Volume 41, Number 1, January 2004
Our recent articles on forgeries, from both Roman times and the modern era seem to have sparked off something of a debate; coupled as they have been by recent adverts for “reproductions”, copy coins being openly sold on the Internet (some as copies, some sadly as originals) and the recent sale of a selection of Charles II items that included pewter strikings of Simon’s Reddite crown – themselves beautiful examples of “copies”. There is of course a difference between a forgery and a copy or reproduction, the former is produced with a view to deceive, usually for monetary gain, whereas the latter is produced in homage to the original and the intention behind it’s manufacture is not to defraud; although it is certainly true that copies can and do deceive the unwary. There is little doubt that outright forgeries, coins struck to deceive and sold as originals, are to be frowned upon – anyone who acquires a coin, ancient or modern, should receive exactly what he thinks he’s getting, no question, however that isn’t to say that sometimes forgeries, reproductions or copies don’t have some part to play in our collections. As the fascinating articles by Roger Box that COIN NEWS ran earlier this year show, forgeries themselves have become collectable and whilst the money a fake might raise usually won’t be in the same league as when the original is offered for sale there is no doubt that good money is being paid for such pieces and interesting collections of them are being amassed. Similarly with modern fakes, although it is officially illegal to keep forgeries of the coin of the Realm many people do and our postbag has been bulging with stories of incorrect reverses with correct edge legends, quality of strikings, metals used etc etc. Forging coins might be big business for the criminals and a headache for the authorities but it has given rise to a whole new branch of our hobby that is attracting more and more converts every year. What of copies though? Do they attract as much attention? Generally no, there are a number of companies reproducing a range of coins from Roman denarii through medieval hammered to some of the choicer milled pieces that we have been seeing advertised more recently, and as a rule “traditional” collectors do tend to steer clear of them. They are usually bought from museum shops as examples similar to those on display or are used as illustrative pieces where the originals are too scarce to be on show. That said there are some stunning copies of some of our most beautiful coins available and when you can’t afford a “Una and the Lion”, a “three Graces” or a Gothic Crown for your collection why shouldn’t you obtain one of the modern day replicas? No reason at all – and many collectors do. This practice has been going on for years in the medal world where “museum quality” copies have been used to fill gaps in collections, re-unite groups etc. It is only now with prices rising almost daily in the coin world that numismatists are doing the same thing, buying a copy in lieu of the day when they know they’ll be able to afford the original! But beware of this trend going too far - for as medal collectors are finding out to their cost all too often copies are being offered on the open market where they are being traded as original and much money is being lost by the unwary and unwitting. Of course it is more than possible that in time these copies too will become collectable in their own right, just as the forgeries have – how long I wonder will it be before our catalogues are full of descriptions along the lines of “Gothic Crown. late 20th century copy, excellent detail GVF £100-150?! Something to look forward to isn’t it?
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