Caution fakes and forgeries
Volume 41, Number 4, April 2004
There are some issues that simply will not go away – and the argument over copy coins and their role in the hobby is undoubtedly one of them. Three months ago I wrote this comment on Copy coins, fakes and forgeries and asked whether the modern varieties of all of these would ever become as collected as, say, their Roman counterparts. Since then we have had numerous comments, both from dealers and collectors regarding the legitimacy of the modern copies and whether or not they really do have a place in today’s numismatics. These comments coincide with adverts that we have run, are running, for just such copies and the question that is being raised is the inevitable one – are these things coins? And if not just what are they? As I mentioned in January copy coins, fantasy coins model coins etc etc have been around for many years, centuries in fact and there is no doubt that collecting them can be seen as a legitimate branch of our hobby but what of the items surfacing in 2004 are they “legitimate”? Indeed are we legitimising them by putting them in a Coin Magazine? I think in order to answer that we have to look at what is out there and why – on the one hand we have the fantasy pieces, such as the wonderfully artistic hammered coins minted by Grunal the Moneyer to celebrate certain occasions in the twenty-first century, and the British Euros produced by the INA to show what our coinage would look like if we joined the single currency and on the other we the outright copies of hammered pennies that Grunal also produces (although always with his own Grunal Mintmark!) and the copies of milled coins being issued as “gap fillers”. The former set there can be no real objection to – they are made as fun pieces, as commemoratives and were never intended to be seen as “real” coins, they can be seen as the modern day “To Hanover” pieces, tokens to make a point, illustrate an event and nothing more. With the latter grouping however concern has been raised, how long one wonders before a Grunal Long Cross penny is touted round the trade as being the ancient work of some unknown moneyer and how long before the one long lost ’33 penny is being offered on Ebay and exciting some poor soul into thinking he’s about to make a killing? True Grunal uses his own name and never tries to exactly copy the work of the mint-masters of old and would be horrified if anyone were to try and pass his works off as anything but modern, and the copy milled coins being advertised all have marks identifying them as such - but is that enough to stop the unscrupulous from trying to cash in by palming them off as real, as original, as old? Certainly the manufacturers of such coins make a valid point when they say that “ordinary” coin collectors will never be able to afford a ’33 or ’52 penny even if one should ever come on the market so why shouldn’t they complete their penny date run with a copy? Many collectors do agree but others take a different view and the consensus of opinion seems to be that producing copies of rare coins is unfortunately the first step on a slippery slope that ends in outright forgery, fraud and a lot of very annoyed people. It seems that fantasy coins are far more accepted and acceptable than copies even when the copies are of coins that really will never come on the market at all. For my part I tend to agree, I’m not overly happy with the reproduction coins that abound today, no matter how well they are marked as such, however my attitude towards them does differ slightly from those who state that they should be banned, that they have no place in our hobby at all – the fact is these copies do exist, banning them (if such a thing were possible) wouldn’t help, they are already out there, and I am sure in time they will surface in the trade, on market stalls and on the internet as originals – the only way to ensure that they do not survive as originals but stay seen as copies is to ensure that everyone in the hobby knows that they exist. If everyone knows about Grunal the Moneyer no-one will be fooled when they see his name on a hammered penny, if everyone knows that copy Gothic Crowns are out there then no-one will be taken in by a one that looks too good to be true apart from the edge knock so cunningly designed to wipe out the “copy” mark. Only by educating ourselves and the hobby are we able to ensure that we aren’t fooled, only by letting our readers know that these copies are being manufactured can we hope to ensure that those who would seek to make a quick buck at the collectors’ expense will be deterred. If no-one knew good copies of rare coins existed then there is a danger that some, indeed many could be caught out, if everyone knows such things can be found quite freely it is unlikely anyone will truly believe they’ve stumbled on a rarity. Just a word of advice – if you get offered a ’33 penny for anything less than 6 figures the chances are it’s likely to be a copy. Just thought I’d let you know!
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