World Coins

Contemporary counterfeit ancient aureus sells

A contemporary counterfeit gold aureus passed as for Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and sold in Classical Numismatic Group’s Sept. 13 auction.

Coin images courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group.

When counterfeiting a coin, it might be important to pay attention to the details.

In ancient times, one counterfeiter’s imitation of a gold aureus of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius mixed designs intended for two different rulers. In addition, lettering on the contemporary fake does not match what appears on genuine examples. These problems and the coin’s status as a counterfeit do not damage its collectibility, however.

The counterfeit in question realized a $4,250 hammer price in Classical Numismatic Group’s Sept. 13 mail bid/Internet auction. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee of 19 to 21 percent, depending on bidding method. With this fee factored in, the coin topped the estimate of $5,000.

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Where the contemporary imitation was struck is uncertain.

Aurelius reigned from A.D. 161 to 180, jointly with his son Commodus from 177 forward. The counterfeit combines an obverse for Marcus Aurelius with a reverse for Commodus, who, following his father’s death, reigned until 192.

According to CNG: “Contemporary counterfeits of Roman coins are often hybrids; perhaps counterfeiters did this intentionally to provide themselves with a potential defense that their products were not actually copies of genuine coins. The blundered legends would further support this theory.”

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The example in the CNG auction shows Castor, one of the Dioscuri/Gemini twins Castor and Pollux in Greco-Roman mythology. He stands nude, except for a cloak on breast and shoulder, wearing a round cap, in front of a horse facing left, holding it by the bridle in his right hand, a spear in his left.

The “unpublished” coin is in Extremely Fine condition, according to the auction house.

It measures 21 millimeters in diameter and weighs 7.38 grams, about the size of a Jefferson nickel, but 50 percent heavier.

For full auction results, visit the firm’s website.


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