Thursday, March 06, 2008

Counterfeit Studios and Their Coins by Ilya Prokopov

Counterfeit Studios and Their Coins by Ilya Prokopov and Ruman Manov
Published in 2005, in Bulgaria, text in English. $20 + $8 shipping from the publisher SP-P. Some coin dealers stock it.

CS&TS is highly recommended.

The book is 88 pages long and covers:

55 Greek coins (2 electrum, 2 gold, 40 silver, 4 more 'low quality', 7 more suspect silver and a suspect fourree)
2 Roman Republican
44 Roman (6 gold, 8 AE, 9 silver, 12 more silver, 5 more AE, 2 more silver, a gold, and a billon copy of a gold, one more suspect)
3 Roman Provincial

Besides the catalog of fakes there is a good short introduction to types of counterfeits, seven pages on diagnostics, and seven pages on the technical characteristics of seven forgery 'studios' producing fakes.

The chapter on diagnostics is appreciated. Prokopov discusses what to look for when examining surfaces with the microscope or magnifier and a bit about learning to detect fakes by feeling them. He even discusses smell!

The diagnostics chapter is a good start but doesn't make the reader an expert. This kind of material can't be learned from books. For example, Prokopov suggests touching genuine coins and learning the 'very specific odour' they give off. It is probably good that he doesn't try to name or describe the odor! Wine experts try to describe the smell of fine wines and even though they've had centuries to develop specialized vocabulary their wine descriptions aren't helpful to beginners. Numismatists shouldn't imitiate wine writers or encourage readers to become overconfident.

The chapter on forgery studios discusses the striking technique and patinas of their fakes. Expect technical detail here as little is known (or can be revealed?) about the forgers themselves. The studios are merely identified by the name of their city or region.

The photographs are good, printed well on glossy paper, and there are blowups of some coins at the end.

What I found annoying about the book is the organization. The first section of coins discusses the good fakes. Next come the low-quality fakes from Ruman Manov's collection. The final section is suspected fakes.

Within each section the organization is good--Greek geographically then Roman chronologically. The problem is the three main categories. That ordering works well when reading. When using the book as a reference against specific fakes it is difficult to remember if a particular fake type was one of the low-quality fakes of Manov, or is only strongly suspected of being fake, or is in another similar volume by Prokopov! I crave an index to the series.

This book is a great bargain at $28 if it warns you away from a single fake. Highly recommended.

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