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Someone Paid 3000 GBP for a Piece of Junk


David Atherton

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Recently a seemingly unlisted and unpublished Domitian quadrans came up at auction. 

https://www.numisbids.com/n.php?p=lot&sid=7485&lot=455

At first glance it seems to be something to take note of, but there is something fishy going on here. Yes, Domitanic quadrantes are recorded with this reverse design paired with the emperor's portrait facing right with no drapery. https://www.cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=53917#

The Naville coin however actually uses a die from a rare denarius variety! 

https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=1449716

Plus the reverse is clumsy looking, likely tooled and smoothed to create the desired design. Compare with the style of the CNG example linked above.

The only conclusion is that the piece is a modern concoction of some kind combining an obverse cast from the above denarius die with a tooled reverse. A fantasy coin that cost someone dearly. Caveat emptor!

Thanks to @Aleph for bringing this lot to my attention. 

Edited by David Atherton
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  • David Atherton changed the title to Someone Paid 3000 GBP for a Piece of Junk

It is hard to know whether the price makes sense without hearing the views of those collectors (my assumption). The reasons can be many, especially for specialist collectors. 

Personally, I like high-grade coins (and value independent grading). However, when focusing on a narrow field when the story the coin tells is more important than its appearance, the condition becomes almost irrelevant… as soon as the coin is original.

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2 minutes ago, CPK said:

Wow, that's terrible. I hope whoever bought it is made aware and can get their money back.

3000 GBP!! On the one hand, I agree with you. On the other, I believe that you just should not invest this kind of money if you don't even know what you're buying... 

Quote

From the collection of a Mentor.

What kind of provenance is that, by the way?

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35 minutes ago, Rand said:

It is hard to know whether the price makes sense without hearing the views of those collectors (my assumption). The reasons can be many, especially for specialist collectors. 

Personally, I like high-grade coins (and value independent grading). However, when focusing on a narrow field when the story the coin tells is more important than its appearance, the condition becomes almost irrelevant… as soon as the coin is original.

It's not even a genuine ancient coin. It's a cast fantasy piece made with a denarius obverse die combined with a quadrans reverse that has been heavily tooled. 

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20 minutes ago, Roman Collector said:

It's not even a genuine ancient coin. It's a cast fantasy piece made with a denarius obverse die combined with a quadrans reverse that has been heavily tooled. 

Thank you! Clearly, I lack expertise here.

Edited by Rand
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Looks like I just wasted £3000 plus juice on a fake/tooled coin... or did I? 🙂

I agree with David and everyone else here in that the reverse looks off, especially compared to the usual ship types with either Domitian or Ceres on the obverse (both extremely rare). The obverse's connection to a denarius makes it even more curious.

BUT, here is why I bought it anyway:

1. Cross-denomination die-links are rare, but they do exist for the Flavian period.
2. The 1/2 century roman AE fractions are a bit of a mystery to this day. There's an unusually high number of gilded pieces (more than for any other denomination, relatively speaking), there are a number of AE denarius off-strikes, mules, and many other fun things.
3. Despite the "special" ship style, I don't see any obvious traces of tooling. The surfaces look smoothed, but otherwise not tooled. At my request, Naville examined the coin closely a second time, and they are certain that there is no tooling.
4. According to Naville, the "Mentor collection" refers to "the director of an auction house in London from '60 to '90".

If the coin is authentic and untooled, it is unique. If it's not (which I will hopefully find out once I have it in hand), I will return it and have no doubt that Naville will accept the return.

Edited by SimonW
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15 minutes ago, SimonW said:

If the coin is authentic and untooled, it is unique. If it's not (which I will hopefully find out once I have it in hand), I will return it and have no doubt that Naville will accept the return.

This is exactly a kind of reasoning I expected. It does make sense for me.

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17 minutes ago, SimonW said:


Looks like I just wasted £3000 plus juice on a fake/tooled coin... or did I? 🙂

I agree with David and everyone else here in that the reverse looks off, especially compared to the usual ship types with either Domitian or Ceres on the obverse (both extremely rare). The obverse's connection to a denarius makes it even more curious.

BUT, here is why I bought it anyway:

1. Cross-denomination die-links are rare, but they do exist for the Flavian period.
2. The 1/2 century roman AE fractions are a bit of a mystery to this day. There's an unusually high number of gilded pieces (more than for any other denomination, relatively speaking), there are a number of AE denarius off-strikes, mules, and many other fun things.
3. Despite the "special" ship style, I don't see any obvious traces of tooling. The surfaces look smoothed, but otherwise not tooled. At my request, Naville examined the coin closely a second time, and they are certain that there is no tooling.
4. According to Naville, the "Mentor collection" refers to "the director of an auction house in London from '60 to '90".

If the coin is authentic and untooled, it is unique. If it's not (which I will hopefully find out once I have it in hand), I will return it and have no doubt that Naville will accept the return.

That makes sense - there's not much risk; if it turns out to be fake, Naville will surely refund you.

Good luck!

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35 minutes ago, SimonW said:


Looks like I just wasted £3000 plus juice on a fake/tooled coin... or did I? 🙂

I agree with David and everyone else here in that the reverse looks off, especially compared to the usual ship types with either Domitian or Ceres on the obverse (both extremely rare). The obverse's connection to a denarius makes it even more curious.

BUT, here is why I bought it anyway:

1. Cross-denomination die-links are rare, but they do exist for the Flavian period.
2. The 1/2 century roman AE fractions are a bit of a mystery to this day. There's an unusually high number of gilded pieces (more than for any other denomination, relatively speaking), there are a number of AE denarius off-strikes, mules, and many other fun things.
3. Despite the "special" ship style, I don't see any obvious traces of tooling. The surfaces look smoothed, but otherwise not tooled. At my request, Naville examined the coin closely a second time, and they are certain that there is no tooling.
4. According to Naville, the "Mentor collection" refers to "the director of an auction house in London from '60 to '90".

If the coin is authentic and untooled, it is unique. If it's not (which I will hopefully find out once I have it in hand), I will return it and have no doubt that Naville will accept the return.

Simon,

I hate to say this, but there is not a chance that it is a previously unknown ancient authentic official* piece. Cross-contamination of dies between a silver denarius and a bronze quandrans is not possible for this time period ... but for a crafty modern forger it is. The reverse style is indeed very problematic, to the point it appears to have been 'created' by the forger. Also, an old pedigree is no guarantee of authenticity, as you probably already know. I suspect this fantasy fake is from the late 19th or early 20th century.

Sorry I'm being so blunt, but a coin as specious as this cannot be accepted into the Flavian cannon. I do hope that you decide to ask for a refund.

*There is a slight possibility it is an ancient forgery, but the clumsy reverse style and the amount of smoothing involved gives me reason to suspect it is more likely a modern fabrication.

Edited by David Atherton
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1 hour ago, David Atherton said:

Simon,

I hate to say this, but there is not a chance that it is a previously unknown ancient authentic official* piece. Cross-contamination of dies between a silver denarius and a bronze quandrans is not possible for this time period ... but for a crafty modern forger it is. The reverse style is indeed very problematic, to the point it appears to have been 'created' by the forger. Also, an old pedigree is no guarantee of authenticity, as you probably already know. I suspect this fantasy fake is from the late 19th or early 20th century.

Sorry I'm being so blunt, but a coin as specious as this cannot be accepted into the Flavian cannon. I do hope that you decide to ask for a refund.

*There is a slight possibility it is an ancient forgery, but the clumsy reverse style and the amount of smoothing involved gives me reason to suspect it is more likely a modern fabrication.

Thank you very much for your opinion on the coin, David! I see your points. However, unlike you, I believe there is a small chance that it is authentic and official. If it is, it is a once in a lifetime chance. If it's not, I can return it. So I am more than happy to spend a few hours to investigate further.

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2 hours ago, SimonW said:

If the coin is authentic and untooled, it is unique. If it's not (which I will hopefully find out once I have it in hand), I will return it and have no doubt that Naville will accept the return.

I'm not an expert on what David is - so I'd rather stay out of the discussion about this coin. I would never say it is fake (or real) - I don't have 100% certain knowledge about this coin / the Flavian area. 
 
But I've already done that too. I bid on a very rare coin / variant with the risk of it being fake. Then I have my experts to check it. If it turns out that the coin is fake, the purchase is cancelled. If the coin is genuine - I've made a great purchase. Naville is a reputable auction house. If a coin turns out to be fake, it will also be taken back.

That's what I did with this Nero - although I had reservations when I bought it. It still needs to be tested, but as it looks so far, the Nero Bronze is very probably genuine.

https://www.numisforums.com/topic/5385-nero-triumphal-arch-sestertius-please-help-with-id/#comment-69567

And now I've got a Nero Bronze for 360 euros - which isn't in Nero and is probably a hybrid of two different types. 
 
 
Long story short. So I wouldn't be too quick to "demonise" the purchase. Maybe a fantasy coinage - then I would just ask for the money back. If genuine - the buyer has a great unique piece.

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2 hours ago, Ricardo123 said:

I think George muller left spink in 82, but anyway if him was the owner of the coin, I would put fee bucks the coin is legit !

If Muller knew of the obverse die link to a denarius (!) he would've condemned it too. 

This piece has been around awhile, but yet it didn't make it into the new RIC II.1. Ask yourself why.

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My point is: maybe muller did not know the link with denarius, but he know what a tooled coin is for sure. He had coin in hand for years maybe. Please don’t be too fast to judge, let’s wait for other expert opinion. I know you flavian expert, but remember your Vespasiano Reusing Sestertio; even c.clay thought it was genuine. 

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