Editor's note: The following is the second 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.
Becker was one of the most prolific and accomplished counterfeiters of the 19th century.
No early forger was destined to become as famous as German engraver Carl Wilhelm Becker would be.
Read other posts in this series:
Born in 1772, he was making fake coins and other antiquities as early as 1806, apparently as a sideline to a trade in genuine antiquities. His buyers were the wealthy princes of Europe, who filled their cabinets with Becker’s work.
George F. Hill explored the 360 or so examples of fake Greek coins created by Becker in Becker the Counterfeiter, published in 1924.
“Some of his efforts are of course wide of the mark; but others are as near to the original as anything that his successors have produced,” Hill wrote.
Besides Greek coins, Becker also produced fake Roman, medieval and modern coins. While many of the Greek coins were in bronze, he used silver and gold for his fakes, as well.
Although Becker was periodically accused of forgery, he defended himself by claiming his productions were “instructive” in nature and never sold with the intent to deceive. Notes found in his diary after his death suggest this was not quite true, as Hill provides multiple instances where examples were sold through third parties at or near full prices.
The deception even extended to the metal that he used — when available, Becker acquired cheap ancient coins to serve as the planchets for new creations because the coins were of the right metal and weight, and had an aged look and feel.