We bought this one as genuine and rejected it as it is not an antique strike. One of the rare examples we have of ultra-modern fakes from electro-erosion copied dies. The coins we own can be seen in our drawer of fakes in Paris. Comments welcomed."
- Sellwood 78.5 (forgery)


Forgery #2

ForgeryMithradates II (c. 123 - 88 B.C.) Modern Forgery
AV Drachm, 7.93 g, 22 mm
Mint/ Rhagae (forgery), undated
Additional images/ [2-coin comparison]
Obv/ long bearded bust of king left, wearing tiara
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow in right hand, empty cloak arm ending in pellet, well below throne seat; 5-line Greek inscription: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / MEGALOU / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ
Note 1/ this forgery and the one immediately following are struck from the same die, and are typical of gold Parthian coin forgeries believed to originate in Pakistan. These particular coins were the subject of an IAPN committee bulletin on Parthian forgeries
Photo/ by permission, William B. Warden, Jr., Numismatist
- Bulletin on Counterfeits, vol. 24, no. 1 (1999), pp. 18, 1B (this coin)
- Sellwood 27.1 (gold forgery)


Forgery #3

ForgeryMithradates II (c. 123 - 88 B.C.) Modern Forgery
AV Drachm, 7.96 g, 22 mm
Mint/ Rhagae (forgery), undated
Additional images/ [2-coin comparison]
Obv/ as above
Rev/ as above
Note 1/ identical in every feature, except flan, to coin above; struck from same die
Photo/ by permission, William B. Warden, Jr., Numismatist
- Bulletin on Counterfeits, vol. 24, no. 1 (1999), pp. 18, 1A (this coin)
- Sellwood 27.1 (gold forgery)


Forgery #4

ForgeryPhraataces & Musa (c. 2 B.C. - A.D. 4)  Modern Forgery
AR Drachm
Mint/ Ecbatana (forgery), undated
Obv/ bust of king left, diagonal squared-ended beard, Nike each side; border of dots
Rev/ queen's bust left; in front, monogram 26. Greek inscription unreadable
Note/ this is a crude forgery probably intended for sale to tourists or others not knowledgeable about Parthian coin issues. Heavily worn by artificial means to obscure fact it is of modern origin
Prov/ offered by eBay dealer as facsimile
Photo/ by Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood 58 (forgery)


Forgery #5

ForgeryArtabanus II (c. A.D. 10 - 38) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm
Mint/ Ecbatana (forgery), undated
Additional images/ [2-coin comparison]
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with medium square cut beard, wearing diadem with loop at the top and three ends, hair almost straight, earring visible; trace border of dots above. Flan crack from 11h to 5h, occlusions on eyebrow and cheek
Rev/ beardless archer, seated right on throne; in right hand, bow; below bow monogram 26; Greek inscription [Β]ΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Σ] ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ / ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟ[Υ] ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣ / [Ε]ΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ [ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ] legend on left read from outside.
Note/ this forgery probably intended for sale to collectors not knowledgeable about Parthian coins. Slightly thicker than normal with flan of very even thickness. Tooling marks on edges, but where occlusions permit, unusual metal with crystalline appearance. Raised features on obverse and reverse polished to provide contrast from chemically applied patina. From a group of seven very similar fakes found in Australia, probably made in 20th century.
Location/ specialty collection of Parthian fakes by Robert Kokotailo, Calgary Coin Gallery (#776-322)
Prov/ dealer in Australia
Photo/ by Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood 63? (forgery)


Forgery #5A

ForgeryArtabanus II (c. A.D. 10 - 38) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm
Mint/ Ecbatana (forgery), undated
Additional images/ [2-coin comparison]
Obv/ as above
Rev/ as above
Note/ There are five coins from this same die pair. Note the die crack that runs from the top of forehead to back of neck
Location/ specialty collection of Parthian fakes by Robert Kokotailo, Calgary Coin Gallery   (#776-319)
Prov/ dealer in Australia
Photo/ by Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood 63? (forgery)


Forgery #6

ForgeryMithradates II (c. 123 - 88 B.C.) Modern Forgery
AV Drachm
Mint/ Rhagae (forgery), undated
Obv/ long bearded bust of king left, wearing tiara
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow in right hand, empty cloak arm ending in pellet, well below throne seat; 5-line Greek inscription: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ
Note 1/ this forgery was struck from the same dies as Forgeries 2 & 3 above, but shape of flan a bit different and apparently better struck
Prov/ offered by Internet dealer as a facsimile
- Sellwood 27.1 (gold forgery)


Forgery #7

PDC 2141 FALSEVologases II (c. A.D. 77 - 80) Modern Forgery
AR Tetradrachm, 8.81 g., 23 mm, die axis = 6h
Mint/ Seleucia (forgery), A.D. 78
Obv/ bust of king left with pointed bearded, ear visible, wearing tiara decorated with "hooks", behind a sequence Greek letter Γ
Rev/ king seated left on throne receiving diadem from Tyche with scepter, inscription: [ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ] / [ΑΡ]ΣΑΚΟ[Υ] / [??ΤΟ??] [ΕΥΕ]ΡΓΕΤΟΥ / [ΦΙ]ΛΕΛΛΗΝ[ΟΣ] ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥ[Σ]
Note 1/ The obverse is straightforward, a Vologases II, Sellwood 72.3 or 72.4, based on bust and the Greek gamma behind head. The reverse gives problems. The inscribed date ϘΤ (390 S.E. = A.D. 78), is proper for Vologases II. However, the inscription is expected to read ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΟΛΑΓΑΣΟΥ / ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ / ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ; I see very little correlation with known reverses of Vologases II or other coins of the period. M. Prieur reports the coins is struck, not cast.
Note 2/ Coins from the same obverse and reverse dies have been seen in CNG 36, lot 387 (withdrawn) and Peus 316 (1986), lot 309 (sold)
Photo/ by permission Michel Prieur at CGB in Paris. He had this coin long enough to photograph it when a customer brought it in for evaluation
- Sellwood 72.3-4 (forgery)


Forgery #8

No image availableMithradates II (c. 123 - 88 B.C.) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm, 3.69 g
Mint/ Seleucia (forgery), undated
Obv/ bearded bust of king left
Rev/ archer seated right
Location/ American Numismatic Society
- ANS 1990.23.56 (as forgery)
- Sellwood 24.7 (forgery)


Forgery #9

PDC 7379Mithradates II (c. 123 - 88 B.C.) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm
Mint/ Rhagae (forgery), undated
Obv/ long bearded bust of king left
Rev/ archer enthroned right, empty cloak arm ending in a pellet, well below throne seat, five-line legend Sellwood 27i
Prov/ offered by eBay dealer as facsimile
Photo/ by Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood 27.1 (forgery)


Forgery #10

PDC 5807Parthamaspates (c. A.D. 116) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm
Mint/ Ecbatana (forgery), undated
Obv/ bust left with short beard wearing tiara with star in center and ear flaps; diadem with loop at the top and two wide ends. Earring visible
Rev/ archer seated right on throne holding bow, below bow monogram 26; archer's seat represented as horizontal line, four horizontal bars to throne back. Blundered Greek legend
Photo/ Rian Thum collection
- Sellwood 81.1 (forgery)


Forgery #11

ObverseMithradates I (c. 171 - 138 B.C.) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm
Mint/ Hecatompylos (forgery), undated
Additional images/ [obverse] [reverse]
Obv/ beardless bust left, wearing bashlyk; border of dots
Rev/ beardless archer, seated right on omphalos; in right hand, bow; Greek inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ
Photo/ private collection
- Sellwood 10.1 (forgery)


Forgery #12

PDC 7211Mithradates II (c. 123 - 88 B.C.) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm
Mint/ Rhagae (forgery), undated
Additional images/ [obverse] [reverse]
Obv/ long bearded bust of king left
Rev/ archer enthroned right, empty cloak arm ending in a pellet, well below throne seat, five-line legend Sellwood 27i
Photo/ private collection
- Sellwood 27.1 (forgery)


Forgery #13

PDC 11656Vologases III (c. A.D. 145-147) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm, 3.62 g, 20 mm, 12h
Mint/ Ecbatana (forgery), undated
Additional images/ [obverse study image] [reverse study image]
Obv/ long and pointed bearded bust of king left; diadem of two loops and three ends pendant
Rev/ archer enthroned right, no throne seat, seven-line Greek legend similar to Sellwood 78ii
Photo/ by Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood 78.11 variant (reverse similar to 78.8 but with dot under archer and no cross above bow) (forgery)


Forgery #14

PDC 13344Mithradates II (c. 123 - 88 B.C.) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm, 4.29 g
Mint/ forgery, undated
Additional images/ [obverse study image] [reverse study image]
Obv/ long bearded bust of king left, Sellwood tiara iii, torque ends in single pellet
Rev/ an impossible combination, the reverse is typical of Artabanus II drachms, Sellwood type 63, with archer enthroned right, Sellwood legend 63ii
Prov/ collection Robert A. DeRose, Jr.
Photo/ Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood obverse 28.3 / reverse 63 type (forgery)


Forgery #15

PDC 13050Mithradates II (c. 123 - 88 B.C.) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm, 6.82 g, 21 mm
Mint/ forgery, undated
Obv/ long bearded bust of king left, Sellwood tiara i
Rev/ an impossible combination, the reverse is typical of Artabanus II drachms, Sellwood type 63, with archer enthroned right, Sellwood legend 63ii
Photo/ eBay auction, March 2002
- Sellwood obverse 28.1 / reverse 63 type (forgery)


Forgery #16

PDC 28934Vonones I (c. A.D. 8 - 12) Modern Forgery
Type 1 gold aureus. These coins are not accepted as authentic by most scholars and have been condemned by the IBSCC. Click on the coin image at left to see the Type 1 coins of Vonones I described by Sellwood in "Parthian Gold Coins" (1991).


Forgery #17

PDC 28936Vonones I (c. A.D. 8 - 12) Modern Forgery
Type 2 gold aureus, 1/3 aureus and 1/6 aureus coins. These coins are not accepted as authentic by most scholars and have been condemned by the IBSCC. Click on the coin image at left to see the Type 2 coins of Vonones I described by Sellwood in "Parthian Gold Coins" (1991).


This page last updated 24 Sep 2012

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