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The "ancient" sand or soil patina debate.


Dafydd

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I know that this has been debated over the years here and elsewhere but I was bemused today to view the following auction.

https://www.biddr.com/auctions/nummitra/browse?a=4214&c=98440

The majority of Roman coins appear to have a "sand" patina and when I compare to other current auctions this does  not seem feasible unless a hoard is being auctioned. For interest I looked at an earlier auction of theirs ( Auction 11 ) and again  there was a preponderance of sand toned coins.

I don't have the expertise to determine if these coins have been artificially toned but I found it interesting to see so many in one auction.

In the past I have bought such coins because I thought they were attractive and sold in isolation,  but to see so many at once would raise a suspicion. I see that there are  not many advanced bids on this auction and I wonder if the patina issue is the reason? 

 

 

 

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I don't know, they're all extremely common types. It can't be that unusual to see so many in what seems to be a lower-tier auction. As for the patina - it appears that most of the coins come from eastern mints, so a desert-type earthen patina might be expected. Also, to apply such a patina artificially to each coin would seem to be a ton of work for coins that will probably only hammer for 5 - 10 EUR, if at all. Would it really be worth the effort? I don't know, but I doubt it.

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I don't know about these coins, but there are some experts in artificial patinas. One guy brought in tonnes of coins with orange patinas on the market. Many collectors like the contrast, especially with black coins.

I know a collector who regularly steals his wife's "Foundation", a product of a well-known French cosmetics company, to apply it to his own coins.:classic_wacko:

If you hold the coin in your hand, you can easily tell whether the sand patina is real or fake. The real sand patina is less homogeneous, brittle and usually comes off in flakes.

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When I was a kid and just starting out in collecting I went to a coin shop which had a pick bin of coins for $2 each - most had sandy patinas and were Constantinian and his sons with some Licinii as I recall. I don't know if in circa 1980 there were many folks applying artificial patinas at $2 bucks a pop. Probably not. Right now I can think of two dealers known for fake desert patina applications but I won't mention names.....anyway worth thinking about

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I read somewhere that it was more likely that this patina was the result of soil not sand and that might be a more logical answer ,  I could see that finds in soil would be easier than sand which drifts. You have a valid point @Ancient Coin Hunter, would anyone be bothered to artificially patinate low value coins in the 1980's , I doubt it.

It piqued my curiosity to see so many of them though. Thanks for your answers all.

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I don't see enough consistency in the sand patina on these coins to suspect it's fake, although I don't think one can use low cost to rule it out. There are tons of fake common LRBs on eBay UK every day (from same group of seller names), so for someone, somewhere, the economics make sense. For example, some parts of eastern europe are very poor - I just googled it and minimum wage in Bulgaria is only $3/hour. It would totally make sense to add fake sand patina if it only took 5-10 min per coin and raised average price by $1.

 

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Lots of fake sand patina coins come out of Syria, but also directly from European dealers from what I’ve heard.

the ones to watch out for are the completely uniform patinas. Either orange, yellow, or white in most cases. These are done by the handful or more at once so it’s a mass production situation. 
 

Ones with a variance of patina on one coin, or a dullish patina, likely are original.

in the end, acetone or even water quickly remove artificial patina as it breaks the glue down, but do nothing to a real sand patina, which is still a legit thing

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Interesting post, @Dafydd!

 

Back when I first started collecting Judaean coins, I would submit my favorites to NGC. Many of the coins had a sandy patina and most of them would come back slabbed with no problem notations. I did however have a few come back slabbed with a “repatinated” notation on the label.

 

Here’s one without and one with such a notation on the label.

image.jpeg.99e99f4ae742d2563815edde84935a8d.jpeg

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I don't know, I've noticed the orange thing as well with certain eastern LRB's, whether they be Ant's or later LRB's.  The orange is just too uniform.  I'm talking coins showing up in other places than the catalogs of the 'orange twins.'

I happen to regularly order from Zurqieh.  I mainly avoid the orangies and focus upon the uncleaneds/semi-cleaneds. I avoid the other guy.

Perhaps some European dealers are getting the orangies from the supplier?  I noticed that one of my current favorite dealers has a small subset of sand patina coins (perhaps that's the way they come from the supplier), with the mints ranging from Rome to all the way out east.

oQd64PqTn5YQWrA3c9Xk2TjZgNi8Fa.jpg.379d36ca0ca09ea19e7edc565cc81ff6.jpg

The 'premium middle eastern uncleaned (not uncleaned)" coins from dirtyoldcoins also look like this.  Real or false, what do you think?

VabalathusAurelian-AETetradrachm-Alexandria-21mm_10.82gZurqiehnice.jpg.4d8b90ee1874fe2637f8b14673b2923e.jpg

I made an exception to the orange rule.  I was looking for a really nice Aurelian/Vabalathus, and this was at a great price.  It's quite attractive in person.

I may be wrong, but I think the earthen ones from David Connors are real. There's a variety of shades and there's few orange ones.  The orange ones might even be real. Sand's bound to be orange somewhere.

Phocas-602-610-AE20nummi-23mm.5.94gaVFreallyniceportrait.jpg.9d7a670f05c459659606228301afae5a.jpg

 

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Interesting discussion.  Like many, I do like a nice sand patina, but how to tell real from fraudulent is beyond me.  

Recently I got a budget sestertius of Hadrian with a rather dramatic sand patina.  I thought about soaking to see if it will come off, but I like it so much as is I don't want to mess with it.  In my limited experience, seeing a big Imperial (not Provincial) AE like this with a sand patina is fairly unusual, so it may well be a fake "enhancement" of the surfaces.  The coin seems to be legit, as I found a few die-matches from reliable places:

image.jpeg.2be75a1cd3b562264664e1669383c400.jpeg

That squiggly line in Minerva's shield is a snake.  

RIC II Part 3 (2nd ed.) 668 (old RIC II 611b); BMCRE 1254; Cohen 1067.

Edited by Marsyas Mike
clarification
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5 hours ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

If you want to study fake sand patina, just check the inventory of this seller on Vcoins. At least he's not hiding the facts…

IMG_6459.jpeg.a276cae02288867b95dd32b0c24e5739.jpeg

 

Zuriqieh has a fantastic inventory, and if u are looking for "as found" coins, he has tons. 

 

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This is a fascinating discussion and of course the attractiveness of a coin is subjective and a matter of individual choice but if coins are artificially patinated that is to make them more desirable to collectors who appreciate them.

I remember nearly forty years ago speaking to the owner of a fishing tackle shop and admiring his vast range of fishing lures and he quite honestly said that 90% of his stock were designed to catch people not fish!

I did a little experimenting with photography last year and found that I could produce more or less whatever colour I wanted on my stored images and that is another subject I've read many threads about. I've also been lucky that usually the coins I have bought are better in the hand than many of the images taken to sell them, there have been a few exceptions, but I also have a number of dealers I buy from who I know that the coins will always be better than their images.

 

 

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I was browsing some auctions at the end of last year and there were about 30 lots, each of up to 250 coins, mainly LRB, all of which were described as "ex-dealer stock" and "Sand patina applied" and "repatinated". There must have been thousands of coins offered with the full range of sand colours. I suspect that they all went into the trade and will emerge as individual coins.....

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4 hours ago, AETHER said:

Zuriqieh has a fantastic inventory, and if u are looking for "as found" coins, he has tons. 

 

IMG_4942.jpeg.8b4dac0b8ffe2d955ad9bc268295630d.jpegIMG_4943.jpeg.9f22fc9f83fc0c03c09a96bbbe076c3a.jpegIMG_4970.jpeg.c22a2a82a288017a15fc4b672c17fb29.jpegIMG_4971.jpeg.ccf6d85538178ace3ce841f6686bcabb.jpeg
 

this is one of his I got recently. Despite the evenness of color I had acetoned it thoroughly upon receipt, before cleaning.

so, about discount all sand patina coins. They might be legit.

Edited by ela126
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I have bought some from Zurqieh I have so far stayed away from the sandy types. One has to acknowledge, being in the Middle East, that he has a large inventory of coins of Roman Egypt, including billon tetradrachms, and seems to be the most thorough outlet in the trade assuming coins found in Egypt make their way into his hands via Aqaba or whatever. In my somewhat thorough travels in Egypt and Jordan I have never seen any coins for sale locally though presumably they are found all the time by farmers and villagers as the ruins of Greco-Roman cities (the asar they are called in Arabic "monuments") are everywhere.  

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My problem with the "sand patina" is that a few coins had bronze disease under the dirt. In all cases where I noted it and removed the dirt, the bronze disease was worse than I initially anticipated. For this reason, I am not a big fan of sand patina and generally clean my coins. 

Second point - some coins have a really shallow relief. Once cleaned, they lose a lot of appeal, even if the fields are solid and even. Sometimes, dirt just hides fields with bad pitting. In both cases, professional repatination will enhance the look of the coin. I guess it is a matter of taste. Some coins look so much worse if fully cleaned that I do not exclude repatination to enhance the details. 

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21 hours ago, Ancient Coin Hunter said:

I have bought some from Zurqieh I have so far stayed away from the sandy types. One has to acknowledge, being in the Middle East, that he has a large inventory of coins of Roman Egypt, including billon tetradrachms, and seems to be the most thorough outlet in the trade assuming coins found in Egypt make their way into his hands via Aqaba or whatever. In my somewhat thorough travels in Egypt and Jordan I have never seen any coins for sale locally though presumably they are found all the time by farmers and villagers as the ruins of Greco-Roman cities (the asar they are called in Arabic "monuments") are everywhere.  

In addition to the Roman Egytian coins, he also has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of small ancient Egyptian amulets, scarabs, ushabtis, etc. All or most of which appear to be genuine. I would be naive to think that everything he sells was outside Egypt before the export of ancient coins and antiquities was prohibited many years ago.

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