Jump to content

Is my Apollonia Pontika gorgoneion drachm fake? (Exact duplicate found)


DonnaML

Recommended Posts

  • Benefactor

The last time I posted my example of this often-faked type here was at  https://www.numisforums.com/topic/2197-a-medusa-gorgon-gorgoneion-thread-when-good-girls-turn-really-bad/#comment-36692 . Here are the description and photo:

Thrace, Apollonia Pontika [now Sozopol, Bulgaria], AR Drachm, ca. 450-500 BCE. Obv. Upright anchor with large flukes and curved stock; “A” [for Apollonia] to left and crayfish to right between flukes and stock  / Rev. Facing gorgoneion (Medusa), wavy hair parted in middle, 16 thin, open-mouthed snakes around head as additional hair or crown, puffy cheeks, mouth open, tongue protruding (but not extending below chin), all within shallow incuse. Goldsborough Type 3 [Goldsborough, Reid, "Apollonia Pontika Drachms" (see https://web.archive.org/web/20141115000124/http://medusacoins.reidgold.com/apollonia.html), Catalogue of Types]; Seaby 1655 var. (crayfish to left, A to right) [Sear, David, Greek Coins and their Values, Vol. 1: Europe (Seaby 1978); Topalov 41-42 [Topalov, Stavri, Apollonia Pontika: Contribution to the Study of the Coin Minting of the City 6th - 1st c. B.C., Catalogue of Apollonia Coins, 7th-1st c. B.C. (Sofia, 2007) (English Translation, Kindle edition)]; BMC 15 Mysia 8-10 [Wroth, Warwick, A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 15, Mysia (London, 1892) at pp. 8-9]; SNG.BM.159; see also id. Nos. 154-158  [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Great Britain, Volume IX, British Museum, Part 1: The Black Sea (London, 1993)] [online ID SNGuk_0901_0159 ]. 14 mm., 2.96 g., 3 h. Purchased from London Ancient Coins, June 2020.

image.jpeg.744c34f74f9b9e4ea287775b3af2617a.jpeg

As I've mentioned, I probably spent more time researching my example of the A/crayfish type before buying it than any other ancient coin I have, including looking at every image of fakes I could find, and digging up old articles by Reid Goldsborough available only on the Wayback Machine, as well as an old article from The Celator from the early 2000s, and a Bulgarian book by Stavri Topalov available in English on Kindle.  

So I have been at least somewhat confident that my example was genuine.

However, someone recently contacted me to inform me that in fact my specimen is "clearly a cast fake." The person stated that this is something that is not only (supposedly) obvious from the photo, but, more importantly, is proven by the fact that my coin is not simply a double die match, but is identical in all respects including the flan shape, to this specimen sold by Harlan J. Berk Ltd. as Lot 62 in its Buy or Bid Sale 199 on 29 Sep 2016 -- see https://www.acsearch.info/image.html?id=3379900 and https://www.numisbids.com/n.php?lot=62&p=lot&sid=1612 -- but is not the same specimen given the scratches on mine and the different weights (2.96 g. vs. 3.07 g.).

HJBApolloniaPontikadrachm2016duplicateofdmlspecimen.jpg.d43cae785c3dfb0c5c1e48f8ab594a7e.jpg

At first my correspondent characterized the HJB specimen as also being a cast fake. When I asked him how he knew that, he backtracked a bit and characterized the HJB coin as "either casting twin or authentic mother" to my fake. 

He also stated that his evidence should be enough for me to get a refund from my dealer, even 3+ years after the fact.

So what do people think? Are they both cast fakes? Only mine? I am not sure how they could both be genuine.

 

Edited by DonnaML
  • Like 4
  • Mind blown 1
  • Shock 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Based on my understanding of what is likely/possible, at least one if not both of these coins are fakes. The HJB specimen looks worse to me and could be a cast from yours. I'll be interested what others think who are more experienced.

Sadly, this type is on my "never buy" list due to the fakes that have flooded the market and how I would always be unsure of the legitimacy of the piece. Unless it had an excellent provenance I suppose.

 

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
  • Thinking 1
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are several dimples on the reverse that are exactly like yours too but the scratch is missing. I just think it was the exact same coin photo, maybe a little photoshopping to take that horizontal scratch off. but I think it is the exact same photo and coin. Maybe the specimen sold by Harlan J. Berk Ltd. as Lot 62 in its Buy or Bid Sale 199 on 29 Sep 2016 was never actually a completed sale.

Dis you acquire your coin after Sept 2016? Maybe the high bidder never paid up or resold it and it found it's way to you?

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
4 minutes ago, thenickelguy said:

There are several dimples on the reverse that are exactly like yours too but the scratch is missing. I just think it was the exact same coin photo, maybe a little photoshopping to take that horizontal scratch off. but I think it is the exact same photo and coin. Maybe the specimen sold by Harlan J. Berk Ltd. as Lot 62 in its Buy or Bid Sale 199 on 29 Sep 2016 was never actually a completed sale.

Dis you acquire your coin after Sept 2016? Maybe the high bidder never paid up or resold it and it found it's way to you?

I acquired my coin from London Ancient Coins in June 2020; see my description. I have to say that I don't think it's the same coin. The surfaces look different to me. Even leaving aside the different weights.

Edited by DonnaML
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
6 minutes ago, thenickelguy said:

I agree! Nice animation. Is there anywhere on the edge that looks altered? like a pour source or seam on yours Donna?

Looking at the edge under a magnifying glass -- and keeping in mind how tiny the coin is! -- I see no casting seam or suspicious smoothness or suspiciously even width. I'll try to photograph the edge at some point tomorrow if I have time and am able to zoom in enough.

I'm not sure what it is about my coin that made the person who wrote me proclaim that it's "obviously" a cast fake, even without considering the duplicate.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
13 hours ago, thenickelguy said:

Donna, I hope that London Coins will honor a refund if this turns out not so good for ya. Even after this time has passed. Hope I helped. I will keep an eye on this.

Thank you. I hope so too, but is what we've seen so far conclusive proof that my particular coin, as opposed to the other two specimens, is necessarily fake? I think I will hold off to see if anyone else has an opinion before I contact LAC. If this has already waited 3+ years, it can wait a little longer!

Edited by DonnaML
  • Like 1
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry to read this Donna. If it were me I know I would never trust the coin if I decided to keep it. I would want to return it. One or both of these is fake, probably both. I don’t think yours was the mother coin for the HJB example. If it was you’d see evidence of the scratches. I don’t think the HJB was the mother coin for yours because of the marks on the left side of Medusa’s face and under the chin. I would guess both are daughter coins to a genuine original.

Very unfortunate. It is a nice looking coin and would not have been obvious to me that it was suspect.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm no expert Donna, but my take is either:

- you have an original, and the other example has been cast from yours 

- you have a copy, and the other example is a worse copy of the original coin

To me they look identical, except for the casting bubbles on the other coin and the scratches on yours. Did they fix the scratches when they cast it? Did they scratch yours intentionally? I don't know. But in my view they are originally the same coin.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I started collecting ancient coins, the Apollonia Pontika drachm with the gorgon and anchor was one of my must have types. 

Unfortunately, every discussion about this type turns into the same debate and the answer is rarely clear 😐

Probably all the collectors interested in this subject know about the New York Hoard. 

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=new york hoard

The genuine drachms have a lot of variation in style/artistry. The forgeries .... have the same variation 😐

The example I have in my collection 

image.png.fbfd57b45a2c1dba2584f383353fba00.png

The dangerously close but not a die match from the NY hoard 

image.png.8a970c893a26e81b77ec4c3fdba96e5d.png

The conclusion for my coin ... it might be the real deal. To make it even more complicated, the experts in this type are not sure that Specimen 40 is a fake. 

But when it comes to authenticity, in my opinion an average collector is usually UNSURE about Apollonia Pontika drachms. Especially when the examples are like the one presented by @DonnaML or me. For the OP coin there seems to be no resemblance to the NY hoard. Is this 100% reassuring? No. 😐

Perhaps a specialist in this type will see and provide an expert opinion, but in my NON EXPERT opinion, the coin is not OK. My example - not a die match with the (possible) forgery and I haven't found an exact duplicate. But I wouldn't be very surprised if I do. 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Harlan copy must be fake. There are more holes and any of the holes that might be 'obvious casting' on yours are replicated on the other coin, so can't be from casting unless they cast from a cast. The anomaly on the top left of the anchor could also be from casting, which appears on both.

The scratches on yours must have been added afterwards, whether it's original or a copy. So it's hard to say if yours is real or not, although there's obviously a high chance it isn't simply because a fake exists. It's quite an easy copy to spot, with the line down the gorgoneion's left cheek. Surely more exist.

Edited by John Conduitt
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is sure is that your coin is far from being an "obvious fake" in itself as stated.

By examining the coin under a microscope it is normally possible to confirm whether the coin is a fake.
Maybe you could ask for a confirmation to a professionnal numismatist in NY before asking for a refund.

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is a third cast-mate, which I photographed at the New York International in January 2019, and was subsequently sold on VCoins. Weight 3.16g:

ap20.jpg.a842773d914e6b972f2cde49f199c38c.jpg

This example was in a bag of 30 specimens which I believe were all cast fakes, all of different molds.

The rims on these coins are perfect -- so perfect that I bought a coin from this bag, even though I know to be wary of the type.  I examined the rim under 15x loupe for more than 5 minutes before purchasing, and for hours afterward.

Nine of the coins in this bag have identified cast-mates.  Yours makes the tenth (however I stopped looking few years ago.)

My belief is that these are cast through channels in the front or back, because every one has some kind of weird bump or flaw on the obverse or reverse.  The ones I saw lacked casting bubbles, which suggests centrifugal casting.  I suspect that point of damage/corrosion on your example's anchor is how the metal got in to the mold.

Here is the rim of the specimen I returned:

rim.jpg.e0d052fc4ffa40b19e1daae90ddbc4cb.jpg (The bright line comes from my flashlight, there is nothing obviously wrong with it.)

Sometimes the coins will look legit because of legit corrosion, but this corrosion exists identically on their cast-mates.

corrosioncopy.jpg.23652f11f8bab21344376b18c370a9dd.jpg

The above illustration shows three coins, one from the bag (unknown weight), one from an online auction (not eBay), 3.49g, and one withdrawn from a different online auction (not eBay), 3.28g.

These fakes pass top dealers.  Be wary.  I returned my bag example for a full refund in January 2022.  It was then auctioned and hammered for $190.

  • Like 7
  • Thanks 4
  • Clap 3
  • Mind blown 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I posted a bronze Constans for sale in a FB group, someone sent me a link clearly showing it was a pressed fake. I contacted the seller, also LAC and the issue me a refund immediately with apologises. They're a good company in my opinion and will do they right thing if you can determine this is a fake. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

So sorry about your coin. After reading Ed's entry to the conversation I feel that we would have to be delusional to think this was the "mother" coin or anything other than a cast fake. Especially with the large bubble anomaly on the anchor. 

I would recommend to not waste your money sending it to be looked at. 

Please let us know if the auction house issues a refund. 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...