How to identify if an ancient coin is fake?

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Lalit Bhatt
Lalit Bhatt
1 paisa coin with a hole, India 1947
1 paisa coin, India 1947

Fake ancient coins is a persistent problem. These coins are often made to look like valuable, historical coins and are sold to collectors and investors as genuine artifacts. However, they are not authentic and have no real historical or cultural value. This not only affects the integrity of the artifact market, but it also harms the interests of genuine collectors and enthusiasts who spend time and money acquiring authentic coins.

Fake coins can be of two types. There are fake coins which are minted contemporarily at the same time as the originals. They have their own historical significance. The other types of fake coins are those which are minted in present time and that is the kind of fakes that we will focus on. The interesting part is even these fake coins will be historically significant a couple of centuries later. 

One of the major motivations of making a fake is money. Rare coins trade at a very high value. Replicas are also created at times by collectors to cover a gap in their collection but in those cases they mention Copy or Replica or letter R on the coin. 

Fake coins which are made with a motivation to earn money usually target the low price range ancient coins. If an ancient coin carries a high price tag, the chances are that a lot of experts will examine a piece before it changes hands. The cost to make a fake of such a coin also becomes very high as the counterfeiter has to nail every small detail. A small mistake and all the money put on minting fake goes down the drain. Ancient coins with a lower price tag usually don’t go through such rigorous examination. Even if a buyer finds it at a later stage, the money involved is so less that they choose to not chase the seller. However, when you are buying a coin, if you take care of certain aspects, the chances of yours getting cheated becomes much smaller. 

Let’s look into some of the aspects that can help in making a judicious decision and reduce the probability of buying a fake.

  • Look for inconsistencies in the design, lettering, and symbols. Genuine ancient coins have consistent and recognizable details, whereas fakes often have differences in the details from one coin to another.
  • Check the weight and metal content. Ancient coins had specific weights and metal compositions, and deviations from these standards can indicate a fake. Study the period in which the coin was supposed to be minted. The weight and dia should be similar to the prevalent weight and measuring system. Also study the metals and alloys that were in use. The weight of the coin should give an idea if one of those contemporary metals or alloys is used. Density of the coin can be measured and compared with density of the claimed metal of the coin. You can use coin density calculator
  • Look for signs of casting, such as bubbles or flow lines in the metal. Ancient coins were typically struck from metal dies, not cast in molds.
  • Observe the patina. The oxidized metal that coats many ancient copper and bronze coins is known as patina. It is usually green but can also be of other colors including blue or red.  Ancient coins develop a natural patina over time, which can help to identify fakes that have been artificially aged.
  • Is it a perfect round? Perfect round can only be achieved by modern day machines. 
  • Compare the coin to known examples. Examining the coin against well-documented examples can help to identify any discrepancies or inconsistencies.
  • Seek the opinion of a professional. The best way to determine the authenticity of an ancient coin is to consult with a professional numismatist, who has the expertise and resources to authenticate coins.

Note: These tips are general guidelines, and fakes can be very sophisticated. The only way to be sure of a coin’s authenticity is to have it examined by a professional with expertise in ancient coins. If you are a professional who understands how to identify fake from genuine, you can register your services on Thigma.

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