Ancient Coin




Antiquanova replica of an archaic Neapolis Medusa stater (9.9g). Copy of coin from Neapolis, Macedonia, c. 510-480 BC, by Czech replica maker Antiquanova.
















Some collectors like coin replicas, while some look down at them. Dealers typically don't like them because there's typically not as much profit in selling them as authentic ancient coins, and this negativity gets passed on to collectors. But replicas can be very collectible. The best of them capture the beauty of ancient coins without the history, though the background of some replicas can be quite interesting.

Collecting an inexpensive replica of an expensive ancient coin is similar to hanging on your wall an inexpensive poster of an expensive oil painting. Collecting a range of replicas can be an interesting way to see various modern interpretations of ancient coins.

Many replica collectors prefer their replicas unmarked with "COPY" or a similar designation or inconspicuously marked so as not to interfere with the coin's design. But according to the U.S. Hobby Protection Act, it's illegal to make in the U.S. or import into the U.S. replicas made after the law's passage in 1973 that aren't marked conspicuously with "COPY" in large capital letters on the obverse or reverse (not the edge), though it's not illegal to sell or buy them once here.

This law doesn't appear to have ever been enforced with regard to ancient coins, however, with no reports of unmarked replicas ever having been seized. The law has had two effects. Numismatic publications now no longer accept ads for replicas not marked in accordance with the law. And museums no longer sell unmarked replicas of ancient coins in their gift shops. Replica makers in other countries are under no obligation to adhere to the U.S. law regarding replicas.

Replicas can not only be interesting in themselves, they can also help with counterfeit detection. Knowing the common replicas out there of ancient coins can help you spot fakes because, being less expensive to acquire than authentic coins, they're often used by forgers as host/seed coins in making cast fakes or in making cast dies for struck or pressed fakes.

Some people don't distinguish between coin replicas and coin forgeries, regarding them as synonymous. But forgeries are made to deceive while replicas are not. The distinction is particularly obvious with those replicas marked to indicate they're replicas, made of a different metal or non-metallic material, made in a different size, or fashioned with devices and legends on only one side (uniface), though even unmarked same-metal, same-size replicas can be apparent because of the styling of the devices and legends or the fabric of the metal. Sometimes, however, the differences between forgeries and replicas can blur.

What follows are examples of Athenian Owl tetradrachms and Alexander the Great tetradrachms from some of the major ancient coin replica makers in the world today. As you'll see, the quality can vary significantly. Other bona fide replica makers or vendors of coin replicas in general, not represented here, include Metropolitan Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Newsweek, American Historic Society, Rhodes Commemorative Society, Greek Ministry of Culture, Greek Coin Circle, National Collector's Mint, Gallery Mint Museum, Royal Oak Mint, Washington Mint, Morgan Mint, Patrick Mint, Historic Mint, Winter Reproductions, Westair Reproductions, Silvertowne, Warrens Coins, Dorchesters, By the Sword, TimeLine, Alva, Jake's Marketplace, House of Pewter and Sterling Silver, Lipanoff Studio, Mayer & Wilhelm, and Wilbert Funeral Services. Also not included below are those who make casts of Slavey, Antiquanova, and other replicas and sell them as their own.




















The best ancient coin replica maker in the world today is the controversial Bulgarian Slavey Petrov, who goes by his first name and spells it this way, though sometimes you see it spelled "Slavei." He currently resides in Germany and has a Web site, Titiana & Slavey Art Numis. He's not currently active, however, in making coin replicas, though his replicas can still be found on eBay and through other auctions of some ancient coin dealers.

Slavey is controversial because he doesn't (or didn't) mark all of his replicas as replicas and because indications are his apprentices have produced modern copies meant to deceive (forgeries). What's more, beginning collectors can be fooled into thinking that Slavey's own replicas are authentic ancient coins. These two pieces are both marked on their edges, the Owl with "SL COPY" and the Alex tet with "COPY."

Slaveys have their own look, which a experienced eye can immediately recognize. Slavey's style is characteristically flamboyant. Slavey appears to deliberately create his own interpretations of ancient coins rather than slavish copies of them. The die work is different, typically more detailed, flashy, or expressive.

Like the ancients, Slavey hand cuts his own dies rather than using modern machine tools or making casts. Unlike the ancients, he produces his work with a hydraulic press rather than striking planchets with a hammer. This typically leads to uniform, overflat fields. The metal with replicas of silver coins is .950 silver.

Slavey has been making coin replicas since 1966. He has sold many of his 300 or so replica dies to others, who create Slavey replicas from them. Others create casts of Slavey replicas, probably violating copyright statutes, and sell them as their own replicas, often selling them on eBay (they create casts of the work of other replica makers as well). These are typically lower in weight than Slavey's own work, which closely approximate the weight of the ancient coins they copy, and they typically show the characteristic evidence of casts, in particular less well defined details.




















The Czech replica maker Antiquanova also makes excellent ancient coin replicas, marking them unobtrusively on the reverse with an S countermark for Petr Sousek, the engraver. Antiquanova, also known as Ancient Coins & Artifacts Reproductions, is also run by Pavel Neumann. Antiquanova makes replicas of many ancient Greek and Roman coins, and other coins as well. Their work is high quality, with hand engraved dies and minting with a screw-operated press. They're efficient in servicing orders, but they don't always respond to email questions.

Antiquanova replicas of silver coins are available in .999 silver (such as these two pieces), .925 silver (sterling silver), or tin, with the replicas made of tin being less expensive than the ones made of silver. Though Antiquanova does quality work, some of its replicas are necessarily of higher quality than others. Because Antiquanova replicas are easier to obtain than Slaveys, you see more copies of them, often sold as replicas by other replica makers who use them to cast other copies or sold as authentic coins by scammers who tool them to remove the countermark, create cast copies and tool the molds to remove the countermark, or create transfer dies and took the dies to remove the countermark.




















The third great ancient coin replica maker of the past half century was Peter Rosa, who's important not because of the quality of his work but because of his notoriety. Rosa's story is best documented in Wayne Sayles' 2001 book Classical Deception, and his catalog of Rosa replicas is comprehensive though not complete.

In short, most of Rosa's replicas are copies of copies. Rosa acquired from the British Museum casts of authentic ancient coins and Becker lead restrikes and made casts of them or used them to create transfer dies to press out copies. Carl Wilhelm Becker, a German who worked in the early 19th century, is history's most notorious ancient coin counterfeiter, a collector who started making fakes after having gotten stuck with one himself, eventually sticking the seller who stuck him. Becker also fooled many of the world's most prominent museums. Rosa named his company after the German forger, using the name Becker Manufacturing Co. then later Becker Reproductions Inc.

Rosa made his replicas out of a variety of different metals, including silver, though he primarily used a lead and antimony alloy that he often silver plated. The above Owl replica is such a piece, an original Rosa made by Rosa himself in the early 1960s, though it's not silver plated. His replicas didn't necessarily conform to the weights of the authentic coins they copied. He marked some of his replicas on the edge with "COPY," some with "BECKER," some with the British Museum catalog number, and some with his own catalog number. After the passage of the U.S. Hobby Protection Act in 1973, Rosa stopped marking his replicas out of protest, in violation of the law, feeling that its requirement that coin replicas be marked on the obverse or reverse would deface them.

Most of the Rosa replicas that have been on the market lately, like the Alex tet above, are products of a former apprentice of Rosa, Charlie Doyle, who calls his company Museum Coin Reproductions. He has sold on eBay using the eBay I.D. chas051. In an email exchange Doyle said he bought some of Rosa's molds, made in the 1960s, from Rosa's twin brother after Rosa's death in 1990 to help keep his legacy alive, and that most but not all were still usable.

Doyle uses a silver-plated lead-free pewter (tin alloy with smaller amounts of other metals such as antimony and copper). He marks his copies, which he sometimes describes as Rosa replicas, sometimes as Becker replicas, on the edge with "COPY." His casts are the correct size, but they're very lightweight. Doyle does decent work as a replica maker, and the Alexander tet replica above, though it has a casty, mushy appearance to it, is well toned and attractive enough.




















Apollonians was the eBay I.D. of a seller in Athens, Greece, who sold high-quality replicas on eBay for about a year in 2006 and 2007 before eBay terminated his account. The seller's name was Anastasakos Konstantinos, though sometimes he referred to himself as Albert Bechar. According to Charley Marsteller, a collector and expert in "reference copies," the dies for these replicas were made by Anita Patrikiiades of Athens, Greece, around 1980, and Apollonians was one of the people who made struck copies from the dies or made casts of the struck copies.

Patrikiiades signed her replicas with a tiny monogram consisting of a backward "P" with a line under it, which on the above pieces appears under the owl's tail and under Zeus' throne. The replicas sold by Apollonians appear to have been fairly well done but inconsistent. I've examined two pieces in person, though neither of the above pieces. One had nice surfaces and was the coin pictured in the auction, while the other had small pockmarks over its surfaces, was severely underweight, and was a copy of a different and later variety than the copy pictured in the auction.

Apollonians' replicas had start prices that were two or three times that of other replicas being sold at the time, and most of his auctions didn't get bids. The most common reason eBay terminates or NARU's (Not a Registered User) sellers is for being caught deceptively propping up prices through shill bidding -- bidding on their own auctions or having associates do so. These replicas haven't been seen on eBay since.

Apollonians' auction descriptions were also misleading. He said that his replicas were exact copies and that he sold only replicas of rare coins that were made in small numbers in ancient times and that are not available for sale today. In actuality some of his replicas were fairly close in style to the original coins they copy but some were far off, and he sold replicas of common coins, including the above Owl and Alexander tetradrachm, that were made in large numbers in ancient times and survive and are sold in large numbers today.















Charlton Mint





Like Charlie Doyle of Museum Coin Reproductions, Charlton Mint, a replica company that used to be in operation in Saratoga Springs, NY, also made marked ancient coin replicas based on the replicas of Peter Rosa, but in its case it made its own molds from the Rosa replicas it owned. Its cast replicas, which are copies of copies of copies (third-generation copies), consequently have less detail. It also cast some of its replicas from authentic ancient coins. Charton Mint's works are made of pewter (tin alloy) and weigh significantly less than the authentic silver coins they copy. The company sold four different sets of ancient Greek and Roman coin replicas, with each set including between six and twelve pieces.















Museum Reproductions





These replicas are from one of the commercial replica makers with the word "museum" in its name, Museum Reproductions of Cheshire, United Kingdom. These aren't high-quality copies, with Athena's nose on the Owl clumsily sliced in half, though they're priced inexpensively. They also have indistinct details, large casting pits over the coins' surfaces, and remnants of a casting seam on the edge. They're described as being made from "a lead-free metal," which is likely pewter. An "R" countermark is visible on the reverses.















Sandan Art





These are unmarked jewelry replicas, in this case ceramic copies made in Turkey. The hole in them is meant for a necklace or earring, and being made of clay they're very lightweight. They were created by Bekircan Tahberer of Sandan Art, a company that has recently moved from Turkey to Vancouver, Canada.









Here's more on Slavey replicas.













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

© 2014 Reid Goldsborough

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