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The story of my fake Aegina Tortoise stater. Now refunded.


filolif

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Now that I've received a refund for this fake coin, I feel comfortable talking more about the experience. 

I won this Aegina Tortoise stater from Dorotheum at auction in May 2022. Dorotheum is an extremely old auction house but has fallen off a bit lately as far as ancient coins go. This coin was one of just a handful of ancients in that particular auction.

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A very interesting piece. I definitely recognized that it had a different "look" compared with many others. A much clearer strike and better preservation I thought. In hand, it didn't immediately strike me as unambiguously fake either. I have a couple other tortoise staters and eventually the differences between those more conventional ones and this one started to make me concerned. After almost a year, I brought it to CNG, who had several people analyze it and determined it was a fake - modern dies on an ancient flan. Heartbreaking.

I then started the process of trying to get a refund from Dorotheum. They had me send it back and had their experts look at it. It took over 3 months but they did stand by their guarantee and gave me a full refund. I give them a lot of credit for that at least.

Video of the coin in hand:
https://streamable.com/lm25tq

In retrospect, this coin probably shouldn't have been as deceiving as it was. The obverse strike has a certain softness to it and I haven't been able to find any die matches to it. The flan size is pretty unusual and while the relief of the tortoise was good, it wasn't great. Shallower than my other staters of the type.

Just wanted to offer this story as a word of caution to others. Really good fakes are out there (some may say this isn't one of them), so be on alert and always try to buy from places who will give you a refund should a coin turn out to be a fake.

Feel free to share any other stories you have of returning fake coins and how the process went for you. I think we should normalize this since I think it would help all collectors be better able to avoid buying fakes themselves in the future.

 

Edited by filolif
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52 minutes ago, filolif said:

In retrospect, this coin probably shouldn't have been as deceiving as it was.

You are quite harsh on yourself! Especially with the ancient flan. And that it  took CNG and Doretheum some  time to be sure.

Well-spotted and  I'm relieved for you it ended well. I do wish there were some way of following up  on the original source. For example one of the more "minor" auction  houses was selling clear copies of a Taras coin that Roma had recently sold, so  it would have been VERY easy to  find the  forger. Yet there was nothing done. Which made me suspect the selling auction house. In your case, who knows  if the consigner knew but  a paper or audit trail might quickly alert the "community" to what's going on.

 

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  • Benefactor

Great that you figured out that it was fake and got your money back.

When I look through other Aegina staters, yours certainly looks suspect in retrospect. However, I probably would have also fallen for it - especially since the size and weight were correct given ancient flan.

A great reminder to be diligent when purchasing!

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  • Benefactor

That's a very interesting and deceptive fake.  It is interesting as well that someone would go to the trouble of taking and ancient coin and overstriking it with modern dies.  I don't see any signs of the original coin, so the coin/flan must have been heated to the point where the overstrike would obliterate any original coin design.  Also, there are flan cracks (stress cracks) along the edge.  I'm not sure if those cracks existed originally or were the result of the overstrike.  

I don't collect Aegina Tortoise staters except for one, so that fake would have fooled me!

BTW, do you remember the coin's wieght?

Edited by robinjojo
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I would consider that Aegina Tortoise a high quality fake 😉. Your own words sounded the warning, "it had a different "look" compared with many others." Did CNG explain to you how they determined it was fake 🤔? I've bought my share of fakes over the years & posted them on this website & also the CoinTalk website. I always got my money back on the ones I returned, some I kept for my own collection.

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28 minutes ago, robinjojo said:

BTW, do you remember the coin's wieght?

I do indeed. 12.13 g which seems in line with the type. Definitely didn't worry me at the time.

 

26 minutes ago, Al Kowsky said:

Did CNG explain to you how they determined it was fake 🤔?

They didn't explain in detail but I know they had several experts look at it. All they told me is that they determined the flan to be ancient but the dies to be modern. 

 

2 hours ago, kirispupis said:

especially since the size and weight were correct given ancient flan.

I should have mentioned this but yes, the weight and flan were generally spot on for the type. Other than being maybe a very small amount more compact than the average tortoise stater.

 

2 hours ago, Deinomenid said:

In your case, who knows  if the consigner knew but  a paper or audit trail might quickly alert the "community" to what's going on.

It would be great to know more about how this coin came to end up for sale with Dorotheum. They seem to operate at a bit of a glacial pace and I would doubt they are going to do a lot of follow-up on it. As buyers, we would really benefit from knowing as much as we can about how these high quality fakes are manufactured and come to market.

 

3 hours ago, Kali said:

At least you got a refund though. If it was Lanz, you'd never see your $ again.

Indeed. One of the reasons I was waiting to post this thread so I could report (good or bad) about how well Dorotheum dealt with a fake coin. I'm happy to say they did refund me but communication was often non-existent or slow and laborious as you might expect with a firm that's been in business since 1707.

 

3 hours ago, Molag Bal said:

And doubly glad that the area I collect is rarely faked! 

This is definitely the danger of collecting these very famous Greek types. Highly targeted by forgers but it seems like no coin or type is completely immune to faking.

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8 minutes ago, filolif said:

All they told me is that they determined the flan to be ancient but the dies to be modern. 

How does this work? Do they melt down some ancient silver, and then use the new dies to strike the coin? 

I dont pretend to be an expert, I am.most certainly not. And this would easily fool me. I only have a few Greek coins, and I think it helps to be more familiar with these issues, to be able to make a comparison. You had a bad feeling that way, and you acted on it, which is good. 

Theres no 100% guarantee that a collector will never be confronted with a fake. Its important to deal with a good dealer or auctioneer, with whom you can always discuss your concerns and is open to that. It.may take some time to discuss the matter and come to a conclusion, but its better than ending up with nothing. 

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38 minutes ago, Limes said:

How does this work? Do they melt down some ancient silver, and then use the new dies to strike the coin? 

No, you overstrike an original but worn coin, for example, and thus retain the ancient appearance, and the modern dies are less noticeable this way. Possible material examinations are then also inconspicuous.

Edited by shanxi
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26 minutes ago, shanxi said:

No, you overstrike an original but worn coin, for example, and thus retain the ancient appearance, and the modern dies are less noticeable this way. Possible material examinations are then also inconspicuous.

Also, any testing on the metallurgy would show appropriate the composition and age for the type

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  • Benefactor

It would have fooled me, although I might have wondered why the turtle looks so amazingly well-preserved -- way better than most I've seen. Dorotheum is not a name I've encountered very often. I have exactly one coin that's ex Dorotheum, thanks to our own @Julius Germanicus -- not the two sestertii I bought from Leu that vanished while "out for delivery" to my apartment and I'm quite sure won't be found, but a dupondius I bought from him on ebay:

Livia Drusilla (58 BCE-AD 29, widow of Augustus and mother of Tiberius) as Pietas, orichalcum Dupondius, AD 23, Rome Mint, issued by her son Tiberius in the name of her grandson Drusus Julius Caesar (Drusus Minor, 13 BCE-AD 23, son of Tiberius and Vipsiana). Obv. Veiled, diademed, and draped bust of Livia as Pietas, right, PIETAS below / Rev. DRVSVS CAESAR TI AVGVSTI F TR POT ITER around large S C [Senatus Consulto] in center. 30.74 mm., 13.63 g. RIC I Tiberius 43 p. 97, ill Pl. 11 (Rev. ed. 1984); Sear RCV I Livia 1741 p. 341; BMCRE I Tiberius 98 p. 133 (Pietas side ill. Pl. 24.7) (identifies the Pietas side as the reverse and the S C side as the obverse); Cohen 1. David R. Sear A.C.C.S. Certificate of Authenticity dated July 28, 2020, issued to Jens G. Feierabend, No. 005CO/RI/D/OD (“F/good F, ‘Tiber’ patina, pitted surfaces”).  Purchased from Jens G. Feierabend, Hamburg, Germany, 21 Jun 2023; ex Dorotheum GmbH & Co KG, Vienna Austria, Auction 16 Nov. 2017, Lot 1287.

Photos from @Julius Germanicus, David Sear & Dorotheum:

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9 hours ago, shanxi said:

melt down some ancient silver,

..and yes this is also one of beckers tricks too..he did a lot in bronze using this method...i have a couple of books on Carl , his methods, coins etc..very good read..i got took on an Otho and a Marc Anthony  galley coin...i have come to respect the greats of that trade...with an odd fascination (that surely stemmed from hatred) of their artifacts and stories..:)

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Edited by ominus1
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@Deinomenid , do you have a picture of the Taras fake you mentioned from Roma? I collect coinage from that mint and would be interested in seeing it.

Here are a few fakes I've come across; the first is a Taras diobol offered by an Irish EBay fake seller. I never wound up buying it because I did the research beforehand.

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Here's one which I've shown before, a semis from Brundisium. There is usually not a lot of forgery for this rather minor Magna Grecian mint, but I've come across at least two types so far, this being the more common. I did buy one of these coins nearly two decades ago and returned it for a full refund when the patina "washed off"; as you can see it has been offered over the years with a variety of patinas:

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This last one was offered more recently by Artemide Aste. You can tell they're getting a lot better with distressing the coin to make it appear ancient.

Fake_Artemide.jpg.6dbf97d7409bce19fbb3bc34d1aa2149.jpg

 

Here is the second fake I've encountered from Brundisium. It's also an older one, but I knew it was off because Phalanthos on the reverse only holds a chalice in the first series which doesn't use pellets to denote the denomination. Also the style is off. Edgar Owen bought one like this, and still has it in his collection as genuine I believe. The details weren't as soapy on his example - this one clearly looks like a cast fake with casting bubbles and soft details.

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@Romismatist I took copies of photos at the time (not my own - I think they were from numismatikforum.de) but there were also others. I believe there was a trail from Roma selling  legitimate coins which were then copied (cast) and then tinted to make it less  obvious.

I have seen quite a few of this  type recently, though I'm not sure if that's because of the  Baader-Meinhof phenomenon  or if  there really are  a lot of fakes. But more importantly there's  no reason this  faker would  only be doing this one type. I've taken to being extra careful with apparently tinted coins as an extra measure.

I know  fakes were   turning up on  vcoins and catawiki for sure.

Left real,  right  post tint removal fake.

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7 hours ago, Deinomenid said:

@Romismatist I took copies of photos at the time (not my own - I think they were from numismatikforum.de) but there were also others. I believe there was a trail from Roma selling  legitimate coins which were then copied (cast) and then tinted to make it less  obvious.

Many thanks for this information @Deinomenid... I knew that there were a few nomoi/staters that just didn't feel right, but I never captured any images. This definitely helps.

Like you, I plan to be more careful when hunting nomoi / staters from Taras / Tarentum in future.

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