Counterfeit coins have always been a part of the world of
money and the world of collecting money. Some collectors put their heads in the sand and try to avoid thinking
about coin forgeries. Some dealers would prefer that people not talk about them for fear of scaring off collectors.
Some people are so impassioned by the issue that they seem to think that studying coin counterfeits is the equivalent
of making them, calling those who study them "devil worshippers" and those who collect them the equivalent
of heroin dealers and terrorists.
As irrational as this is, the fact is, counterfeit coins are scary. You can get cheated out of lots of money with
them. The coin pictured above cost its buyer $3,500 in losses. The buyer, a dealer who asked to remain anonymous,
bought it as a raw coin at a local coin show from a collector who he had seen before, a guy who he said looked
like Newman from the Seinfeld TV show (Newman!). He never saw him again. Before buying it, the dealer showed it
to other dealers at the show. Nobody saw anything wrong with it.
Ironically, after buying it, the dealer didn't submit the coin to a respectable grading company but rather to a
bottom-tier service. It came back authentic, as AU-55. Later, another grading company evaluated the coin in its
slab and condemned it as being an "Omega" counterfeit, with the same diagnostics as the famous fakes,
including tooling marks in the rays above the date (visible only under magnification), but with the famous omega
symbol buffed off the eagle's claw. The dealer later donated this piece to the American Numismatic Association.
The lesson: Never buy a raw high-end coin from anybody who looks like Newman.
The real lesson is that counterfeit coins such as the above can be interesting to study, and studying them can
protect yourself from becoming victim.
Some people differentiate between the terms "counterfeit" and "forgery," using "counterfeit"
to refer to fakes created to circulate and "forgery" to refer to fakes created to deceive collectors,
though I'm using these terms interchangeably.
Coin replicas, on the other hand, weren't created to deceive anyone. Sure, they can be schlocky knockoffs, but
they can also be interesting variations on a theme, honoring the coin they copy. The U.S. Mint does this, in fact,
with its American Eagle series.
Counterfeit and replica coins are sometimes called pseudonumia. Here are some pages I've put together about counterfeit
and replica coins, ancient and U.S., from early times to more recent:
Coin Detection Primer
Athenian Owl Forgeries
Athenian Owl Replicas
the Great Forgeries
the Great Replicas
New York Hoard Counterfeits
of Apollonia Pontika Drachms
Parion Hemidrachms, Imitations,
School Cherronesos Hemidrachms
Thasos and Thracian
Tetradrachm Forgeries and Replicas
Julian II Bronze Copies
Deks: Three Ancient Greek Dekadrachms,
Fake and Real
Ancient Coin Fourrees
Ancient Coin Imitatives
Ancient Coin Replicas
Slavey Replicas (and Imitations)
of Ancient Coins
The Lipanoff Studio in Bulgaria
Bust Dollar Counterfeits
Bust Dollar Replicas
Silver Dollars from China