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Two Indian nationals held for distributing Nepalese-made counterfeit ten rupee coins

A new Edward I Lincoln farthing forgery found‏.

Images from "The Strand Magazine" of 1894.

European Commission publish their report on coin counterfeiting in 2009

Ancient coins and their modern fakes

Barbarous radiates and the Fenny Stratford Roman Manufacturing Hoard.

25th August 2010

Two Indian nationals held for distributing Nepalese-made counterfeit ten rupee coins

Early in August, police in New Delhi arrested two men for possessing over 40,000 counterfeit 10 rupee coins. It is alleged that the men were part of a gang of between eight and ten men who smuggled the counterfeits into India from Nepal. It was reported that, "a Nepali, who got(?) a minting factory near Veerganj, was involved in supplying fake coins." No indication was given in the various press reports of the technology used to produce the counterfeit coins. The reports give the impression that the counterfeit coins were not of a very high quality.

The new Indian ten rupee bi-metallic coin was introduced in 2009. It is a bi-metallic coin with an aluminium bronze outer section and a cupro-nickel inner section. The Reserve Bank of India press release stated that the coin weighs 7.71 g and has a diameter of 27mm.

The newly introduced symbol for the Indian rupee

The newly introduced symbol for the Indian rupee

[Sources: "The Times of India", zeenews.com, "Indian Express", Reserve Bank of India press release]

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23rd August 2010

Apologies for the gap in postings I have just been on a fortnights holiday in Germany. There was very little of numisimatic interest in the holiday as the fine art museums were too great an attraction. The regional cities of Germany have some wonderful collections. It was my first chance to take in the full range of the German expressionists. My prize memory is a painting by Otto Dix, Triptychon Der Krieg (War Triptych) at the Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister, Dresden. There is a small reproduction of this painting at http://www.art-ww1.com/gb/texte/099text.html . A larger reproduction of the centre piece of this triptych can be seen at http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_oIOFYyhUoiQ/SoXAkQL55yI/AAAAAAAAAUU/8qjadMFz1Kg/s1600-h/dix.JPE . Unfortunately neither of these reproductions fully conveys the horror felt when viewing the original. It must stand with the greatest anti-war paintings alongside such as Picasso's Guernica. Its advantage is that although containing as much symbolism and intellectual content as Guernica it also has a much simpler, immediate, visceral emotional affect on the viewer.

From today a normal service is resumed.

Obverse of the Edward I counterfeit farthing

Obverse of the Edward I counterfeit farthing, copyright B.Shepherd.

7th August 2010

A new Edward I Lincoln farthing forgery found‏.

Earlier in the year Brad Shepherd was in touch to tell me about a counterfeit hammered farthing he had identified. He had bought the coin in 2006 for a a die study of Edward I Lincoln farthings he was doing. However this year he discovered an identical Edward I farthing for sale. Details of the coin and higher grade photographs can be found on Brad's excellent website at: http://hammered_farthings.tripod.com/counterfeit/index.htm. As Brad points out on his website the sales value of a coin of this grade if genuine would only be about £30 so there is not a large profit to be made by a counterfeiter for a single coin.

6th August 2010

Images from "The Strand Magazine" of 1894.

I recently bought, quite cheaply, a rather battered, bound collection of "The Strand Magazine" of January to June 1894. This magazine is perhaps best known for publishing the Sherlock Holmes stories. It specialised in publishing numerous illustrations to accompany its mixture of factual articles and popular fiction. My interest was the third article in a series the magazine was publishing on "Crimes and Criminals". This covered "Coiners and Coining". The bulk of the illustrations consisted of a collection of counterfeiting equipment held by the New Scotland Yard. Unfortunately this is a collection that the Metropolitan Police no longer appear to possess.

I have reproduced three of the illustrations below on the assumption that because of their age they are no longer covered by copyright. They give a small indication of the methods used by British counterfeiters in the late Victorian age.

Melting pot and crucibles

Melting pot and crucibles

A half-crown mould

A half-crown mould

Coins packed in tissue paper prior to uttering

Coins packed in tissue paper prior to uttering

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5th August 2010

European Commission publish their report on coin counterfeiting in 2009

The European Commission has published its annual report on counterfeit coins for 2009. There was a twelve percent decrease in the number of counterfeit euro coins detected and withdrawn from circulation in 2009. This reduction was concentrated in the most widely counterfeited coin the two euro. The other two denominations saw an increase in the number of coins withdrawn.

Counterfeit euro coins detected in circulation, 2006 – 2009
Date50-cent1-euro2-euroTotal withdrawals
200918,10026,500127,500172,100
200816,60024,500154,800195,900
200713,00016,200181,900211,100
20068,30014,100141,400163,800

The situation in the Euro zone appears confused at the moment as the various countries are at different stages in implementing the regulations on authentication of circulating coins. However Germany has had a robust system running for a significant time and their 6-monthly figures for the first half of 2010 show a twenty-seven percent reduction in the number of counterfeit coins withdrawn. These figures certainly make the UK's latest figures of 2 million counterfeit one-pound coins withdrawn appear very high. However it is puzzling that this decrease is taking place with very little success in dismantling the illegal mints producing these counterfeits. No illegal mints were dismantled in 2009 and the report suggests that there are still up to 20 active illegal mints operating.

[Sources: European Anti-fraud Office ( http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud/pages_euro/index_en.html )]

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2nd August 2010

In Print

"Ancient coins and their modern fakes: an attempt of physico-chemical unmasking" by A.M.Mezzasalma, G.Mondio, et al, Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, vol. 9, no. 2, pp 15-28, 2009.

"As a consequence of police operations in Messina (Sicily), a huge quantity of perfect imitations of ancient coins, realized by a sicilian forger, has been recently found. Such fakes have been realized by the lost wax casting technique".

This paper describes the scientific investigation of five recent bronze counterfeits of ancient coins. The coins were seized by police in Sicily. The scientific investigation is fairly standard scanning electron microscopy and chemical analysis by using an energy dispersive x-ray flourescence spectrometry. Surface analysis and bulk analysis of the fakes is used, unfortunately no comparison analysis is presented for reference genuine coins. Photographs of the five counterfeit coins are present but I found their quality on my pc was only just sufficent to see the main design features.

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The pots blanks and dies of the Fenny Straford Hoard

The Fenny Stratford Hoard, copyright Milton Keynes Council. This photograph has been kindly supplied by Milton Keynes Council. More information about the Milton Keynes Archaeological Unit can be found at http://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/archaeology

2nd August 2010

Barbarous radiates and the Fenny Stratford Roman Manufacturing Hoard.

The amount of information that has become available over the web is remarkable. I have just come across a number of papers on the web on this fascinating hoard and make no apologies for covering a subject that first emerged over eighteen years ago. The hoard appears to be the remains of a coin manufacturing facility for producing copies of 'radiate or 'antoninianus' coins. It answers some questions about the technology used at the time but leaves unanswered many more questions about the legitimacy of the coins manufactured.

Boon1 wrote, "..at no period has the forger been so active as the Imperial Roman." He continued that there, "..was an uneven, inadequate and sometimes an interrupted supply of coins to the periphery of the Empire, thus encouraging the forger.. These are chiefly the phenomena of the north-west provinces and from time to time of the Balkan provinces also..". The evidence for Boon's statements were mainly the imitation coins found in hoard evidence. There appears to be a consensus amongst many British archaeologists [see Guest2] that the imitations found during the two hundred years of this period, divide into two categories locally approved but unofficial copies and true counterfeits intended to deceive.

In the main 1994 paper on the hoard Zeepvat3 described the collection of material found by a metal detector near Fenny Stratford south of Milton Keynes in 1990. This hoard consisted of three ceramic vessels containing respectively, coining blanks, precursors to these described as pre-blanks and cut lengths of a cast copper-alloy rod. Also associated with the pots were two iron dies for striking coins. Ponting4 states that, "these are the first iron dies found in Britain." Fenny Stratford is on the site of the former small Roman town of Magiovinium and is close to Watling Street, the important Roman road that ran from Dover through London and onto Wroxeter in Shropshire.

Ponting states that, "..no struck coins were found in association with the Fenny Statford material. Consequently the only reliable avenue for dating lay with identification of the ceramic containers". Marney3 states that all three ceramic pots are in the "local sand-tempered fabrics" and concludes, "a date of late second century to early fourth century would cover all possibilities... However, the use of 'wild arcs as decoration, combined with the slenderness of the vessels, may perhaps indicate a date in the late third or early fourth century".

The first ceramic pot contained 352 copper alloy blanks with an average weight of 2.47g. It was judge that these blanks appeared to be ready for striking. The second ceramic pot contained 246 blanks with an average weight of 2.47g. The appearance of these blanks suggested they were, "partly hammered 'pre-flans'."3 The third pot contained 1.250 copper-alloy pellets and a small number of waste off-cuts and swarf. The pellets had a weight range of between 0.2 to 0.9 g. Microscopy showed that the pellets frequently had evidence of "chop-marks" suggesting they had been cut from a cast, copper-alloy rod.

"The initial assumption...was that group represents a single stage in the production process for these Barbarous radiates'. The pellets being melted down to produce the 'pre-blanks' which were then hammered out to produce the finished blanks."4 Detailed chemical analysis and metallography on the contents of the pots proved that this assumption was incorrect. "The blanks/pre-blanks are of an argentiferrous gunmetal containing approximately 1.4 per cent zinc and 1 per cent silver. These were cast individually and then hammered out, some being joined together, presumably to maintain a certain broad weight standard. The pellets, on the other hand, are of a leaded high-tin bronze (13%+ tin)."3 The metallography suggested that the blanks had been either cold-worked (hammered) with intermediate heat treatments or hot-worked. The pre-blanks had been cold worked from individually cast pieces.

In their discussions on the above results Ponting and Zeepvat suggest that, "..the pellets were in all likelihood destined to have been hammered out into coin blanks and then struck."3 It appears Davies5 and Boon1 both suggested "...that radiate copies gradually become smaller over the period of production yet in the Fenny Stratford group we have large blanks and material for producing the smallest type of coins (minims)."3

The longer die [length 135mm, die face approximately 16mm] was considered to be the upper die. The lower die was 47mm long and had a slightly domed head of approximately 33mm diameter. No design could be distinguished on the lower die face. The upper die face had a central indentation surrounded by a circle about 8mm in diameter, enclosing a rough square. It was concluded that these were centring marks. Microscopy on a small etched area of the upper die face led to the conclusion that this had been carbonised, quenched and tempered. It was not possible to confirm whether this was true for the shaft of the dies. "Radiographic evidence suggests that the dies themselves were forged onto the ends of the shaft."

It is not intended to précis the general discussion on the hoard in Zeepvat's paper as too much would be lost in an attempt at simplification. The interested reader is advised to read this themselves at the link below. However two quotes stand out to the author: "..it was first thought that the find represented a coin-forger's materials and tools, buried to avoid discovery. It has since been pointed out [by R.Reece] that the unofficial production of coins during the Roman period at local level had many similarities to the issuing of trade tokens in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, and the hoard should be seen as part of this process." The Zeepvat paper's final statement is, "The circumstances of burial of the hoard, and the absences both of finished coins and of any recognisable die faces, still pose questions that cannot be readily answered."

References/Sources

1 "Counterfeit coins in Roman Britain" by George C. Boon, chapter 7 in "Coins and the archaeologist" edited by John Casey and Richard Reece, Seaby, London, 2nd edition 1988

2 "The Late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure" by Peter Guest, a nine page summary of his book on the Hoxne Hoard.

3 "A Roman coin manufacturing hoard from Magiovinium, Fenny Straford, Bucks" by R.J.Zeepvat, M.Ponting, P.T.Marney, J.Lang and M.Cowell, Britannia, vol. 25, 1994, pp 1-19.

4 "The Fenny Stratford Hoard" by M.Ponting, Institute of Archaeology, vol. 3, 1992, pp 52-61

5 "Barbarous Radiates, a study of the irregular Roman coinage of 270s and 280s A.D. from Southern England" by J.A.Davies, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Reading University (1988). [Please note this reference has not been read by the blog author. It is referenced by Zeepvat and included here for completeness]

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The first of these blogs was posted in July 2010. The blog will remain posted for one calendar month and then will be archived. Previous Blogs:

 

July 2010

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