World Coins

When ancient counterfeit coins are collectible

A contemporary counterfeit from ancient Rome, for emperor Claudius, is offered in Davisson’s Ltd.’s Feb. auction 37 closing Feb. 21.

Coin images courtesy of Davisson’s Ltd.

For probably as long as money has been made, counterfeit money has been made.

Some of the contemporary fakes, made alongside the ancient coinage they imitated, are known as fourrées. Fourrées were usually manufactured by wrapping a base metal core with a silver foil, then striking it with counterfeit dies. Alternate methods for making fourrées included striking a counterfeit coin from base metal and then plating it with silver.

An example of the ancient imposter, a silver fourrée denarius of Claudius, issued circa A.D. 49 or 50, is offered as part of Davisson’s Ltd. Auction 37, closing Feb. 21.


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The imitation of a Rome Mint issue was probably struck at an unofficial mint in Britannia, following the invasion of Claudius in A.D. 43, to fill the need for coinage in commerce with thousands of Roman soldiers. Though not officially sanctioned, the practice was probably tolerated, according to the auction house.

A fourrée is easy to detect, as the weight does not match a genuine coin and many have had wear or corrosion of the underlying base metal causing gaps in the silver plating. Test cuts or banker’s marks seen on many ancient coins (denarii in particular) were made to detect such forgeries.

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Fourrées are well suited for collecting as they are ancient coins in their own right. And an ancient forgery can allow someone to represent an otherwise prohibitively expensive coin in their collection with the next best thing: a historical contemporary copy.

The auction piece is graded Choice About Uncirculated by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and is “nicely toned” with “surface almost entirely intact; reverse struck off center,” the firm said.

It has an estimate of $1,500.


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