Attribution Problems, Coins in Unusual Conditions, and such.


A visitor to my web site sent me the following, which appears to be a Greek tetradrachm, possibly Seleucid? But I haven't seen one exactly like it, the texture is unusual, and it appears to have a misspelling. Normally, I've seen them with BASILEOS ("Basileos", or "King"), but this one has BASAdOS (I have no idea what that spells ...)

So, in a nutshell, to an expert on Greek tetradrachms, this is probably painfully obvious. But to me, though it looks a bit "funny", and though I can't (after a quick Internet search) find a match for it, I can't be sure. PLEASE HELP!


Both of these resemble ancient Judaean coins, but both contain (among other things) modern Hebrew lettering never seen on true ancient coins. If they were intended to pass as real ancients, whomever designed them sure didn't know what they were doing! But I suspect they were modern souvenirs or commemorative tokens.

The first (two examples are shown) has an obverse that matches certain silver "First Revolt" coins, both in the beaded goblet and the archaic Hebrew lettering. But the reverse, though the lettering around the rim is in authentic archaic Hebrew, the center appears to be a "ZOA" in modern Roman lettering, and the lettering below is how the Hebrew year corresponding to 1954/1955 would be written in modern Hebrew.

BEST GUESS: "ZOA" may stand for the Zionist Organization of America, and they were probably made in late 1954 or early 1955. (Others with more expertise agree with my guess on this) Does anyone know the details of where and why this piece was produced? If so, PLEASE contact me!

The second, though it resembles a small Judaean Bar Kochba bronze, is clearly of modern origin. It's roughly 3/4 inch in diameter. It's wrong stylistically, but the dead giveaway is the modern Hebrew lettering.

It comes in two flavors, one a dark reddish "bronze" and one a brighter brassy "orichalcum". Both of the coins pictured below were offered on Internet auctions by people claiming to know nothing about the coin, but "... it might be a Bar Kochba coin". Close examination reveals that they were both either struck from the same dies or from copies of the same dies.

There is no question that these are NOT real ancient coins. The only question is whether they were created with intent to fool collectors or as some sort of commemorative token. I suspect the latter, because the script is such an obvious giveaway to anyone with any experience. Were they intended as souvenirs of the Holy Land? Or for some other purpose?

BEWARE!!! There are many of these coins (most in the lighter brass-colored metal) floating around, and they are turning up as "sucker bait" on web auction sites. One fellow asked me for help in identifying one of these. I told him that, though I was not an expert, I knew it was not authentic. It was clearly a modern piece made to vaguely resemble a Bar Kochba bronze. It then came up for auction, with the fellow claiming (you guessed it!) "I know nothing about this coin, but someone says it might be a Bar Kochba coin".


This is clearly a "Tribute Penny", but it is also clearly a cast copy. The texture of the surface is wrong, and it has one of the most pronounced "casting seams" I've ever seen. (Typically, a cast counterfeit is made by taking impressions of the front and rear, then putting the impressions together and filling them with molten metal -- this leaves a "seam" around the edge)


Gordian I Denarius: The following coin was identified as a "probable fake" by the person who supplied it to me. I have no reason to doubt this person's assessment, but since Gordian I coins in any condition are hard to come by, I think it's worth a closer look.

It's lacking any of the "dead giveaways" that I know of -- not obviously (to my eye anyway) a cast coin -- no visible seam or file marks around the edges. I don't have a good quality scale, so I can't weigh it accurately, nor measure its specific gravity.

It does look odd, and the surface doesn't look worn enough to explain the apparent wear state of the portrait, but this could just be due to a worn die as far as I know. However, the wear is probably artificial, to hide the telltale signs of casting. As one expert pointed out to me, one almost never sees denarii of this period this badly worn. The denarius was discontinued shortly after this, and so these coins were not in circulation long enough to get this badly worn by natural means.

Of course, if anyone wants to argue this, I'd be ecstatic to find that I was given an authentic Gordian I denarius in this condition for free!


Vitellius Denarius -- I bought this as a budget "filler" for this hard-to-find emperor. Note the dark patches, especially on Vitellius's cheek, around his temple, and a small patch above his eye. Similarly on the reverse, note small patches on Victory's chest and abdomen. These are ever so slightly inset, making the brighter silver areas appear to be a thin skin over a darker silver-gray metal.

It appears to be a fourre, but I thought most "fourres" are silver-coating on a copper or bronze core. You may not be able to tell from the images, but the underlying metal has no hint of red or brown coloration.


By the way, the visible portions of the legend are:

OBV: "... IMP GERMAN" (presumably missing "A VITELLIUS ...")

REV: "... RIA AVGVSTI" (presumably missing "VICTO...")

If I remember correctly, this series of reverses (ending in "AVGVSTI", the plural of "emperor") was an attempt by him to suggest to Vespasian that he would be amenable to a co-ruler arrangement. Unfortunately for him, Vespasian wasn't particularly interested in sharing what he could have all to himself ...

Thoughts? I'm at

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