Friday, August 18, 2006

Panormus or Probus?

Here we have a fake coin from Roman sicily, taken from an eBay Germany private auction closing on Saturday. Coinarchives has a real specimen from a Nachfolger auction.

It's tough to get this coin without Medusa's face worn smooth, so if genuine this coin would be valuable. The presumably genuine Nachfolger example sold for 300 euros (plus buyers fee) in 2003.

The forger made an obvious mistake. Not realizing the obverse depicts Athena, the forger has given the head the features of the emperor Probus, including beard! The auction text says the coin depicts Cato! With spelling errors: "bearbed and elmated head of CATO".

The seller is also auctioning a coin of Iaetia with a similar reverse. It looks much better and would have fooled me. The Iaetia fake has the same triskeles legs as the Panormus, but the gorgoneion is at a different angle, suggesting some kind of partial hubbing.

A number of artistic works were involved in the making of this fake. It seems struck, so someone cut a die. Someone used the die to strike a coin. The striking probably wasn't creative, but choosing a color for the false patina probably was. Then someone took a picture of the fake wrote the phony description about Cato.

When I post a picture of this coin I might be infringing the copyright of those three people. Maybe I'm just engaging in "fair use." This seems unlikely, though, because I'm copying the entire artistic work, not just a portion of it.

Copyright law doesn't have an anti-fraud or anti-forgery exemption. I'm probably breaking the law by showing you this fake. What protects me is the unlikelyness of some shady characters in Germany wanting to draw more attention to their crimes by taking me to court demanding I pay them for use of their "artwork."

For my readers who think it is always immoral to use another's copyrighted image without permission, I apologize for this post. I've let you down. I should have asked the seller for permission to expose his fraud.

I could have merely linked to the eBay auction. However, eBay's picture will vanish soon after the auction closes and I wanted a public record of this fake beyond Saturday. There is another reason. You'll note I didn't link to the auction itself. This is because it is considered immoral by many collectors to directly expose eBay sellers to fraud accusations before the seller shows himself to be a repeat offender. I'd rather put up a copyrighted image than levy fraud accusations against a seller previously unknown to me.

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