Peter Rosa among most notable of modern forgers
- Published: Nov 17, 2014, 11 AM
Editor's note: The following is the fourth 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.
New York artist Peter Rosa was a modern-day Carl Wilhelm Becker, without the malicious intent.
In 1955, Rosa launched Becker Manufacturing Co. (named for the infamous forger), to offer reproductions of coins. His first offering of 36 “coins” was almost wholly based on Becker’s earlier issues.
Read other posts in this series:
- Not all 'ancient' coins are ancient
- Carl Wilhelm Becker among most prolific forgers
- British Museum was once a source for fake ancient coins
- For collectors who can't afford real thing, copies are suitable substitutes
By the late 1960s, Rosa had some 568 different replicas available, according to Wayne Sayles, writing in Classical Deception: Counterfeits, Forgeries and Reproductions of Ancient Coins, with reported sales of some 200,000 pieces per year to customers in 47 countries.
In 1978, he told the American Numismatic Association that he had dies for some 700 pieces, and he continued making dies (and replicas) until his Oct. 5, 1990, death.
Though he took inspiration — and designs — from Becker, Rosa was not intentionally deceptive about his reproductions, continuously claiming that the reason he made replicas was to provide ancient art to those collectors of modest means.
“As far as we know, he never sold — either personally or through agents — any reproduction under the guise of authenticity,” Sayles wrote. “All of his prototypes came from well published museum collections — and were advertised as such.”
He did not, however, mark all of this pieces. Early on his “coins” were marked with any number of devices, including COPY, the Becker number (as cataloged by Hill) or the British Museum catalog number.
The abundance of Rosa reproductions was one apparent though minor cause for the Hobby Protection Act of 1973, which required the word COPY be placed “plainly and permanently” on numismatic reproductions.
After the passage of this law, hobby publishers rejected Rosa’s advertisements, even though the pieces (which included uniface replicas) were plainly labeled as reproductions, according to Sayles.
In response, he stopped marking pieces as reproductions. Rosa was, however, an advocate of certification services and, as Sayles documents, disseminated information about his works to museums and others so the marketplace was informed and aware of them.
This activity was borne from a deep admiration for ancient coin art.
In a letter to Sayles, Rosa said, “I love my work — I feel I’m doing the same thing as the ancient Romans who reproduced Greek statues for propagation of same.”
Numerous dies used to strike the pieces, as well as some of the reproductions themselves, are in the collection of the American Numismatic Society.
In recent years, Rosa’s nephew, Charles Doyle, has been casting reproductions of ancient and early American coins, in some instances using molds Rose fabricated based on impressions of original coins.
Doyle, who apprenticed while a youth under his uncle’s tutelage, opened Coin Replicas Inc. (www.coinreplicas.com) in Putnam, N.Y. All of the replicas Doyle offers bear the word COPY as required.
Doyle told Coin World in 2010 that he’s trying to carry on the legacy his uncle established as one of the most skilled coin reproductionists of the 20th century.
The Doyle reproductions are available for as little as $3 a coin (for a set of “30 pieces of silver”), with most other pieces costing $20 or less.
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