How to avoid buying fake ancient coins.
Here is some good advice that will help you avoid fakes. revised January 13, 2020
1) There are many criminal fake sellers who use eBay.
For a list of eBay sellers who have sold fakes, see:
Forum's eBay fakesellers list: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=18502.0
The best simple way to avoid fakes is to avoid those sellers. (However, new criminal sellers pop up frequently. It is a struggle to keep the lists up to date.)
There is an e-mail group (the CoinForgeryDiscussionList) which discusses fake sellers. If you intend to buy ancient coins you should join it. You can ask about particular items and receive frequent updates about fakes and fake sellers.
(You will have to "join" to see it but you can easily check a box to not to get any communications if you don't want them.)
If the eBay dealer is new, you will want to "search" for that username on the list to see if a more-recent message mentions fake items from that seller.
2) If you question a particular coin, look at
which allows people to post fakes they have spotted. Go there and enter in the identification (for example, the name of the Roman emperor or the name of the Greek city) in the search box.
A lot of fakes and "reproductions" have been made (especially in the Middle East, Bulgaria, and China) and "coins" sold to innocent tourists abroad are often fake. Even major museums sell packets of imitation ancient "coins" in their gift shops. This gives crooks an easy way to make an illegitimate buck on eBay, and they have not missed the opportunity! Coins brought back from, say, Greece or Syria, usually are not genuine. Fakes do not have to be of expensive coins; I have seen tourist fakes from Egypt where the genuine original would cost only $3! Now I am seeing tourist fakes offered on eBay. Some experts say a majority of "antiquities" offered in on-line auctions are fake. With coins, the real ones still outnumber the fakes by a large margin. But the problem is getting worse.
Because of this website, sometimes people send me an image and ask me about the identification and value of some coin they claim they got from their father or grandfather. Less than half the time the coins are genuine. Sometimes the story of where they got it is an obvious lie. Twice in one month alone I have condemned coins as modern fakes only to see them appear on eBay a bit later as if they were genuine. It is infuriating! (I no longer accept images for valuations.)
Good eBay feedback is no guarantee the seller is honest. Two days ago (as of when I first wrote this paragraph years ago, 12/10/08) I reported to eBay a seller with 832 positive feedbacks and a rating of 100% who had four moderately expensive fakes for sale. eBay will do nothing. He will sell them and hundreds of dollars will be lost by innocent buyers.
By the way, the e-mail list called the CoinForgeryDiscussionList often has inquiries from potential bidders about the authenticity of ancient coins for sale, and the questioners get good answers. Many experts belong and report fakes even before people ask. I also recommend forgerynetwork.com at which you can search to see if I coin you see is a published fake (but it may take a trained eye to see the difference between coins there and genuine coins.) You can also find a list of many eBay dealers who are known to sell fakes.
Another problem on auction sites is that there are many misdescribed and overestimated coins. (See my pages about buying and my page about auctions.)
Coin dealers who do not specialize in ancients rarely have the expertise to authenticate ancient coins. If you buy an ancient coin from such a dealer, you might ask for a money-back guarantee written on the receipt. But, remember, ancient coins are common and not necessarily expensive. My experience has been that many "ancient" coins owned by individuals who do not collect ancient coins are fake, however, a large majority of "ancient" coins carried by dealers who specialize in U.S. coins are genuinely ancient, and virtually all the coins carried by dealers who specialize in ancients are ancient. Here are links to the best sites on fakes.
Here is some very good advice that will help you avoid fakes. Most fakes are sold by criminal dealers with one or more of these techniques. Unfortunately, there are several criminal dealers with high feedback numbers and good percentage satisfaction that eBay declines to remove.
If a dealer has any one of these, avoid him!
1) Sells from Bulgaria, China, or Malaysia.
2) Always look at the "seller's other items." If they include fakes, don't bid. If the other items are all very inexpensive coins and the one you want is worth far more, don't bid. (They sell $5 coins to build up a good reputation and sell worthless fakes that look like $300 coins to "bargain" hunters to make a big profit.)
3) Also, do not bid on extremely nice coins that are closing soon very inexpensively. If it is too good to be true, ... [You know this, don't you?]. The reason they are going so low is those of us who know about fakes are not bidding on those fakes!
4) Worry about dealers from eastern Europe with low feedback. There are lots of fakes floating around Eastern Europe and even an honest, but ignorant, seller can try to make a buck selling on eBay what he can buy cheaply in the marketplace over there.
5) Avoid sellers on lists of fakesellers, such as this one: http://augustuscoins.com/ed/fakesellers.html
Forum Ancient Coins also maintains a fakesellers list: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=18502.0
Forum Ancient Coins also has much more about fakes: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/fakes/
By the way, do NOT assume that a large number of good feedbacks on eBay means the seller is okay. Many sellers of fakes have 100% feedback because the suckers who bought from them do not know they bought a fake instead of a bargain (and, they did not read this page!)
Con men gravitate to eBay. If you were going to sell high-value fakes, would you want to do it face-to-face where an irate customer could confront you, or anonymously from a distant state or country where the law's tentacles do not reach?
More Advice: Always read the coin descriptions. Many sellers with fakes actually say the coins are fake (copy, reproduction, replica) in the descriptions, but the admission may not be prominent and is often near the very end (so they can claim to be honest, but buyers might miss it).
The advice above is enough to avoid most fakes. Continue if you want more details and web sites.
Sites with information and advice
Doug Smith's good advice about fakes. http://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/fake.html
Ancient Coins and Modern Fakes: How To Tell The Difference. An Authentication Primer, by Dennis J. Kroh
"Brad's Introduction to Ancient Coins" with information about fakes. http://myplace.frontier.com/~brads98/coins4a.html
Forum's discssion board on fakes: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?board=9.0
Dr. Ilya Prokopov's page on identifying cast fakes(hosted by Forum): http://www.forumancientcoins.com/fakes/thumbnails.php?album=14
Sites with lots of fakes illustrated
The most important site, mentioned above: http://forgerynetwork.com/
Another major site, Forum's fake coin reports: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/fakes/index.php
A huge page with a great number of fakes offered on eBay:
The site also has notes on the MO, and seller names, of this person, or group of people, who sell fakes on eBay.
Some denarius fakes that appeared on eBay in December, 2003: http://tomross.ancients.info/images/Fake%20Coins/fake_coins.htm
"The Slavey Catalog" by Twelve Caesars, an extensive illustrated list of some of the most common fakes by the famous Bulgarian forger Slavey and his school.
Ed Snible's site on the infamous "Black Sea Hoard and other Apollonia diobol fakes" http://snible.org/coins/black_sea_hoard.html
Sasanian-like fakes of the Huns, Gobl 8-9: https://web.archive.org/web/20110514024346/http://www.grifterrec.com/y/gobl_8-9_comp.jpg
Sites with a few particular fakes individually discussed
Calgary Coin Gallery's Pages on Forgeries. Four fakes discussed. http://www.calgarycoin.com/reference/fakes/fakes.htm
Counterfeit of a Decadrachm of Syracuse by Kimon, 405 - 380 B.C. by John R. Gainor
Chris Hopkins' pages on counterfeits of Parthian coins, at Parthia.com
A pdf file posted by the Celator about Becker the Counterfeiter. https://www.tesorillo.com/otras/becker.pdf
Some firms make "reproduction" ancient coins. If you buy from them, you know what you are getting. If someone else buys from them and sells to you, you might buy a fake. Here are some sites:
Museum Reproductions, another source for coin reproductions. http://www.museumreproductions.co.uk/shop/viewcategory.php?groupid=16
A Czech company that makes copies: http://www.antiquanova.com/
Return to the page of links to websites.
Return to page 3 of the introduction to collecting that linked to this page about fakes.
Return to the index page of the whole site.