World Coins

Fantasy Ceylon coin sells in Stephen Album auction

The fantasy 1812 Ceylon silver 4-rixdollar pieces were made in the United States in the 1970s. This example sold at auction Sept. 14 for $411.25, including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee.

Images courtesy of Stephan Album Rare Coins.

If a coin is not genuine, buyers generally shy away from it, but that isn’t always the case.

Certain fantasy and counterfeit pieces have gained a following all their own, and that includes the fantasy Ceylon four-rixdollars.

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These pieces were made in multiple metals in the 1970s in the United States, by the notorious coin dealer Frank A. Lapa (whose authorship of books on the hobby included updating one work on the coins of Ceylon while in prison after being convicted of murder).

A silver example of this fantasy sold in Stephen Album Rare Coins’ auction No. 29, held Sept. 14 and 15, bringing $411.25 U.S., including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee.

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The “coin” is dated 1812. A gold example of the 4-rixdollar piece surfaced in 1972 in the offices of dealer Abe Kosoff. According to an article by Kosoff in Coin World (May 17, 1972, issue), Henry Grunthal, then curator of European and modern coins at the American Numismatic Society, considered the piece authentic, calling it the Ceylonese “Stella,” a reference to an American pattern for a gold $4 coin.

Less than a month later, however, Coin World reported (June 7 issue) that the gold 4-rixdollar pattern was a modern fantasy, of which 75 pieces in a variety of metals were reportedly produced.

Although the manufacturer of this fantasy piece was unknown at the time, it was later discovered that it was produced by Lapa. In total, some 200 pieces were produced, according to Unusual Coins of the World by Colin Bruce.

The example in the Album auction weighs 10.04 grams, is toned and is graded About Uncirculated, according to the auction house.

According to the consignor, the piece is “very rare, and a most interesting bit of historical numismatic chicanery.”

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