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Oh Sabina, what are you?.. fine, fouree or fake.


Curtisimo

Oh Sabina, what are you?.. fine, fouree or fake.  

14 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you think this coin is fine, fouree or fake?

    • The coin is fine
    • The coin is a fouree
    • The coin is fake


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I bought this odd little coin a year or so ago at auction where I put in a lowball bid at the starting price. It was among a number of coins I won and I’ve only recently gotten around to photographing and studying it.

Sabina_Den.jpeg.215cf4f4d860e9db3a8575a646ec5bd7.jpeg

ROMAN EMPIRE
Sabina, wife of Hadrian 
AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck ca. AD 133-135
(17.40 mm., 3.41 g)
Obv.: SABINA AVGVSTA Diademed and draped bust r., wearing stephane. 
Rev.: IVNONI REGINAE Juno standing l., holding patera and sceptre. 
Ref.: RIC Hadrian 2550. C 43.

There is something off about this coin.  In the below write up I’ll take you through my own study process as I started looking into what I now believe is a “problem” coin.

 

It’s Fine: Genuine Worn Ancient Coin

I bid on this coin as a “snack” because I like these coins of Sabina that look more like Hadrian in a wig. The tone is also really pleasant to my eyes.

The first thing to note is that the style is pretty much exactly correct. I was not able to identify a die match in my search (genuine or fake) but you can see from some of the below examples offered at auction that this coin is absolutely of the correct style. It’s also not a high dollar coin so there were no immediate red flags.

IMG_5338.png.5a9a4cf8398b54f2b7aec540b58a7d08.png

Examples of Genuine Coins: Top image courtesy of Tailer & Fau. Center image courtesy of Leu Numismatics. Bottom image courtesy of Agora Auctions.

The weight at 3.4 g is around average from what I have seen of these.

The odd thing that came to my attention first was the raised bead present behind Sabina’s ear. At first I assumed this was a centering mark. Die engravers would sometimes start with one or more points on the die to use in centering their composition. The intention was that the engraving of the central figure would obscure these points from the final product. However, sometimes these points were engraved too deep or were placed in such a way that they were still visible on the coins struck with those dies. I’ve seen this in particular on late Republican denarii and sometimes on the denarii of Septimius Severus.

The thing about this coin that didn’t seem right was that with a coin this worn the centering point would have worn down first. Not only has it not, there seems to be an indented ring around the point.

IMG_5337.png.d5f7a03ad69df9fa634a7fde4ed552dc.png

Close up of raised bead

That led me to look a bit more closely at this coin…

 

It’s a Fouree: An Ancient Forgery

When I began looking closely I noticed there was something strange going on with the flan.

Sabina_Den_Edg.jpeg.c59b67ada52c43ea7e53db2cfc56766b.jpeg

Edge view of flan

As you can see from the above photo, it appears that there is an outer layer of material that is “folding in” around the core of the coin. After burial in the ground for millennia it is sometimes difficult to tell between bronze or silver that is encrusted with mineral deposits. This looks to me like it could be a bronze core which raises the possibility that this is a fouree that is still fooling people 1800 years later.

However, there is still a possibility that…

 

It’s Fake: A Wicked, Evil, No Good Fraud

One of the things I always do when I’m in doubt is to check the FORVM Fakes Database. I did not see a match for this coin but I did find this one intriguing.

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/fakes/thumbnails.php?search=Sabina+IVNONI+REGINAE&submit=search&album=search&title=on&newer_than=&caption=on&older_than=&keywords=on&type=AND

It is described as a fake, worn Sabina with a “light weight core.” Though my coin is not light weight I do have reason to believe it has a different metal core as we discussed above. Perhaps my example represents an improved fake version 2.0?

Now let’s take a look at a few specifics on the coin fabric.

IMG_5339.png.6304c5b6faf688b2ac85b667504fe2a7.png

Note the odd shape of the border pellets on the above. I have seen many coins where the border pellets appear flatter on the inside than the outside. I believe this is a product of the striking process where the metal tends to flow outward toward the edge of the flan creating enough force to make such an effect, particularly as the die starts to wear. However, it is almost always a more uniform effect as far as I can tell. It strikes me as odd that this coin has irregular shaped pellets mostly in areas where the devices are close to the border. Putting all of this evidence together I think I can hazard a theory that can explain most of what we are seeing.

… It could be a cast fake made with a centrifugal forge. In this scenario the bead on the obverse could be explained as the entry point where the metal entered the mold. The odd shape of the pellets on the reverse could be explained as areas where the metal could not fully fill the mold due to the devices near the border obstructing the metal flow?.  Perhaps we can also see evidence of casting bubbles on the reverse at 4 and 5 o’clock?

If the mold were made from a genuine coin then the correct style would also be explained by this theory.  

One point I am unsure about is how this process of centrifugal forging could be accomplished with a base metal core? The outer layer of silver is completely intact on the surface with no indication of base metal showing through despite the worn state. It is only on the edge of the flan that we see a possible indication of a base metal core.

 

Next Steps

When I get an opportunity I intend to do a specific gravity test to determine for certain whether the coin has a base metal core.

What do you all think? Based on my analysis so far I increasingly think that this coin is a cast fake. If it is a fake I would like to add it to the FORVM Fakes Database, but I want to be sure before doing so.

 

Please post your thoughts or your fine, fouree or fake coins of Sabina or anyone else!

Edited by Curtisimo
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Oof, Maloof! Unless, David R. himself says its legit, that's enough for me to always have a chip on my shoulder if I was the rad dude that is Curtisimo the Great! Frustratingly, what's up with it looking like a bottle cap coin? Makes me think it was an RR overstrike... if it wasn't fake... or overstruck by the forger?

I feel for you my guy. I wanted to get a Sabina from Rome and walked right into this obvious ebay trap last year (don't worry I was refunded and got an authentic one):

Screenshot_20230124_163640-removebg-preview.png.34cff955bc7c363cc3b00c550ebb1e58.png.ef12f1c630e9e4cbd488796c83397bbf.png

Sabina. AD 128-137. AR Denarius. 19mm, 2.8g

SABINA AVGVSTA HADRIANI AVG, diademed draped bust right, hair in plait behind / VESTA, Vesta seated left, holding Palladium and scepter. RIC 410; RSC 81; BMC 915.

 

 

Edited by Ryro
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On 9/26/2023 at 5:38 PM, ominus1 said:

..it does lQQk fine but the anomalies you pointed out are highly suspect...could it be a clad?...i don't have a pic of my Sabina denarius on this computer at the moment....i

I do think there is a real possibility that this coin is a fouree. Seems opinions so far are somewhat split. That closely mirrors my own thoughts on the coin.

On 9/26/2023 at 7:37 PM, Ryro said:

Oof, Maloof! Unless, David R. himself says its legit, that's enough for me to always have a chip on my shoulder if I was the rad dude that is Curtisimo the Great! Frustratingly, what's up with it looking like a bottle cap coin? Makes me think it was an RR overstrike... if it wasn't fake... or overstruck by the forger?

I feel for you my guy. I wanted to get a Sabina from Rome and walked right into this obvious ebay trap last year (don't worry I was refunded and got an authentic one):

Screenshot_20230124_163640-removebg-preview.png.34cff955bc7c363cc3b00c550ebb1e58.png.ef12f1c630e9e4cbd488796c83397bbf.png

Sabina. AD 128-137. AR Denarius. 19mm, 2.8g

SABINA AVGVSTA HADRIANI AVG, diademed draped bust right, hair in plait behind / VESTA, Vesta seated left, holding Palladium and scepter. RIC 410; RSC 81; BMC 915.

 

 

Bummer about your fake Sabina Ryan! I’d love to see your fine (ie genuine) example! 🙂 

21 hours ago, Coinmaster said:

Hmm, always interesting, thanks for sharing.

I think the coin is fine. The point could be a punch mark (as it's not centered and has a ring). If fouree, I'd expect more corrosion and a much lighter weight.

A laser alblation could give the answer.

Thanks for your comment Coinmaster.  I admit I had not considered the possibility that it could be a punch mark.

As you say, the weight is good. I’ll follow up when I get a chance to do a specific gravity test.

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