4 Tips For Verifying The Authenticity Of Ancient Greek Coins

Posted on: 14 September 2021

Ancient Greek coins are popular among collectors due to their age and hand-carved quality. Unfortunately, modern counterfeits are occasionally encountered by collectors of ancient Greek coins. Here are four tips for verifying the authenticity of ancient Greek coins that every collector should know.

1. Check for Consistent Dimensions

Even ancient coins were very consistent in size, with many denominations varying no more than a few millimeters in diameter. Counterfeit coins may have a discrepancy in diameter that is outside the norm. Some counterfeits will have abnormalities in the placement of the engraving on the blank. The width between the edge of the coin and the grenetis, or engraved border, should be relatively consistent between pieces.

The weight of an ancient Greek coin is another clue that can give away a counterfeit. Fake coins are often made with lighter, less expensive metals. Similarly, contemporary forgeries may incur weight discrepancies because a different manufacturing process was used. Genuine coins will also vary occasionally from what you would expect due to several centuries of weathering.

2. Learn to Identify Common Surface Defects

The surface of the blank that was used to create a coin can tell you a lot about the manufacturing process of the coin. Counterfeit coins that are molded rather than minted may have bubbles or blisters on their surface, or they may show relief lines around the edges of the print. A surface that is too smooth is a giveaway that the supposedly ancient coin has modern origins.

One particular type of surface defect is actually valuable among collectors. Streaks that radiate from the center of a coin toward the outer edges are commonly called "radiations." Radiations are an artifact of traditional coin manufacturing in ancient Greece that cannot be replicated with modern techniques. Radial streaks or striations are a good sign that a particular piece is genuine.

3. Examine the Engraving

Contemporary forgeries are often cast from an original, a process that loses small details in the engraving. Counterfeit coins may be missing part of the engraving, or they may have areas that have been restored by the manufacturer. These restored sections will often differ in line style, clarity, and shape when compared to an authentic piece.

While some signs of an inauthentic graving may be easy to identify, others can be more subtle. The legend, or writing, within the engraving may have slight misspellings or inaccuracies. Sometimes, the biggest indicator of an inauthentic coin is the fact that too many copies exist for a particular die.

Contemporary estimates for the productive output of the high-tin bronze dies typical of ancient Greece range from 10,000 to 30,000 coins. If there are more known pieces from the same die than the die could have produced without mechanical failure, the set is likely to be counterfeit.

4. Look for Coins With a Patina

Patina is a layer of off-color oxidation that forms on the surface of ancient coins made of silver, bronze, and certain alloys. Sometimes a patina consists solely of chemical changes on the coin's surface, while other times a patina may include deposits of minerals from the soil the coin was buried in.

Patinas vary widely in appearance from piece to piece, and not all patinas are detrimental to a coin's value. Some patinas enhance the clarity of the engraving or lend unique, attractive colors to the piece. Be sure to get an appraisal before you attempt to clean an ancient coin and risk losing the patina!

Ancient coin collecting offers a unique historic perspective, and many collectors never encounter a forgery in their career. With these tips, you can be more confident that any ancient Greek coin you inspect is genuine and a worthwhile investment. Contact a company that sells ancient coins for help with verifying that a coin you are considering purchasing is genuine.


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