Replicas and Forgeries
Lipanoff Studio

 

 

The Lipanoff Studio is a workshop of ancient coin copyists in Bulgaria. According to now defunct site they had at GeoCities, they produced ancient coin copies using ancient methods -- hand-tool engraving and hammer striking. This site alternately referred to the studio as "Lipanoff, Todorov & Co." and "Todorov & Co.," with Chavdar Lipanov appearing to be one of the principles. Judging from stylistic similarities, with the Athenian Owl below being the most obvious example, it appears that one or more of the individuals involved with the Lipanoff Studio were former apprentices of the Bulgarian ancient coin replica maker Slavey Petrov.

According to fellow Bulgarian Ilya Prokopov's 2004 book Contemporary Coin Engravers and Coin Masters from Bulgaria, "These people named 'Lipanoff' work openly, their products are custom-made, and so they do not want anybody to profiteer from their products. The coins of Lipanoff were not cast or pressed, they were minted. Sadly enough, lots of attempts of fraud have already been made, with their products being offered to clients as originals. As the 'Lipanoff' studio masters insisted on being correct to their public, they decided to publicize periodically their coins and other similar products." Prokopov, with the Lipanoff Studio's cooperation, illustrated 148 Lipanoff copies -- 142 copies of Roman coins and six copies of Greek coins -- in this book.

In other of his books, Prokopov refers to what can only be the Lipanoff Studio using the code names "Varna-1" and "Eugeni-Varna 1." He describes it the same way. In his 2005 book, Counterfeit Studios and Their Coins, cowritten with Rumen Manov, he writes, "The studio operates openly and works on customers' orders. The greater part of the production is struck in the classical way with a heavy hammer.... Unfortunately, a great part of the products of Studio 'Varna-1' have already been spread all over the world as coins of authentic origin." The one piece definitively equating the Lipanoff Studio with Studio Varna-1 is the copy of the Istros stater below.

In his 2005 book, as well as in his 2003 book, Modern Counterfeits and Replicas of Ancient Greek and Roman Coins from Bulgaria, cowritten by Kostadin Kissyov and Eugeni Paunov, Prokopov talks about how the Varna-1 studio was behind the infamous Black Sea Hoard of fake Apollonia Pontika and Mesembria diobols, which surfaced en mass at the 1988 New York International Numismatic Convention. As he says in the 2005 book, "The ill-fated 'Black Sea Hoard' was made on client's order in this very studio." The same studio appears to have been behind the newer New York Hoard of fake Apollonia Pontika drachms that surfaced en masse at the 1999 New York International Numismatic Convention, with these copies identified in his 2005 book as being products of the Varna-1 Studio.

The Lipanoff Studio doesn't mark its copies with a COPY or similar countermark in Bulgarian or English, nor are they required to by Bulgarian law. Some of its copies are silver-plated bronze, while others appear to be solid silver. Prokopov insists in the 2005 book also that the Lipanoff Studio/Varna-1 "is not engaged in any illegal business." But clearly, because it fills orders for anyone who requests them, a great many of its copies have been used illegally and are still used illegally.

Many Lipanoff copies are sold today on eBay as replicas. Some are sold on eBay, deceptively, as authentic coins. The Lipanoff Studio itself doesn't appear to artificially age their copies. Scammers selling them as authentic ancient coins have done so, as examples below indicate. Lipanoff copies also occasionally show up as authentic coins in other venues today as they have in the past.

Prokopov identifies six other counterfeit studios in Bulgaria in his 2005 book, and there are likely others, but it appears that the Lipanoff Studio is a key player if not the key player in the world today in supplying, knowingly or not, counterfeit scammers in the ancient coin marketplace. Along with making copies to order, the Lipanoff Studio makes coin dies to order and provides instructions on how to produce copies from them, according to its Web site.

The most effective way to prevent yourself from buying a Lipanoff copy or any other modern copy as an authentic ancient coin is education. Examples include following the documentation of forgeries and replicas in print and online as well as learning to recognize the diagnostics of forgeries of specfic coins series and forgeries in general. Another risk-reduction technique, which may be all you need, is buying only from expert dealers, recommended by reliable sources, who have developed the experience to ferret out the vast majority of fakes they come across. If you go the latter route, not buying from fellow collectors or European direct sellers through eBay or elsewhere, you'll pay more in general but expose yourself to less risk.

What follows are photos and descriptions of Lipanoff Studio pieces I've had a chance to examine in person, including the famous Black Sea Hoard and New York Hoard fakes. As with Slavey replicas, much Lipanoff work isn't deceptive to experienced eyes, though some pieces are executed more faithfully than others, with the styling occasionally being beautifully evocative. Like Slavey, the Lipanoff Studio can produce expert work.

The existence of such copies shouldn't scare anyone away from ancient coins but can instead add interest to the hobby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff "New York Hoard" Apollonia Pontika drachm (3.1g). This is the one of the thousands of fake coins sold as authentic at the 1999 New York International Numismatic Convention before they were discovered to be false. Dealers contacted the vast majority of buyers and refunded their money, but these fakes were returned to the suppliers, with thousands later entering the market, and into collections, in other ways. More here on the New York Hoard. These copies are also documented in Prokopov's 2005 book Counterfeit Studios and Their Coins as No's 6-8. The above piece copies a coin from Apollonia Pontika, Thrace, c. 450-400 BC, Sear 1655.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff "Black Sea Hoard" Apollonia Pontika diobol (1.1g). This is the one of the thousands of fake coins sold as authentic at the 1988 New York International Numismatic Convention. A long debate ensued in the numismatic press afterward. Most ancient numismatists argued they were modern, but the largest buyer of these hired a scientist who proclaimed they were ancient, and the largest circulation coin newspaper supported the ancient claim and chastised those who differed in an editorial. The issue was resolved when ancient coin dealer Frank Kovacs discovered die links of these Apollonia Pontika and Mesembria diobol fakes for sale as replicas in the gift shop of Bulgaria's National Historical Museum. See Ed Snible's Black Sea Hoard and other Apollonia diobol fakes for more. These copies are also documented, among other places, in the 1997 book Modern Forgeries of Greek and Roman Coins, by D. Dimitrov, I. Prokopov, and B. Kolev, as No. 2. The above piece copies a coin from Apollonia Pontika, Thrace, c. 400-350 BC, Sear 1657.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff "Black Sea Hoard" Mesembria diobol (1.2g). This is the second of the two fake diobol types copying coins minted in ancient times in the Black Sea area, dubbed the "Black Sea Hoard" of forgeries. As with the previous fake type, this one was also dispersed at the 1988 New York International Numismatic Convention. These copies are also documented, among other places, in the 2003 book Modern Counterfeits and Replicas of Ancient Greek and Roman Coins from Bulgaria, by Ilya Prokopov, Kostadin Kissyov, and Eugeni Paunov, as No. 10. The above piece copies a coin from Mesembria, Thrace, c. 450-350 BC, Sear 1673.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Mesembria War Helmet hemidrachm (3.0g). This piece appears to be an attempt at a copy of a Mesembria hemidrachm rather than the much more common diobols. It's made on the same size flan as the above Thasos drachm and Istros stater, which is too wide and thin for a Mesembria hemidrachm. It appears to be made of silver-plated bronze. This piece is documented in Ilya Prokopov's 2004 book Contemporary Coin Engravers and Coin Masters from Bulgaria as No. 5. It copies a coin from Mesembria, Thrace, c. 450-350 BC, Sear -, SNG Cop.-.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Cherronesos tetrobol (3.5g). This piece appears to be an attempt at a copy of a Cherronesos tetrobol rather than the much more common hemidrachms. But it also is too wide and thin. The fields are also too flat, and there's too much space around the lion. It appears to be made of silver-plated bronze. It doesn't appear to be previously documented. It copies a coin from Cherronesos, Thrace, c. 500-480 BC, Sear 1349.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Early Classical Owl tetradrachm (15.1g). This is a counterfeit from, or based on, the Lipanoff Studio. The styling of this piece is very similar to the Slavey Owl replica, with the hair above Athena's earring the most noticeable difference. But the above underweight piece is cast, having a faint edge seam, so it may be a cast copy of a Lipanoff copy. On the other hand, Prokopov says most Lipanoff copies are struck, so like other Bulgarian workshops they may produce cast pieces too. The above piece is documented in Prokopov 2004 as No. 1. It copies a coin from Athens, Greece, c. 455-449 BC, Sear 2521.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Istros Inverted Heads stater (3.4g). This copy appears to be made of silver-plated copper and is underweight. The styling is realistic, through the fields are unnaturally smooth and no attempt was made to artificially tone this piece. This fake isn't documented in Prokopov's 2004 book, but it is documented in his next book, his and Rumen Manov's 2005 Counterfeit Studios and Their Coins, as No's 17 and 18. Prokopov code-names that studio "Varna-1," but the above piece was among over a hundred Lipanoff copies offered for sale on eBay in 2002 by Bulgarian Antiques & Militaria of Sofia, Bulgaria, and it appears on the Lipanoff Web site. It copies a coin from Istros, Thrace, c. 400-350 BC, Sear 1669.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Istros Inverted Heads stater (5.0g). This copy was made from the same dies as the previous piece, only it was struck on a larger flan, is in the correct weight range, and was artificially toned to simulate age. It also appears to be made of silver-plated bronze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Istros Inverted Heads stater (5.1g). This copy was made from the same dies as the previous two pieces, only the flan is wider and has been treated with artificial edge cracks to simulate authenticity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Thasos Satyr and Nymph stater (8.5g). This is the most skillfully executed and beautifully rendered Lipanoff copy that I've seen. It's the correct size and weight, and the styling, though exaggerated, closely approximates the original. It appears to be made of solid silver. This piece is documented in Prokopov 2004 as No. 3. It copies a coin from Thasos, Thrace, c. 490 BC, Sear 1746.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Thasos Satyr and Nymph stater (8.9g). Here's the same Lipanoff copy as the previous, slightly heavier, with its flan treated with simulated dirt/deposits, wear most visible on the nymph's head, and an edge crack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Thasos Satyr and Nymph drachm (2.6g). This copy is rendered less skillfully that the stater. The field are unrealistically flat, and the styling is slightly more crude. This piece is made from silver-plated bronze and is lightweight. It's also documented in Prokopov 2004, as No. 4, and it appears on the Lipanoff Web site. It copies a coin from Thasos, Thrace, c. 430-411 BC, Sear 1748.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Constantine II Campgate bronze (19mm, 3.2g). This is a deceptive copy with convincing surfaces, edges, and patina, though the styling and legends are subtly off, with the style a bit clumsy. The best indication that it's false is its source. This and the following Lipanoff bronze appear to be previously undocumented. The above piece copies a coin from Heraclea, Asia Minor, c. 317-337 AD, Sear 3948.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipanoff Julian II bronze (26mm, 8.4g). This is another deceptive forgery, just a bit small, with convincing surfaces, edges, and patina. The styling is off only slightly, with the Julian's face being too flat and his nose too shallow and the bull's head not facing heavenward. It appears to be undocumented and copies a coin from Thesalonica, Greece, c. 360-363 AD, Sear 4072.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coin sites:
Coin Collecting: Consumer Protection Guide
Glomming: Coin Connoisseurship
Bogos: Counterfeit Coins
Pre-coins

© 2014 Reid Goldsborough

Note: Any of the items illustrated on these pages that are in my possession are stored off site.