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When Is A Diobol Not A Diobol?

 
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Author Previous TopicReplies: 8 / Views: 410Next Topic  
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 Posted 01/28/2022  9:42 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Another oddity. This small coin from Pergamon in Mysia caught my eye. It is ostensibly a diobol, with Herakles (off centre) on the obverse and the facing statue of Pallas Athena on the reverse. However it is bronze instead of silver. There was a similar bronze coin sold in the Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. Auction 333, Lot 111, on 3rd March 2020.

Could it have been a mistake, and struck on a bronze flan instead of a silver one, or could it have been a test for a contemporary forgery? If a forgery, the die maker did an excellent job, but would it not have been easier to test it with something soft like lead, instead of bronze?

Mysia, Pergamon. AE strike of silver diobol. Herakles / Palladion. 310-284 BC.
Obverse: Head of Herakles right, wearing lionskin headdress. Reverse: Palladion: facing statue of Pallas Athena, brandishing spear in right hand and in left shield with hanging fillet, calathos on head, drapery hanging from each arm. Reverse Inscription: ΠΕΡΓΑΜΗ. Bronze. Diameter: 11 mm. Weight: 1.3 gr.
Reference: BMC 9-10 var; Klein 278; SNG France 1562.
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 Posted 01/29/2022  08:21 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
"Wrong planchet errors" basically do not happen with ancient coins. They happen with modern coins because the modern coin minting process is highly automated, with very little human oversight. Ancient coins were made by hand; someone physically placed a blob of metal in the forge, heated it up to soften it (if needed), took it out, and placed it on an anvil in which the obverse die was wedged. A second person placed the reverse die on top of the blank, while a third guy with a big hammer smashed the whole assembly together; the second guy then picked up the newly minted coin and put it in the pile of other freshly minted coins. All of which was overseen by a mint official whose job (and life) was on the line if his workers started making bogus coins.

One of those people would have spotted a "wrong planchet". Especially that first guy at the forge, because bronze planchets needed softening (because bronze is a much harder metal); silver and gold did not. Treating a bronze planchet as if it were silver, would not result in a well-struck coin.

Rather than a "test forgery", it could be an actual forgery, that was originally silver-washed to make it look more realistic. The silver wash would then have worn away and/or fallen off due to corrosion. Or perhaps it was mercury-washed, in which case the mercury simply evaporated away after a few months.

Remember, a counterfeit coin only needs to fool one person, once, and it's mission accomplished. The counterfeiter neither knows nor cares what their coins look like after that first person accepts it, they certainly didn't care what they looked like in 2300 years time.
Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise, you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. - C. S. Lewis
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 Posted 01/29/2022  08:54 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nice mystery. I too suspect it's the work of ancient counterfeiters, but emergency currency and a base metal test of newly worked dies (prior to striking in silver) are possibilities. I've read (in The Celator) about bronze tests for silver issues at some ancient mints, but I don't know if the theory is on solid ground.
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 Posted 01/29/2022  09:01 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add january1may to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Rather than a "test forgery", it could be an actual forgery


One alternate option I've heard of for medieval times is "off-metal strike as a way to make a different denomination without having to make new dies". How plausible is that for ancient times I don't know.

Are those specific dies attested from silver diobols? If yes, it's probably not a forgery.
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 Posted 01/29/2022  3:39 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add bennycunha97 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Highly interesting! I will be checking back on the topic to read more opinions of people more knowledgeable than myself!


Quote:
Remember, a counterfeit coin only needs to fool one person, once, and it's mission accomplished. The counterfeiter neither knows nor cares what their coins look like after that first person accepts it, they certainly didn't care what they looked like in 2300 years time.

I had never thought of it like this, and now I will look differently towards "bad fakes" that may have just turned bad with time and maybe managed to fool the person they were intended to fool!

Benny
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 Posted 01/30/2022  12:17 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add hokiefan_82 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Remember, a counterfeit coin only needs to fool one person, once, and it's mission accomplished.

Very well said, @Sap.

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 Posted 01/31/2022  1:05 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Remember, a counterfeit coin only needs to fool one person, once, and it's mission accomplished.

That is so true, @Sap, and whoever struck this coin knew exactly what they were doing. As you say, it was a physical process and nobody could mistake a bronze planchet for silver.

Quote:
I've read (in The Celator) about bronze tests for silver issues at some ancient mints, but I don't know if the theory is on solid ground.

I had read something similar, Bob. That's what got me wondering, but there was no physical or written evidence to back it up. There doesn't appear to be many of these "bronze diobols" in existence, and the coin sold in the Fritz Rudolf Künker auction was struck from different dies.

Quote:
Are those specific dies attested from silver diobols? If yes, it's probably not a forgery.

I have no knowledge of that at present, @january1may, but that could be the clincher.

The dies for both coins appear to be well crafted by a skilled die maker. What I don't understand is, why would a forger go through such a process, counterfeiting 11 mm diameter coins that would not have been of great value, when he could have put his talents to something much more worthwhile?
Edited by Novicius
01/31/2022 1:06 pm
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 Posted 01/31/2022  5:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
What I don't understand is, why would a forger go through such a process, counterfeiting 11 mm diameter coins that would not have been of great value, when he could have put his talents to something much more worthwhile?

In 1950s America, why did Henning make fake nickels, when he could have used his skills to make fake half-dollars, or even banknotes? Answer: people look closer at half-dollars and banknotes, because they have higher face value. Henning had already served time in prison for counterfeiting $5 notes, he had been caught fairly quickly. But he reckoned that nobody scrutinizes nickels too closely, even back then, because a nickel wasn't all that valuable.

I suspect the same here. If you made fake diobols and used them one at a time for (relatively) small purchases, the merchant isn't likely to question the coin or check it on a balance. "Small" being relative; a diobol would still buy enough food to feed your whole family for a day or two.
Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise, you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. - C. S. Lewis
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 Posted 01/31/2022  8:06 pm  Show Profile   Check louisvillekyshop's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add louisvillekyshop to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Here is a Bronze coin of mine I have not parted with that should be silver. Tempted to waste the money and send it to NGC for a slab. Patterned after a silver diobol like the ID below but this is 2.02 grams (14.5 mm) so I don't know what to think.

(Macedonian Kingdom. Time of Philip V-Perseus. Ca. 221-168 B.C. diobol Pella or Amphipolis, ca. 187-184 B.C. MA-KE, club on central boss of Macedonian shield / Macedonian helmet with cheek guards left; in left field, two monograms; in right field, monogram and caduceus. SNG Ashmolean -; AMNG III p.)





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