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Sponsian? You gotta be kidding me... right?


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Sponiyes or Sponino  

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  1. 1. Think the coins legit?

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https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-63636641.amp

_127640068_coin1.jpg.039b38575e6c776ff13957e2ea2f2d07.jpg

Sorry if this is retread for some, but I just don't see how one guy looks at this coin, not named David R Sear (if he did I'd believe the hype. 

I just don't see how their, "Under a powerful microscope, researchers saw scratch marks caused by the coins being in circulation" theory holds any water. 

But, I've been wrong millions of times and would like to read others thoughts or any other information about the case for Spoopsian? 

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What got me is that the 'experts' concluded the coin was old because of the scratches and dirt on it! Reminds me of the article where a bunch of experts at an university declared some Afghani coins were illegally looted because of the dirt on them, which meant they came from the ground!

Also I've never seen the weight mentioned as well as the purity of the gold, to me it looks like an electrum, whereas even during the crisis period the gold coins maintained high purity. And they mentioned about scratches but not the obvious casting bubble like pits?!

What's more ridiculous is that they used these coins as the reference! seriously who are these experts!

315872350_5930159110395341_7355197413512508861_n.jpg.77b55d5ad7bb2ee11fbb192db8ff0144.jpg

What I'd like to see is analysing the metal content of this coin along with other gold coins from that period and not from the coins found among the same dubious hoard. Then create a fingerprint of metal composition of the coins and compare it with each other. 

Edited by JayAg47
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Here’s a link the the PLOS One journal article: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0274285

…and below are the results of the metallurgical study:

9BB212A6-659D-432A-BA61-518BE0B78A2E.png.c8e3a739bad225471bb0fad4599eb256.png
 

I wouldn’t be too surprised if the coins were ancient. They are likely, at best, ancient imitations and, at worst, more modern inventions. I just don’t believe that he prove that the usurper lived or minted coins.

Edited by Orange Julius
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The style is wrong. Even if it’s a barbarous imitation, the style is still wrong. It’s very strange for a third century coin to have a Republican era reverse.

I’m not sure the metallurgical study yields any helpful information. 

Look, there’s no magical way to determine for sure whether the coin is genuine. But we can say something pretty strong about the *probability* that it’s genuine.

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The Sponsian aureus is without doubt a genuine barbarous imitationAD 260s. In the last couple of days a number of news sources have published articles on this controversial coin again, including BBC, The Wallstreet Journal, & The Guardian 🙄. The best article I've read came from science alert, written by Tessa Koumoundouros. See the link below ☺️.

https://www.sciencealert.com/roman-coins-once-thought-to-be-fake-reveal-a-long-lost-historical-figure

 

 

 

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After reading through the paper I remain thoroughly unconvinced. In fact, I am more sure than ever that the Sponsianus is a fake.

The other "barbarous" coins from the assemblage are clearly not genuine. These are the gordian III, Philip I, and plautius plancus comparison coins supposedly found alongside the sponsianus can be seen in Figure 2 under the "Coins of the Wider Assemblage" heading, which JayAg47 linked in his comment.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0274285

At best those are very crude barbarous imitations, and that's a stretch. It seems much more likely that they are cast fakes. As such, determining that the characteristics of the sponsianus match those of other fakes simply proves that it, too, is a fake. As for the genuine Aureii, they did in fact use (at least one) genuine coin as a comparator. I've linked the figure where it appears below. However it is only partially pictured, while the other Philip aureus they claim to have used in the analysis is not to be found in the article.

image.png.47eaba9ca9915141d1970220511b89c0.png


Notwithstanding the veracity of the comparators, whether the Gordian III aureus was used or the barbarous/fake aureii, I think the logic that similar deposits can only be due to similar time spent in the soil seems flimsy, and is not backed up in a meaningful way by the authors.

When it comes to discussion of the results, the authors note differences between the pattern and composition of the deposits on the genuine coins and the sponsian group, such as a lack of high-point deposits on the genuine gordian aureus while the Sponsian has deposits even at the highest point of the relief. The authors even acknowledge potential ways in which a forger could have accounted for the similarities in the surface scratches, the one feature which they seem to cling to most strongly as supporting their assertion of the sponsianus aureus' antiquity. And yet, they acknowledge that a well-known forger (Becker) simulated such wear in his forgeries. It's not as if natural wear cannot be hastened by simply speeding up the component processes artifically - if a purse containing dozens of coins is shaken vigorously for a few hours it stands to reason that the wear pattern would be quite similar to a coin that spent a far longer period of time subject to the same stressors infrequently - 100shakes/minute over the course of an hour would then simulate the same natural wear as 10shakes/day over 40 years, making a century's worth of wear the work of a single afternoon (all random numbers, but I believe they illustrate my point well enough). 

Yet despite these gaping holes in the argument for the Sponsianus' authenticity, in the conclusion the authors nonetheless about-face and dispel any notion that the Sponsianus coin could have been fake. This seems to be based solely on their opinion that it's unlikely a forger could have done the aforementioned things required to generate a "convincing" forgery. Among the more incredulous statements is the authors' belief that a forger could only have made all the coins at one point in time and from the exact same alloy. As this is not the case for the "barbarous" fakes, whose metal compositions vary between roughly 1 and 6% silver and ~1% copper (the remainder of course being gold), the authors' surmise that the only logical explanation is that the coins must have been created in separate batches, furthering their position with the supposition that a forger could not have made all these coins are separate points in time, nor could they have used differing alloys when making multiple forgeries in a single batch. Thus, (we are oh-so-erronously told) the coins must indeed be real.... since they were allegedly made in separate batches at differing times. As if a singular forger couldn't use gold from different sources to create multiple cast fakes all at once!??!??

To top if off, the article concludes with the laughably ridiculous notion that the official who declared these finds as genuine back in 1713 could not possibly have done so in error. This, the authors assert, is due to his position as Minister of Finance in charge of mines and metals, which one supposes must have made him magically immune to confidence artists!??????

The conclusions of the article are utter hogwash, and I feel the authors may themselves be aware of this fact. In all, it is quite poorly conducted research in my opinion, and seems that the authors were more interested in generating a flashy headline and some publicity for themselves than in properly investigating the matter. The flurry of news articles in major publications, the BBC among them, seems to only further reinforce this idea. 

The bottom line for me is this: good and bad research papers exist in every field - one needn't look further than the Wakefield paper (which linked the MMR vaccine to autism) for proof, and that one managed to slip through into the BMJ! This paper conjures similar doubts in my mind, and the fact that it was published in PlosOne, a journal that isn't exactly known for rigorous standards of peer-review, only cements my view. 

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If a fake, why make a fake of an otherwise-unattested name, and especially a name that apparently only shows up ONE other time in recorded archaeology? Seems like it's kind of pointless to make a fake of a strange name, rather than fake some Gordians and call it a day.

The non-standard name in itself is what makes me question the fakeness of the coin, or at very least, the validity of the opinion that it is a modern fake.

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6 hours ago, Al Kowsky said:

The Sponsian aureus is without doubt a genuine barbarous imitationAD 260s. In the last couple of days a number of news sources have published articles on this controversial coin again, including BBC, The Wallstreet Journal, & The Guardian 🙄. The best article I've read came from science alert, written by Tessa Koumoundouros. See the link below ☺️.

https://www.sciencealert.com/roman-coins-once-thought-to-be-fake-reveal-a-long-lost-historical-figure

 

 

 

Can't tell if kidding or serious?

Read the other article but, no. 

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5 hours ago, hotwheelsearl said:

If a fake, why make a fake of an otherwise-unattested name, and especially a name that apparently only shows up ONE other time in recorded archaeology? Seems like it's kind of pointless to make a fake of a strange name, rather than fake some Gordians and call it a day.

The non-standard name in itself is what makes me question the fakeness of the coin, or at very least, the validity of the opinion that it is a modern fake.

Argument from incredulity:

“I cannot imagine how F could be false; therefore F must be true.”

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I read the article on livescience and it seems to be everywhere on the Interwebs. I'm not convinced. How many Roman (or even barbarous imitations) don't have proper Latin form even if blundered?  Once in awhile names are in the vocative or dative case  and hence don't end in VS. I can think of types for Gallienus, Volusianus, and Constantine which end in alternative cases (but usually nominative for 99.9% of Roman coins) His name was Sponsianus, not Sponsian. Just a fake. 

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There's a lot of evidence that seems to prove nothing either way.

If they're modern, why do they have opaline silica deposits? Can 'authigenic cement and overlain by oxidation products' be convincingly forged? Or develop after 'discovery'? How long does it take to develop a deposit? They say, "We are aware of no published literature specifically on the analysis of earthen deposits on coins." Wouldn't that be a good place to start research? The reliance on the scratches as evidence depends on the deposits. The conclusion that the coins are ancient relies on the deposits.

If they're proven forgeries, how can they be genuine? If Sponsian's 'crudely manufactured coins supported a functioning monetary economy that persisted locally for an appreciable period', why have no others been found, aside from 4 all in the same place? The fact that they were found with several other dubious coins would normally be a red flag. But all at inexplicably variable weights with high impurities? All made by the same engraver, including the Gordian III and Philip I copies? How can the Sponsians possibly be genuine if they're made by a single proven forger? We have to believe not only are the Sponsians genuine, but the Gordian III etc are genuine 'Sponsian era' coins - several designs rushed out featuring an assortment of other emperors, yet produced in vanishingly low volumes.

Why are they all worn? Yes, genuine coins circulate while modern fakes don't. But isn't it odd that you would find a group of coins together that had all similarly circulated? Why are none mint state, as you'd normally find in a hoard, or your pocket, particularly of someone who wasn't around long in a very volatile area? Did they really make all those designs at the same time?

Why are they cast, if the dies are not copies of real coins? Why would a forger not just strike the coins from their homemade dies? Then again, why would a real usurper cast their coins?

Where did the name 'Sponsian' come from? It would be a coincidence for a forger to pick a name so obscure it's only known from one inscription. But it would also be strange for an usurper to share a name with only one other person in 500 years of Empire. It seems quite possible that a forger made up a Roman-sounding name, which clearly wasn't Roman anyway (despite what the authors say - you can't call a name 'Roman' based on one occurence). It's also possible they didn't know what they were writing, given another of the coins has a nonsense legend.

Why the use of imagery from the Republic? Did any other usurper use Republic reverses? I can buy their explanation that coins from the Republic would be perceived as better, but why would you not just copy a coin from the Republic outright? I can believe a forger might use such imagery but surely they too would have known it was anachronistic.

The coins could be contemporary barbarous issues. There were plenty of those, cast or struck, with blundered legends. But this conclusion still hinges on the coins being ancient i.e. the deposits evidence, at which point the argument for Sponsian existing is a lot stronger. And the reverse would still be puzzling, unless they're some sort of Gothic/Saxon imitation, which tended to be based on a wider range of styles.

Oh, and it seems Wikipedia is convinced. Someone needs to write an article with the opposing view to be able to use as a reference.

Edited by John Conduitt
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Here's what RIC said about this coin in 1949 (vol 4 pt 3 p 67): "SPONSIANUS: No Emperor of this name is known to history, and the strange barbarous aurei (sic) found in Transylvania, that combine the radiate head, IMP. SPONSIANI, on obverse, with an imitation of the reverse of a Roman Republican denarius, remain an unsolved mystery. "

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Depends what you mean by "legit". Does the study suggest that the coin may be much older than 300 years? Perhaps. Do I think there was an emperor named Sponsianus? No. The most likely scenario given the new data is a third-century imitation with a badly blundered legend.

Compare this unique aureus of the previously unknown emperor "Saaevraasta":

641141.jpg.6935fd48704d68e93546c3868b10d683.jpg

https://cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=40770#

 

 

Edited by DLTcoins
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3 hours ago, DLTcoins said:

Depends what you mean by "legit". Does the study suggest that the coin may be much older than 300 years?

I'm not convinced the study even does this. Unless i'm missing something, the evidence seems to be no stronger than "the coin exhibits mineral deposits consistent with an old coin being buried for long enough to acquire these deposits".

If it's a badly blundered legend, what coin is it imitating? It's a cast coin series with Republican and Imperial numismatic themes. Everything about these coins is wrong.

The simplest explanation is it's an inept 300 year old forgery, modeled on ancient Roman Imperial and Republican coins that the forger knew about.

But the only intellectually honest position is, i guess, "i don't know".

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On 11/24/2022 at 8:23 AM, GregH said:

The style is wrong. Even if it’s a barbarous imitation, the style is still wrong.

I think style does not help in this case. In my view, there is not such thing as a "right" or "wrong" style of barbarous imitations of this corpus (i.e. south eastern Europe 3rd/4th century). I have 23 gold imitations (most of them recorded on this website by a Ukrainian numismatist):

КАТАЛОГ ВАРВАРСКИХ ПОДРАЖАНИЙ РИМСКИМ МОНЕТАМ - 346-365 (narod.ru)

These coins are all genuine ancient coins. Can anybody identify the correct barbarous style? Indeed, I see some stylistic similarities between the SPONSIAN aureus and coin no. 359, but that is almost not surprising since any kind of style can be found here.

Unfortunately, also the fact that the coin was cast does not mean that it is not ancient. Cast imitations do exist within the corpus of 3rd/4th century aureus imitations from south-eastern European. 

So if style and manufacture are not helpful. I would say this about the SPONSIAN aureus: The coin was clearly not produced by an official Roman mint and in my view,  it does not prove the existance of an emperor called SPONSIAN. If it is ancient, it belongs to a large corpus of 3rd/4th century gold imitations from south-eastern Europe. But again, when evaluating its antiquity we can not rely on "style" and "manufacture". Style and manufacture are of no relevance in the case of barbarous imitations. 

The only hard evidence that can be evaluated are the results of the technical analysis. But I'm not qualified to do so. The only other evidence that can be evaluated, in my view, are:

1) the circumstances that brought the coin to Glasgow in 1713.  I.e. How likely is it that somebody produced such a fake at that time?

2) the position of the coin in numismatic history. I.e. How likely is it that somebody produced a fake in the early 18th centuy, with the name of an unknown emperor and which fits into a large corpus of coins, which was only recognized in the 20. century? Put differently, the probability of the coin being a fake would in my view be a lot higher if it had been found in other parts of the empire or its border regions.

So for me, the coin is plausibly part of the large corpus of imitative gold imitations from 3rd/4th century south-eastern Europe. Definite proof would be the discovery of another example from the same region.  Until then we only have the technical evidence from the study and the other evidence under 1) and 2) above to form an opinion.

PS: The coin B: Type 3 Gordian III is in my view genuine. I have seen the dies before on a Ukrainian detectorist website. 

Edited by Tejas
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On 11/25/2022 at 3:04 AM, DLTcoins said:

Depends what you mean by "legit". Does the study suggest that the coin may be much older than 300 years? Perhaps. Do I think there was an emperor named Sponsianus? No. The most likely scenario given the new data is a third-century imitation with a badly blundered legend.

 

 

 

If it is indeed ancient, I think this is the most likely explanation.

SPECULATION AHEAD:

The GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG antoninianus could be where the blunder originated from. The portrait head shape is similar, it provides the correct legend positioning, a radiate crown and the coins (if ancient) were allegedly contemporaneous with Gordian III and some other alleged Gordian specimens were found alongside them.

S PIVS FEL AVG is compelling to me because the IV in PIVS could easily be mistaken for an N. Which would give us a reading of SPNS --- AVG. Could a forger either not being able to read FEL or not be familiar with the PIVS FEL title given to Gordian so assumed it was part of the rest of SPNS name and simply added a typical three letter Roman suffix of IAN. The fact that we have an inscription with SPONSIAN, might mean that it was a name the forger was aware of, and aided him in his guess for the missing letters.

ROME MINT0

image.png.dd418de6ffdd8c710ce0ea29afbc415f.pngANTIOCH MINT:

image.png.c523f337ee379975a3d9c0dde48c7720.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good example from ROME. Showing the potential IV = N even in good condition.

image.png

 

Edited by Steppenfool
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27 minutes ago, Steppenfool said:

 

If it is indeed ancient, I think this is the most likely explanation.

SPECULATION AHEAD:

The GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG antoninianus could be where the blunder originated from. The portrait head shape is similar, it provides the correct legend positioning, a radiate crown and the coins (if ancient) were allegedly contemporaneous with Gordian III and some other alleged Gordian specimens were found alongside them.

S PIVS FEL AVG is compelling to me because the IV in PIVS could easily be mistaken for an N. Which would give us a reading of SPNS --- AVG. Could a forger either not being able to read FEL or not be familiar with the PIVS FEL title given to Gordian so assumed it was part of the rest of SPNS name and simply added a typical three letter Roman suffix of IAN. The fact that we have an inscription with SPONSIAN, might mean that it was a name the forger was aware of, and aided him in his guess for the missing letters.

ROME MINT0

image.png.dd418de6ffdd8c710ce0ea29afbc415f.pngANTIOCH MINT:

image.png.c523f337ee379975a3d9c0dde48c7720.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good example from ROME. Showing the potential IV = N even in good condition.

image.png

 

Yes and the legend is only on the right-hand side, which isn't the usual place to start an emperor's name, unless you're copying an off-centre original.

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