Prototype: Moneyer Q. Minucius Ter. M.F.
Two Roman Republican silver denarii from 103 BC. The one on the left is an ancient counterfeit with a copper-core silver-plated and then struck to make a convincing imitation of the genuine full-silver coin on the right. The silver plate has broken showing the copper core near the rim at 5:30 and on the helmet near the middle. The reverse makes it clearer that it is an ancient fake.
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.
Comments, gentle criticisms, and questions are welcome.
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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
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
Click on the links or images below to see more coins from each time period. The one link to Greek coins is at the end.
Some counterfeits were made by casting and some ancient molds are still extant. See here for some molds ("moulds" in Britain) and a description of one way it was done.
list. Links lead to pages of images
and discussion (in new windows). Click on
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Roman Republican silver-plated coins
This piece: Pansa 9
Roman Republican AE
This piece: Spanish Republican semis
British Claudian AE and earlier AE imitations of Augustus, Agrippa, etc.
This piece: Claudius as
Other 1st and 2nd century AE imitations
This piece: Domitian
the second and third centuries
This piece: An imitation as of Hadrian.
Fourrées: The Twelve Caesars
This piece: Augustus
Fourrées: The 2nd Century
This piece: Commodus
Severan and later (AD 193 - 253) fourrées mostly from the Balkans
This piece: Philip II
"Barbarous Radiates" [link not even under construction -- does not yet exist -- this area is too vast!]
Tetrarchy (AD 284-314)
This piece: Licinius
This page also has a few ancient molds for cast imitations.
Carausius, The British Empire
This piece: Allectus
Constantinian (of five categories AD 307-360)
1) "Two Victories" type. This piece: Constantine
2) Types of AD 330-340. This piece: Constantine II
GLORIA EXERCITVS, VRBS ROMA, CONSTANTINOPOLIS, mules.
3) Other Constantinian types to AD 330.
This piece: Crispus
4) Types of AD 340-348.
This piece: Constans.
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.
Magnentius and Decentius (AD 350-353)
This piece: Magnentius FELICITAS REIPVBLICE
Julian's "bull" AE, (AD 361-363)
Plated siliquae and solidi
This piece: Julian II siliqua
Valentinian I and later AE (AD 364ff)
This piece: Gratian AE2
and links within this site.
[under construction -- not even close to ready. I am not actively working on it.]
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")
mold, mould (This site exhibits molds of coins of the tetrarchy and of FEL TEMP REPARATIO coins)
siliqua, clipped siliqua
Literature about ancient imitations, annotated.
Other websites on ancient
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) 2002-2016 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:
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