Editor's note: The following is the third of a multi-part Coin
World series about the market for ancient coin fakes and
forgeries prepared by Jeff Starck for the December 2014 monthly
edition of Coin World.
Museums have played a major role in the proliferation of coin
replicas, according to author Wayne Sayles, and no series is more
notable than those issued by the British Museum, which in the late
1850s began selling electrotype copies of coins in its collection.
Read other posts in this series:
The electrotype process, frequently used during the 19th century,
involves electroplating a thin layer of metal on one face of a mold.
The shell, which duplicates the side of the original coin being
copied, is removed and other metal is placed inside to strengthen it.
When making a coin through this method, two shells are joined together
and the edges are smoothed.
According to Sayles, in Classical Deception: Counterfeits,
Forgeries and Reproductions of Ancient Coins, “These are not a
serious threat to experienced numismatists, but there have been many
cases of novice collectors buying an electrotype with the belief that
it was genuine."
The tell-tale signs of electrotypes include the casting seam at the
edge, sometimes a lack of sharpness in letters and details and often
an incorrect weight.
In 1859, Robert Ready was hired by the British Museum to create
electrotypes of the most famous coins in the museum’s collection. He
did so until 1896, passing the task to his sons, who continued the
family business until 1931.
The Ready family created electrotypes of more than 800 Greek coins
and “a large number” of Roman coins, according to Sayles.
These pieces are very collectible today, and are occasionally
offered by auctions. The pieces were stamped with R or RR on the edge
to identify their origin.
These pieces from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were sold
to collectors “in the belief that they encouraged scholarship and the
appreciation of ancient numismatic art,” Sayles wrote. “In reality,
they provided a ready resource for many a forger and were eventually
discontinued.” Because the Ready electrotypes sold by the British
Museum were inexpensive, forgers could purchase them and use them as
models for their own fakes.
More from CoinWorld.com:
ISIL issue its own coins?
76-mm silver Benjamin Harrison Indian Peace medal a yard sale
1965 Washington quarter planchet error among unusual auction
items: Whitman Expo Market Analysis
finds 1969-S DDO Lincoln cent after searching through 12,000 cents
Dollar creator sentencing scheduled in federal court in North
Carolina on Dec. 2
Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing
up for our free eNewsletters, liking
us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!