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A (possibly) tooled coin that I almost purchased


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Hi Everyone, 

As the title suggests, here is a coin that I almost purchased which I suspect has been tooled. I saw this coin at a dealer's booth on the first day at NYINC. I liked it but felt uneasy about the hair. I passed on it and decided to have another look at it on the second day. While I couldn't quite pinpoint the issue, something about the curls looked off to me. The dealer did not provide any auction history, and the coin didn't look like an example I had seen in a recent auction. I did a basic search on ACsearch but couldn't find anything. After hemming and hawing, I went with my gut and decided not to purchase the coin. A few days ago, I was scrolling through a previous auction looking for a different coin and stumbled upon the same coin, although it looked very different. At first, I thought it could have just been thoroughly cleaned, but something tells me there has been some detail "enhancement". What do you all think? I've hesitated as to whether I should post this, but think that it is in the best interest of collectors to be aware of such issues. Having had issues with deceptive tooling, I only go after a sestertius if 1) it has an extensive pedigree, 2) my auction rep looks at it or 3) it has been slabbed by NGC. I'm usually not one to call out a case of tooling, but since I almost purchased this coin I felt that it was appropriate. I checked the dealer's website listing, and it only mentions that the coin has been "professionally cleaned". 

Below is the dealer photo (as it appeared at NYINC) followed by the auction photo

image.png.99e1e8041107c09611ce9d80185f209d.pngimage.png.9820dd5e96ad2ecb211e608d5f5e37d5.pngimage.png.dc0972b4b46572d2353185b986e6e223.png

 

If I have violated any sort of community guideline or if this is your coin, please let me know and I will take the post down. I don't wish to cause offence.

Rc 

 

 

Edited by Romancollector
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  • Romancollector changed the title to A (possibly) tooled coin that I almost purchased

In general, be VERY WARY of bronze coins of the Antonine period with seemingly a lot of detail. The economy was booming during the mid- to late-second century and these coins circulated HEAVILY for decades. I'm not saying high grade examples don't exist, but familiarize yourself with the engraving styles of the Rome mint of the period and how hair and other details were rendered.

Typical example:

1174123625_FaustinaJrFECVNDITASSCMBstephaneGottingen.jpg.ee2312ecf529972427fd163bffea5873.jpg

Tooled:

754859806_FaustinaJrFECVNDITASSCMBstephaneNaumann.jpg.45992b4bb2725fa3bae3335825649ac8.jpg

Tooling that shouldn't fool anyone but did.

767662.jpg

Genuine example:

faustina-jr-venvs-s-c-apple-and-scepter-mb-long-obv-inscr-type-3-hairstyle-romae-aeternae-jpg.1381323

Tooled. Bertolami auction E 109 Lot 717.

717.jpg

Genuine:

Faustina Sr IVNO S C standing sestertius.jpg

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Are the pictures in the correct order, with the second picture down with the green tone being the one now offered at auction?  If so, that is an incredibly deceptive patination job, equally as scummy as the initial tooling.  I think it's clear that they are the same coin, there are way too many exactly similar cracks and marks for it to be otherwise, unless they are (extremely unlikely) both from the same source coin, or it's a mother/daughter situation.

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3 hours ago, thejewk said:

Are the pictures in the correct order, with the second picture down with the green tone being the one now offered at auction?  If so, that is an incredibly deceptive patination job, equally as scummy as the initial tooling.  I think it's clear that they are the same coin, there are way too many exactly similar cracks and marks for it to be otherwise, unless they are (extremely unlikely) both from the same source coin, or it's a mother/daughter situation.

The first photograph is the dealer's. This is how the coin appeared at the show. 

The second photograph is from an auction back in 2020.

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Yes, it appears to be an example of both expertly cleaned and tooled.  In the process of removing the encrusted adhesions; also removing small amounts of the metal in each groove/valley to additionally enhance the details.

It looks to be one of those times where an acceptable amount of cleaning may then overlap with smoothing & tooling modifications.

The underlying question comes down to: What part of the patina is part of the original coin that has been naturally altered/formed, and what part of the patina has been introduced in the form of encrustations from the ground where the coin remained?

The coin has obviously been tooled, smoothed and artificially re-patinated.  One point of view may be that the details have been restored.  However, it is obviously an artist's interpretation of what those details may have originally been. 

Most collectors desire original (AKA unaltered) coins. 

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Good job going with your gut, @Romancollector.  These high grade big AEs always look fishy to me, even the ones that are probably okay.  Since they are way beyond my budget, I don't have to worry about them much.  

I do have the OP, a budget example for sure: 

1377229226_MarcusAurelius-Sest.PRIMIDECDec2019(0cr).jpg.492753a31c1067e4e5eafe5d67c76596.jpg

Marcus Aurelius  Æ Sestertius (170-171 A.D.) Rome Mint [IMP] M ANTONINVS AVG TR P X[XV], laureate head right / PRIMI-DECEN-NALES-COS III-S C in five lines within laurel wreath. RIC 1006 (possibly RIC 1256) (23.58 grams / 28 x 25 mm)  eBay Dec. 2019     

Attribution Notes: OCRE lists (5)  PRIMI types, two have draped busts.  Others:  RIC 1006 has an undraped bust with TRP XXV.  Most common.  RIC 1256: TRP XXVIII.   RIC 1003:  Obv. legend is M only, no IMP.  Legend is un-broken over head. 

 

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As I have said many times Collecting sestertii is not for the faint hearted. The problem is of course tooling is extremely bad and when I examined thos coin with @Romancollector I had to concur that the coin was tooled. This is very unfortunate as the coin was actually reasonably high grade and really did not gain much from it. However our conversation did shift to one of my coins purchased from the same vendor. Here it is 

Antoninus Pius as  Divus  Ae Sestertius After 161 AD Obv Head right bare Rv Pyre of four tiers  RIC 1266 26.60 grms 33 mm Photo by W. Hansen

piuss15.jpg.57f2f3897f8e6381e1763202ce0a1f0f.jpg

So far so good. However he did point out this picture taken from the NAC Auction back in 2020

ex-hess-leu-1968-6049060.jpg.995f92e0d11216850a302a9b7a658ff3.jpg

 

 

You will note the differences

piuss15.jpg.4ba837e065b6a7e69e5bb26cf523e154.jpg

My coin appears to have rather more detail in the hair Some verdigris is missing on the reverse

466142000_ex-hess-leu-1968-6049060-Copy1.jpg.6cfbe6e5a76852d58723fe35fc2f6a3f.jpg

 

The NAC coin not so much However I did note two things. 1. The description on the NAC coin  describes a Very dark Green coin. Thus the picture  was taken with a lot of light. 2. My details labled 1 2 and 3 were very shallow and at certain angles almost disappear. However i did have a couple of aces. At the time I knew of two auction references a Hess Leu Sale in 1968 and a Vinchon Sale in 1965 Both of these auctions can be found on the RNumis site A site which I cannot recommend enough. Okay so I checked both auctions

  1102004189_download(11)-Copy.png.dabd9e1a5c39bdf951a3889778a22feb.png

 

The Hess Leu Auction does show my line 2 much more clearly than what can be seen on the NAC photo. However Line 1 is indistinct whereas Line 3 I can kind of see it but......

1071509371_download(13)-Copy.png.c0b7244bfa33896bbbd92560836a85f9.png

The Vinchon Auction shows Line ! somewhat more clearly than in the Hess Leu pic as well as Line 2 Again I can sort of see 3 but again..... So what have we learned. 

1. Looks like I may have dodged a bullet.

2. See first comment Yes sestertii are not for the faint hearted.

3. When examining the coin from photographs try to find as many as possible  and analyze each image with extreme care. If pedigrees are given check those photos carefully as well.  read the descriptions. If possible ask the vendor for more info.

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10 hours ago, kapphnwn said:

As I have said many times Collecting sestertii is not for the faint hearted. The problem is of course tooling is extremely bad and when I examined thos coin with @Romancollector I had to concur that the coin was tooled. This is very unfortunate as the coin was actually reasonably high grade and really did not gain much from it. However our conversation did shift to one of my coins purchased from the same vendor. Here it is 

Antoninus Pius as  Divus  Ae Sestertius After 161 AD Obv Head right bare Rv Pyre of four tiers  RIC 1266 26.60 grms 33 mm Photo by W. Hansen

piuss15.jpg.57f2f3897f8e6381e1763202ce0a1f0f.jpg

So far so good. However he did point out this picture taken from the NAC Auction back in 2020

ex-hess-leu-1968-6049060.jpg.995f92e0d11216850a302a9b7a658ff3.jpg

 

 

You will note the differences

piuss15.jpg.4ba837e065b6a7e69e5bb26cf523e154.jpg

My coin appears to have rather more detail in the hair Some verdigris is missing on the reverse

466142000_ex-hess-leu-1968-6049060-Copy1.jpg.6cfbe6e5a76852d58723fe35fc2f6a3f.jpg

 

The NAC coin not so much However I did note two things. 1. The description on the NAC coin  describes a Very dark Green coin. Thus the picture  was taken with a lot of light. 2. My details labled 1 2 and 3 were very shallow and at certain angles almost disappear. However i did have a couple of aces. At the time I knew of two auction references a Hess Leu Sale in 1968 and a Vinchon Sale in 1965 Both of these auctions can be found on the RNumis site A site which I cannot recommend enough. Okay so I checked both auctions

  1102004189_download(11)-Copy.png.dabd9e1a5c39bdf951a3889778a22feb.png

 

The Hess Leu Auction does show my line 2 much more clearly than what can be seen on the NAC photo. However Line 1 is indistinct whereas Line 3 I can kind of see it but......

1071509371_download(13)-Copy.png.c0b7244bfa33896bbbd92560836a85f9.png

The Vinchon Auction shows Line ! somewhat more clearly than in the Hess Leu pic as well as Line 2 Again I can sort of see 3 but again..... So what have we learned. 

1. Looks like I may have dodged a bullet.

2. See first comment Yes sestertii are not for the faint hearted.

3. When examining the coin from photographs try to find as many as possible  and analyze each image with extreme care. If pedigrees are given check those photos carefully as well.  read the descriptions. If possible ask the vendor for more info.


Antoninus’ cheek is “pimply” in the dealer’s photos.

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I'd also be curious about how the delineation between the arches and the roof(?) on the reverse suddenly became so much better:

image.jpeg.234587612ad72cd83f46d27ba68d3afa.jpeg

Ultimately the coin needs to be inspected in-hand by an expert but personally I see no reasonable interpretation under which this coin wasn't "worked."

 

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In response to @idesofmarch01 I have looked at my coin and compared the reverse of my coin with the images from the three auctions that i have noted above. On the whole I can see evidence of everything being there except for these two spots which I have circled in red  below .

7016279.jpg.42554995b70a882ad4b19f8c786baf71.jpg 

I can see  some light brown  accretion  in the fields to the left of the pyre and some within the circled areas of the pyre. I cannot be certain however that this accretion would be thick enough to cover the detail beneath. Thus there is a possibility that these two areas have been strengthened (tooled). 

Edited by kapphnwn
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Beware of one aspect when comparing modern photos with old catalogue entries. In these older days photos were made from plaster casts, very often lacking or hiding details. 
But evidence is overwhelming in this case.

regards

Klaus

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