Ancient Imitations of Roman Coins
An educational site about genuinely ancient coins that were imitations or counterfeits in their day

Republican fourre with nearly full
        silver plate
A convincing ancient counterfeit of a Roman Republican silver denarius. It was struck in silver-plated copper, instead of the pure silver of its prototype (struck  134 BC by C. Abvrius [Crawford 244]). Only the break at 4:00 on the reverse exposes the copper core of this fourrée.

This entire site, copyright (c) 2002-2010 by Warren Esty
All rights reserved. If you want to use some of it, please ask. I will almost certainly give permission.
e-mail me at: 

Comments, gentle criticisms, and questions are welcome. Links may open in new windows.This page stays open in one window, pages linked to this page open in a second window, and englargements of images open in a third window. If you click and nothing seems to happen, look in another window that is already open underneath!

Searching:  Particular emperors and their relatives are on pages organized chronologically below. There is not a full-site search engine.
 
ACCG 

Recent additions:   

New,  Sept. 15, 2013, DIVO VESPASIANO type of Trajan Decius

Old:  Links to some other sites on ancient imitations:  Ancient fourrée coins from the collection of Aaron Emigh. Phil Davis's site on Dacian imitatons of Roman Republican coins.



Coins were counterfeited almost as soon as they were invented (c. 600 BC). This site discusses and illustrates imitations of Roman coins from c. 400 BC to c. AD 500.
    Imitations include:
    1)  counterfeit pieces intended to deceive in order to make a profit for the counterfeiter (usually silver-plated over a base metal core, as illustrated above), and
    2)  unofficial pieces intended to serve as small change (or, much less commonly, silver or gold money) in places where official coins were not in sufficient supply.

The term "imitation" is used for both, but is most appropriate for the second type where the imitations were more or less similar to official types, but not deceptive.  The term "imitation" encompasses a wide variety of coin types from very small and crudely struck coppers minted in Britain to impressive full-weight gold pieces minted by German tribes.  

Trajan, silver-plated Counterfeits made for profit and intended to deceive usually imitate silver coins (denarii) with pieces of much less intrinsic value. Often called "fourrées" (occasionally spelled "fourres" or "fourrees" when the accent is not used), they consist of silver-plated coins struck on flans with base metal cores and just enough silver on the outside to make them look like, and pass for, good silver. The profit was in the substitution of cheap copper for expensive silver in the core of the coin. You can see the copper of the core where the silver has broken off on this imitation of Trajan, AD 98-117.
 

"Now what do you hold to be the most difficult calling, " he [Trimalchio] went on, "after Literature? I think the doctor's and the money changer's; the doctor, because he's got to know what chaps have in their insides, and  when the fever's coming, -- though truly I hate 'em like fury, for they're for ever ordering me duck-broth; the money changer, who detects the bronze underneath the surface plating of silver."
The Satyricon, by Petronius, translation attributed to Oscar Wilde, p. 110
(Book Collector's Assn., N.Y., 1934.)
Go to more quotes from ancient sources.


"A sample of a forged denarius is carefully examined and the adulterated coin is bought for more than the genuine ones."

 Pliny, Historiae Naturalis XXXIII, translation by H. Rackham, Loeb edition, 1956

imitation
        Claudius/Minerva asprototype

Counterfeits that served to augment the supply of small change were struck in copper in (usually) crude imitation of official types. A British imitation of a type of Claudius (AD 41-54) is illustrated here (reverse with Minerva striding right with spear and shield, S C on either side, 24 mm) with its 28 mm prototype to the right. Many counterfeits are not deceptive because their designs are so much cruder than official coins or their sizes are so much smaller than the official coins. Apparently the Roman government was often not interested in providing all provinces with coins to facilitate small monetary transactions. Then, in neglected provinces, the locals sometimes made their own unofficial coins. Much of the coinage of Roman Britain was locally and unofficially produced.

Coins were regularly counterfeited throughout the entire Roman period. Counterfeits were especially prominent in several periods and places. We sometimes use these terms:
    1) "endemic"  for regularly occurring counterfeits (e.g. silver-plated denarii under the Roman Republic)
    2) "epidemic"  for counterfeits that make up a substantial fraction of the coins in circulation (e.g. asses in Britain under Claudius in the mid-first century AD,
                                 or "barbarous radiates" in Britain and Gaul c. AD 270)
Warren Esty (c) 2001
For more about ancient counterfeits in general, including how they were made, see this link [does not exist yet - under construction]. To see some counterfeit coins, click on one of the links below. The one link to Greek coins is at the end.


Chronological list. Links lead to pages of images and discussion (in new windows). Click on the task bar to come back to this window.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Republican. Pansa. Silver-plated These links open in new windows. Use the task bar to come back to this window.
  200-27 BC   Roman Republican silver-plated coins
     This piece: Pansa 9
 

Republican
          semis imitation
  200-27 BC   Roman Republican AE
    This piece: Republican semis


Claudius/Minerva imitation
    British Claudian AES  and earlier AE imitations of Augustus, Agrippa, etc.
        This piece: Claudius as

imitation Domitian as
  Other 1st and 2nd century AE imitations
     This piece:  Domitian

Limeslimes

 Limes-falsa of the second and third centuries
    This piece:  An imitation as of Hadrian.


Augustus/AEGYPTO CAPTA
Fourrées: The Twelve Caesars

    This piece:  Augustus


imitation Commodus
Fourrées: The 2nd Century

    This piece: Commodus


Philip II fourre
Severan and later (AD 193 - 253) fourrées (plus one of Gallienus) mostly from the Balkans
    This piece: Philip II


"Barbarous Radiates"  [link not even under construction -- does not yet exist -- this area is too vast!]
 


imitation Licinius
 Tetrarchy
    This piece: Licinius
    This page also has a few ancient molds for cast imitations.


Allectus imitation
 Carausius, The British Empire
    This piece:  Allectus
 

Constantinian (of five categories AD 307-360)
Constantine/two Victories imitation
     1) "Two Victories" type. This piece: Constantine

bold Constantine II
     2) Types of AD 330-340. This piece: Constantine II
     GLORIA EXERCITVS, VRBS ROMA,
     CONSTANTINOPOLIS, mules.

Crispus/VOT XX imitation
     3) Other Constantinian types to AD 330.
          This piece: Crispus

2 Victories and 2 wreaths
     4)  Types of AD 340-348.
        This piece:  Constans.

Soldier spearing fallen horseman imitation
     5) 
FEL TEMP REPARATIO (AD 348 ff),
     "galley," "soldier spearing fallen horseman," and other post-reform imitations.
        This piece:  An unusual full-sized Constantius II imitation.
Here is a page about ancient molds for making cast imitations of FEL TEMP REPARATIO coins.


M
Magnentius and Decentius (AD 350-353)
    This piece: Magnentius FELICITAS REIPVBLICE

Julian bull imitation
  Julian's "bull" AE,  (AD 361-363)

Julian II siliqua fourree
Plated siliquae and solidi

       This piece: Julian II

imitation Gratian galley
Valentinian I and later AE, (AD 364 ff)
        This piece: Gratian AE2



Other:
Alexander the Great tetradrachm
Greek   This piece: Alexander the Great tetradrachm
 



Links to off-site webpages can be found on my page about references.

Terms and links within this site.
    [under construction -- not even close to ready. I am not actively working on it.]

fourrée, fourré, fourre, fourree (how to identify a fourrée)
    "fourrée" is a French word for "filled" or "stuffed" (in the case of coins, with base metal)
subaerat  (the word for "fourrée" in German, meaning something like "below, AE")
limes
limesfalschung(en)
mold, mould  (This site exhibits molds of coins of the tetrarchy and of FEL TEMP REPARATIO coins)
serratus, serratii
siliqua, clipped siliqua

Literature about ancient imitations, annotated.

Other websites on ancient imitations:
Imitations of Roman Republican denarii, by Phil Davis
A spectacular collection of ancient fourrées, by Aaron Emigh
Brokage fourrees, by Aaron Emigh

This entire site, copyright (c) 2002-2012 by Warren Esty
All rights reserved. If you want to use some of it, please ask. I will almost certainly give permission.
Comments and questions are welcome. I am seeking ancient quotations about ancient imitations. e-mail me at: 

This is the end of the main page on ancient Roman imitations.  Click on the images above to see the linked pages.

Return to the index of Esty's educational pages.