"The early eighteenth century saw an
exceptionally active international trade in ancient
coins and antiquities and the formation of a
number of significant collections assembled by
aristocratic amateurs, scholarly gentlemen and
cunning dealers throughout Europe. The centre
of the antiquities trade was Rome, teeming with
dealers who purchased the many coins, gems
and other objects found daily in excavations in
the city or in the fields of the Roman campagna.
In turn, the dealers sold to the local Roman
aristocracy, to learned collectors and to the many
visitors to the Eternal City on the Grand Tour.
There were also forgers in Rome, skilful
craftsmen who worked with less than scrupulous
dealers to sell their copies of ancient coins as
genuine to unsuspecting collectors."
- Jeffrey Spier and Jonathan Kagan, “Sir Charles
Frederick and the Forgery of Ancient Coins in
18th Century Rome”
References to the forgery of ancient coins are
first recorded as early as the mid-16th century.
Over the next several centuries, this nefarious
trade expanded to meet the rising demand for
antiquities. Forgeries existed both to prey upon
naïve travelers as well as to meet the demand of
connoisseurs seeking out especially rare or
unique specimens. The forgers themselves
typically had a background in metallurgy,
jewelry, or occasionally legitimate medals and
coin fabrication. The techniques of the forger
were varied. Sometimes authentic coins were
doctored to appear to be much more valuable
examples. In other cases, dies were created from
ancient examples, allowing the forger to mint
multiple copies. There also exist so-called
fantasy fakes, those coins that imitate the
general style of ancient coins, but to which no
specific original reference can be attributed.
Forger’s coin dies such as this are a fascinating
and often overlooked aspect of numismatics.
After all, some schools of fakes have become
collectable in their own right, and coins of the
most famous forgers, such as Giovanni Cavino,
have themselves been forged by later