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Fake of Faustina II medallion casts doubt on authenticity of British Museum specimen!

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I thought about writing this for Faustina Friday, but I thought I'd post it here in "general" because it illustrates a general principle about fakes and forgeries. Moreover, I thought it would generate more interest here and perhaps people with more references than I might contribute photos of additional specimens. 

A week or so ago, @Marsyas Mike sent me an IM with a listing for a "Crispina" medallion on eBay. The sale had already closed, but he wanted me to look at it because he thought the item looked fishy and that I'd be interested in seeing it. I was interested and agreed it looked fishy. I have done some photo processing of the images on the eBay listing for easy of viewing.


Needless to say, it's Faustina the Younger and not Crispina. The eBay seller notes its diameter is "4 cm" and it weighs "42.1 gms." That would be cool if it were real, but it's not the sort of thing that would be sold on eBay if it were. My Spidey senses tingled.

What does 'my spidey senses are tingling' mean? - Quora

Intrigued nonetheless, I dug a little deeper to see if I could find genuine specimens to compare it with. Cohen lists the coin as no. 303, but cites Mionnet's collection, which is not illustrated. Interestingly, in the first volume of Cohen, he correctly transcribes the obverse as FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, but in the second edition, from which this scan is taken, he says it reads the same as no. 302, which reads FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, an error. Anyway, here's the Cohen listing.


Strack cites specimens in Berlin (not illustrated at the Staatliches Münzkabinett website, though) and London. So, I went to the British Museum website and found the photo of the specimen in their collection (41 mm, 37.843 g).


Uh oh!!! Compare the British Museum specimen to the "Crispina" on eBay, from which I've removed the background.


They have the exact same centering of the designs in the flan and the same flan shape and everything! One or both are casts. And it's unlikely that whoever created the eBay specimen would have had access to the British Museum specimen to make a cast. Therefore, I think they are both early modern fakes. My guess is that they are aftercasts of "Paduan" medals from the Renaissance. 

Gnecchi reports additional specimens in Copenhagen and Madrid, in addition to the Mionnet specimen cited by Cohen and the specimen in the British Museum.


Unfortunately, Gnecchi illustrates the British Museum specimen in pl. 69, no. 10 (the asterisk next to "Londra" indicating the specimen illustrated). So, it isn't helpful for taking viewing the inventory of specimens. It is a wonderfully high-resolution illustration (probably of a plaster cast) of the specimen in the British Museum.


So, I'm left with two photos of two specimens, each with identical centering of the designs within the flans, which are identical down to the raised rim from 9:00 to 1:00 on the obverse. The best explanation is that they are both casts and that Southeby's sold a fake to the museum in 1846.

If anybody has photos of the Berlin, Copenhagen, or Madrid specimens, please post them!!! If anybody knows more about this medallion, please share your insights. As I said before, I think this is an aftercast of a Paduan medallion struck in the Renaissance, not an actual medallion from ancient Rome, but it's possible that the BM and eBay specimens are each a cast of a modern forgery of an actual ancient medallion. 

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Posted (edited)

Wow, you really did some impressive work on that @Roman Collector - nice job.  That others are floating around is indeed interesting.  For the record, I did not buy it, but the seller did make me an offer - 100 GBP I think.  But it was sold before I could take the bait.  😌

Edited by Marsyas Mike
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10 hours ago, Roman Collector said:

The best explanation is that they are both casts and that Southeby's sold a fake to the museum in 1846.

I wonder if Southeby's would still accept a return?

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Posted (edited)
On 5/8/2024 at 2:20 AM, shanxi said:

The Berlin example, from different dies




Different dies because it's for a completely different module. That coin is 28 mm in diameter and 15 g (medium bronze size), whereas the British Museum specimen and the eBay "Crispina" are 42 mm. As far as I am aware, there is no doubt concerning these smaller pieces, and they are probably the originals on which Cavino based his creations – you will notice on the larger "medallions" the beaded border lies well within the limits of the flan – about the dimensions of an as or dupondius. 

On 5/8/2024 at 2:43 AM, John Conduitt said:

Well, you might have thought so, but it depends how long ago... around 1887 would do it.

That's interesting, but I still think the British Museum and the eBay specimen are probably Renaissance Paduans or casts of Paduans. 

Edited by Roman Collector
Increase size of bifocal-defying font
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