Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fictional bridges on Euro banknotes constructed in the Netherlands

“'The European Bank didn't want to use real bridges so I thought it would be funny to claim the bridges and make them real,' [Dutch designer Robin Stam] told Dezeen.”

(via Marginal Revolution)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

3D coin scans using focus stacking

On, DVCollector shows a 3D scan of an Athenian tetradrachm. He took 56 pictures of the coin, each with a different focus, and used Helicon software to produce an image in extreme focus as well as 3D animation. Impressive!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Counterfeit 25 peso coin lab in the Dominican Republic

According to Dominican Today (no byline),
... Police ... dismantled an underground laboratory being used for forging 25 peso coins, following a raid on a house in the Sabana Perdida neighborhood of Santo Domingo North.


According to the police report, three machines used for manufacturing false 25 peso coins were seized during the operation, along with two engines, a drying oven and dozens of coins ready for processing.


In recent weeks traders and motorbike taxi divers in the area of La Caleta, Boca Chica have complained of being cheated by customers paying them for products and services with fake 25 peso coins.

The coins have a face value equivalent to 57 cents. Web site commentators suggest the counterfeiting story is unlikely. I disagree, given the large numbers of counterfeit UK pounds.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Unusual coin denomination: the spesmilo

I had been previously unfamiliar with the Spesmilo symbol. It apparently was only used on a single 'coin', a 1912 fantasy issue of the Esperanto congress. (The NGC web site lists examples in MS60 and XF40). According to Wikipedia the coin was used before the first world war by a few British and Swiss banks

Unicode has assigned the symbol U+20B7 SPESMILO SIGN.

The denomination was planned to equal 0.8g of 22k gold, or about 1/2 a US dollar, 2 shillings in Britain, or one Russian Ruble. It was supposed to be worth 1000 spesmiloj. The denomination is obsolete: Esperanto fantasies struck after 1945 are based on the imaginary Stelo system, not the Spesmilo.

On the Mac if I try to enter the Spesmilo sign I do NOT see the expected Sm abbreviation. Instead I see a P with a line through it. I have pasted it here: ₷. I have no idea what you will see. It is supposed to look like this:

The P with a line through it is the new currency symbol for the Russian Ruble. Microsoft has apparently rolled out support for the new Symbol in Windows. The Mac, at least mine running 10.8.5, has placed that glyph at the code point for the Spesmilo sign ... a denomination equal to one ruble.

Counterfeit US currency by MrMouse sold online

According to a blog post by Brian Krebs, a counterfeiter (or middleman) who goes by the alias MrMouse is selling high quality US notes at 45% of face value, payable in BitCoin.

MrMouse says his single-ply bills do not have magnetic ink, and so they won’t pass machines designed to look for the presence of this feature. However, this fraudster claims his $100 bill includes most of the other security features that store clerks and cashiers will look for to detect funny money, including the watermark, the pen test, and the security strip.

In addition, MrMouse says his notes include “microprinting,” tiny lettering that can only be seen under magnification (“USA 100″ is repeated within the number 100 in the lower left corner, and “The United States of America” appears as a line in the left lapel of Franklin’s coat). The sourdough vendor also claims his hundreds sport “color-shifting ink,” ...

I had no trouble finding the actual ads using search keywords mrmouse counterfeit.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

K Foundation Burn A Million Quid

Early in the morning of 23 August 1994, in an abandoned boathouse on the Scottish island of Jura, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty burned £1,000,000 pounds. It was the majority of the fortune they had earned in their brief career as pop stars (their band was The KLF).

This Saturday will be the 20th anniversary.

You can watch the burning on YouTube. There is also a television interview. A book on the burning, K Foundation Burn a Million Quid (1997) is available on Amazon for $10. AbeBooks has a copy of the book for £0.60.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Do the coins of Antiochos IV depict the Medusa Rondanini?

The Seleukid emperor Antiochos IV, who ruled from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC, gave the Athenians a golden aegis with the Gorgon upon it. Presumably Pausanias, who lived in the 2nd century AD, actually saw the aegis at the theater in Athens.

What did the golden aegis look like? Antiochos IV actually had some of his bronze and small silver coins minted in Antioch depicting an aegis, perhaps the very aegis that Pausanias would see three centuries later.

The most famous Medusa from ancient times is the Medusa Rondanini. The marble Rondanini sculpture is an important piece of Cultural Property in Italy, and has been depicted occasionally on their currency such as the 1948 1000 lire note.

Janer Danforth Belson has suggested the Medusa Rondanini is a copy of the aegis Antiochos IV gave the Athenians. Belson believes “Classicizing features for the gorgoneion would have been chosen intentionally as an artistic tribute to the sculptural stype of Pheidias and his chryselephantine creation.” Belforth says “… the gorgoneion shown on this coin has many of the same iconographic features of the Medusa Rondanini rather than the usual round faces of the ‘grotesque’ type.”

If Antiochos IV's coins depict the Rondinini (or it's original) as Edward Newell first suggested in 1918, then Antiochos IV's aegis coin reverse provides an important contemporary reference confirming Belson's theory. Does the coin match? (Scroll back and compare them). I would say not much. It is possible the Rondinini only copies the center gorgoneion of the Athenian's aegis. Unfortunately the bronze coins are not detailed enough to make a positive identification. Antiochos also issued small silver coins depicting an aegis, but they are so small the gorgoneion is only a few millimeters across.

An even rarer coin type of Antiochos IV's depicts a side-facing winged head usually described as Medusa. I wondered if it could possibly depict the same sculpture.

First I had to find a side-view of the Medusa Rondinini. I had a hard time! Nothing on the regular internet shows the Rondinini from the side. I finally found the side view in Adolf Furtwängler's 1895 book Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture. I have placed it beside an image of the coin from the 2009 catalog by Münzen & Medaillen of the Roland Müller collection. The coin is rotated and scaled to match Furtwängler's picture.

I believe there is quite a resemblance!

Arthur Houghton and Catherine Lorber suggest the side-facing Medusa coins were struck at Antiochos IV's mint in Mallos. They connect Medusa iconography with later tetradrachms of Mallos that depict Athena with an aegis draped over her shoulders and back. This is possible, but I prefer connecting Medusa iconography with the forward facing aegis struck at the Antioch mint.

And with the Medusa Rondinini.

Dave Surber (of Wildwinds) collection being auctioned Tuesday

Many of you use, a web site cataloging ancient coins built in 2000 by Dave Surber.

Dave Surber passed away suddenly five years ago. His collection is being auctioned on Tuesday by Agora Auctions. 46 Greek coins, 61 Roman Provincial, 133 Roman Imperial, 21 Byzantine and Medieval. 26 lots of books. 35 group lots.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Collectors' source for Zero Rupee Notes

Collectors may obtain Fifth Pillar's anti-corruption Zero Rupee Notes from Joel's Coins. As of this writing Joel's price is $2/note (but cheaper in quantity.)

The 50 Rupee note that the anti-corruption piece mimics has an exchange value of 83 US cents. Thus in single quantities and encased in plastic the anti-corruption note is worth more than what it mimics, at least to collectors.

Of course, you can always download and print your own notes. Because of this it will be difficult for collectors to distinguish the notes distributed by Fifth Pillar from ink-jet printed notes.

Although Fifth Pillar printed more than a million of these notes and has been distributing them for six years they have been scarcer than hen's teeth on the collectors' market. Fifth Pillar's concept of using imitation bills to discourage corruption has been widely reported. Stories appeared in The Economist (and here), CNN, the World Bank's blog, and NumisMaster. Fifth Pillar also made a video.

This note will be historically important. Collectors of paper money should consider obtaining an example.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Quarter deliveries, for laundry

The web site is offering “Quarters for laundry, delivered monthly”. Prices as low as $14.99 for $10 in quarters a month, with two day shipping.

A parody? Every laundromat I've used had a change machine. But I suspect the site is real.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Unicode 7 adds symbol for Azeri Manat symbol

We can now typeset the Azerbaijani currency symbol, the Azeri Manat, as it has been added to Unicode 7.0. reported that the symbol gained wide use in 2012, appearing on advertisements and markets in Azerbaijan. The code is U+20BC. If your browser, OS, and font support it you will see the symbol here: ₼

(On my browser (FireFox, Mac OS X 10.8) I see the new Ruble character, and not the M-like manat symbol.)

Older websites, such as Currency Symbols, describe the currency using the Cyrillic abreviation ман. The full list of Unicode currency symbols can be obtained from

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hungarian central bank shreds old notes for heating

Hungarian central bank shreds old notes for heating (2012)

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Greek die deteriorates

For many years I suspected the animated coins above were modern forgeries. The first die in the animation looks very strange. There are dots within the snakes surrounding Medusa, a very unusual feature. The first die shows blunders, such as two dots on the tongue. The snakes near the cheek have poorly made circles.

The reverse die has some unusual features. It appears octagonal rather than the typical round or square. The shackle above the anchor seems to float above it. There are weird scratches on it.

For years I gathered images from this coin and die-linked coins, hoping to prove it was fake. I was even working on an essay explaining my reasoning. Some of the die-linked coins have strange die re-engravings and post-strike damage.

I now think it is genuine. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Checking die matches with Gimp

Recently I tried to compare the dies between an XF specimen and a damaged one. I mistakenly thought both dies matched, but actually only the obverses seem to match.

Let me explain how I use Gimp software to compare dies in the difficult cases.

First we need two coin images that are exactly the same size and rotation.

I use Gimp on the Mac. After opening the image I use the Measure Tool to check the number of pixels and the angle between two things. For example I will use the tips of the anchor.

If the angles I wrong I use the Rotate Tool to get the coin into a close orientation. Instead of eyeballing it I type in the difference in angles into the Rotate Tool's dialog box.

Then I use Image->Scale Image… to get the two images exactly equal in size. I haven't found an easy way to do this with Gimp; I use Gimp's percentage scaling and cross-multiplication. For example if one image has 330 pixels between two points, and other has 300 pixels I will do 330*100/300 to get the percentage.

Then I use Image->Canvas Size to increase one image. Next I select the other image, and Copy, and select the image with the large canvas, and Edit->Paste as New Layer. The New Layer part is very important. I get an image like this:

Then I go to the Layer, Channels, Paths, Undo window, and change the Mode from Normal to one of the merging ones, like "Grain merge."

If you aren't in the Rectangle Tool at this point enter it by clicking R on the keyboard. Then using the arrow keys walk the layer around until it is positioned precisely.

Then Save As. Choose a filename ending in .gif. Tell it to save the layers as animation with 1000ms between transitions.
Oops. Not a match. I had looked at undamaged places which were very close.
A match. Note especially all the snakes line up.

Hopefully you can see the obverses match and the reverses don't.

It is somewhat tricky with the obverses, because of the damage and the camera angle.

Photoshop software also has this ability, although I don't know the precise commands to work with layers in Photoshop.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Let's not forget to comment on the ancient Egyptian coins for the proposed MOU

Last week Peter Tompa suggested we should comment on a proposed emergency restrictions on the import of ancient Egyptian coins being considered by the US State Department.

I don't have much to say about Egyptian coins. I have three in my collection. I don't see a sudden surge of them in dealer inventories; but I haven't really looked.

These US-only MOUs are annoying. An example of my frustration: the picture below shows two ancient coins struck for the Greek city-state of Apollonia Pontika circa 400 BC. Around 630 AD the area was conquered by Bulgarians. The US signed a Memorandum creating import restrictions on material of Bulgarian origin in January, 2014.

What's unusual about the coins below is that the first is broken and has bits flaking off. It was sold openly on eBay Germany by a well-known long-time ancient coin dealer as a 'fourree', or silver-plated ancient counterfeit, in 2012. Yet the second coin seems to be struck properly in solid silver. It was also offered openly in an online German auction, but in March 2014, and without the paperwork to get the coin into the United States. So I declined to bid.

It certainly would have been interesting to bring those two coins together. It shouldn't be possible for the same dies to create both a fourree and a silver coin… Perhaps the first is not a fourree, but merely crystallized? Luckily I own the former, and now I'm incredibly curious to figure out what it really is. Yet what I really want is to have a chance to rejoin it with it's brother; a chance I almost had, but missed. The US stopped letting collectors import coins from Apollonia Pontika two months before this coin was offered. I will continue looking for an example with more documentation, but it can be difficult to find matches at all, let alone well-documented ones.

Egyptian coins from the Greek, Roman, and early Islamic periods are collected in the United States, yet also in Europe and in Arabia. If the US were joining a coin export ban popularly supported in Egypt and being implemented in other collecting countries it would be reasonable to support implementing it here. Having the US Customs go it alone without multinational support seems likely to have no effect on world collector markets nor on Egyptian archeology.

Read Peter's piece and if you agree follow his instructions.

UPDATE: added image in response to comment 1

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

WESPNEX coin show in Westchester County, NY

Last week there was a coin show in Westchester County, NY. The Westchester Stamp Coin and Paper Money show.

Over 30 coin dealers attend. US coins, foreign coins, even ancient coins. It's in White Plains, not far from the Metro-North train station. Easy access from the NYC area. They hold it three or four times a year.

There is nothing about this show on the Internet. No web site, no Facebook page, no listing on

It's not a bad show, if you can find it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Digital Historia Numorum currently offline; need advice

I took my digital copy of Barclay Head's Historia Numorum offline.

I started getting email from my provider that my web site was using large amounts of transfer. I looked at my server's logs, and found hundreds of requests for a valid URL, followed by / and some other part of the web site, like this:

… 1000s more …

I suspect that what is happening is some Bot is downloading a page, seeing my relative URLs to elsewhere on the site (e.g. ../bmc/index.html"), but then throwing away the .. and miscalculating the link as /bmc/index.html. But on my site, anything after a valid filename.html returns the same filename. The Bot thinks it is spidering a giant site but as actually getting the same page over and over.

Anyone know how to get Apache to 404 requests for / ? I have been running this site for ten years. If I can't get it working I will move the whole site to Amazon S3, but I'd rather not take that step this month.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Patents related to ISIS coin authentication

A few weeks ago we linked to information on the Royal Mint's ISIS technology.

A recent thread on links to a patent on Metallic materials with embedded luminescent particles. The abstract:

Formation of an authentication element by deposition of a metal layer with embedded particles on a metal substrate, wherein the embedded particles are configured to convert energy from one wavelength to another. The embedded particles may be upconverters, downconverters, or phosphorescent phosphors, which can be detected and measured with analytical equipment when deposited in the metal layer. A metal substrate may include coinage.

Adam Davis writes

Essentially they are embedding inorganic fluorescent compounds into the metal plating on the coin. When a certain spectrum of light is shone on the coin, these particles absorb that energy and emit a different spectrum. So, depending on the particle they embed, the detector may be as simple as a UV LED and a light sensor at a specific wavelength.

By integrating different ratios of different particles they can differentiate between different coins, for instance.

Further, the patent explains that the plating process generally includes many layers of plating. They can add different mixes at each layer, and thus tell how well-used a coin is, by how many of the upper layers are removed. Aging the coin can be useful to determine when to take it out of circulation before these particles are entirely removed.

This technology can also be used in automotive parts, and technology equipment to defeat counterfeiting. For instance if you replace your iPhone screen with a counterfeit part, unless the counterfeiter goes to the trouble of matching the exact luminescent profile, Apple may be able to detect that you broke your phone's warranty, should Apple choose to use such technology to protect themselves from counterfeit products.

The technology doesn't include any sort of serial number or tracking component, so tracking coins through the system is unlikely, but perhaps other techniques they apply to the coins could be used for that purpose.

Although Mr. Davis doesn't think the coins could be tracked, imagining only measuring the ratios of different particles, it seems possible to scan the entire coin and compare it using a Scale Invarient Feature Transform. An encoding of the particles might be much larger than a serial number, but should easily fit in today's computers.

Friday, March 21, 2014

“This was like a moonshot for us”

Kyle VanHemert describes the US Mint's baseball commemorative for Wired Online.
“This was like a moonshot for us,” says Stephen C. Antonucci, manager of digital development for the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. “It stretched the bounds of everything we knew about coin development.”
Yes, there will be a half dollar. It will be clad.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Cisco AnyConnect was overwhelming my Mac

Recently my Mac's battery life fell to about an hour. I repaired the problem, but didn't see it reported on the web, so I will post it here so Google can find it.

The Activity Monitor app showed acwebsecagent and ReportCrash using about 15% of the CPU. The Console app showed the messages

3/8/14 10:36:22.543 AM acwebsecagent[1049]: Config : The service only loads an obfuscated configuration file
3/8/14 10:36:22.543 AM acwebsecagent[1049]: ERROR : Failed to load Configuration file
3/8/14 10:36:23.516 AM acvpnagent[75]: 'acwebsecagent' service process , pid 1049, terminated
3/8/14 10:36:25.579 AM ReportCrash[1024]: Saved crash report for acwebsecagent[1052] version ??? to /Library/Logs/DiagnosticReports/acwebsecagent_2014-03-08-103625_....crash

The problem seemed to come from Cisco AnyConnect.

The fix was

sudo /opt/cisco/anyconnect/bin/

I don't know why it worked!

Friday, March 07, 2014

iSIS aRMour

The Royal Mint (UK) has designed a new coin process said to make make forgery impossible.

2 minute video.

The technology, called iSIS, is apparently a special material that can be added to the aRMour technology that electroplates a 25 micron coating on coin blanks. No details on what the material is. A PDF nomination to the International Association of Currency Affairs I found online explained that there will be low speed 'simple iSIS' detectors at point-of-sale (in shops) as well as 'advanced iSIS' high speed detectors in banks.

The Royal Mint's iSIS page.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Seminar in Central Asian and Middle Eastern Numismatics this weekend

Readers might be interested in the Sixth Annual Seminar in Central Asian and Middle Eastern Numismatics at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY this weekend. Hempstead is on Long Island, about 25 miles East of Manhattan. There is a train to Hempstead, but it takes a long time, and I have never taken it. The drive isn't bad.

I went last year and it was great. Very advanced. If you have a chance, go.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Indian government officials seize hoard of 104 'pottu kasu'

Writing for The Times of India, Bosco Dominique tells us that Indian government officials seized a hoard of gold (?) 'pottu kasu' weighing roughly five sovereigns.

I am uncertain what pottu kasu is. Google translates it as 'spud benefits'. A Reddit commentator transliterates it as pattu kasu or padi kasulu and translates it as 'ten cents'. A sovereign weights 8g and these coins were 1/20 that so perhaps the coins are gold fanams.

The coins were discovered by accident by workers digging a septic tank. The report focuses not on the coins, but on how the finders attempted to divide and keep the coins.

Periyannan took the metal box and broke it in the presence of the farmer. To their surprise, they found small gold-like coins. They believed that someone might have buried the metal box with coins after performing rituals to ward off evil spirits. The farmer transferred the coins to a plastic container and kept it in his house. ...

The worker along with Kabilan and another person reached Murugan's house and demanded their share. Murugan came forward to hand over the entire treasure to them but the worker and others took only 43 coins ...

Meanwhile, Ramasamy's wife Anjalai reached Periyannan's house and created a ruckus when she learned that he had got a share of the coins while her husband had not. The news soon spread in the village and the villagers informed the police.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

$409,200,000 of Bitcoins stolen, Mt. Gox shuts down, one million people lose account balances

Cameron Keng writes for Forbes that the Mt. Gox web site has been hacked and shut down.

744,000 BitCoins, until recently worth over $400 million USD, were hacked. As far as I can tell there is no way to get the coins back. One million folks kept accounts, called 'wallets', on the site.

Bitcoins are trading now for US $490 (as of 9:15am), down from over $600 yesterday.

Who stole it? Well, there is a Bitcoin address that recently had BTC782,000 move through it. That address is now empty, but scroll down and see large BTC payments going all over.

Monday, February 24, 2014

150 coins siezed at Romanian coin show

Does anyone speak Romanian? I found an article (no byline?) suggesting
Police confiscated [at] a numismatic and philatelic market in Brasov 154 old coins, some dating from the second and first centuries BC, and others [from] the medieval period that would come from archaeological sites which were sold illegally at fair prices between 5 and 20 lei.
(Google translation to English)

5 lei is $1.50, I believe, and 20 lei is $6.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dealing with the small change shortage in modern Palestine

Writing for, Elior Levy reports on improvised replacements for the vanished half-shekel coins in occupied Gaza. Bus and taxi drivers either give change in candy, or round-up when traveling in one direction and round-down when traveling in the other. Although small change is still being minted,
Gazans have been running low on Israeli coin currency for a while, partly due to an Israeli-imposed ban on copper imports. The creative solution engineered by Gazans was to melt down change to create copper wire.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mithradates’ Amazon coin type

(CNG, auction 61, 2002, lot 245)

Pictured above is a very scarce bronze coin struck by Mithradates the Great. It is usually described as depicting an Amazon wearing a wolf's scalp. We know that Mithradates' die cutters liked to engrave the face of Mithradates into his coins. There are Alexander-style tetradrachms depicting Herakles with the features of Mithradates. There are also bronzes which seem to show Perseus with the features of Mithradates.

Is it possible that the "Amazon" coins depict not a generic Amazon, but the one most important to Mithradates, his wife Hypsicratea? It would be wonderful to have a coin with the features of this legendary Amazon queen.

Many of Mithradates’ types seem to illustrate the myth of Perseus. There are tetradrachms with Pegasos reverse, large bronzes of Athena head/Perseus, large Perseus/Pegasos bronzes, this aegis/Nike bronze, and a small bronze Perseus/harpa. Barclay Head explained in 1911 the significance of the types: “On these coins the supposed Persian descent of Mithradates is emphasized by the types relating to Perseus.” Mithradates’ other bronze types include Zeus (who fathered Perseus) and Dionysos (who fought Perseus).

Warwick Wroth speculated in 1889 that the female head in ‘wolf’s skin’ type issued by Mithradates represents Andromeda. Wroth suggested that the ‘wolf’s skin’, which Mionnet called goat’s skin and James Millingen called griffin’s skin, is the skin of the ketos slain by Perseus. Mithradates’ other types are identified as “Ares” (?), “Head in leather cap”, and “Artemis”. These mythological figures are all identified by style; there is no certainty that Ares and Artemis are the correct identification. Those coins could depict other characters from Perseus’ cycle and we would not know.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Unusual Amisos coin

This coin, with the inscription AMISOS in Greek, recently sold on eBay Germany for about 100 euros.

I don't think I've seen this type before. I didn't bid on it, as it isn't in my collecting area, but my mind keeps drifting back to it. The reverse seems to depict a bird, but it is not the usual eagle pose or the rare owl used by Mithradates VI.

The same seller also offered some of the typical Mithridates types of Amisos, but also the seldom seen Amazon/Nike and the almost never seen Artemis?/Owl types.

Any thoughts on who is pictured on the mystery coin? 24mm, 6.5g.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

739 fake coins found in Cairo

Reporting for Ahram Oline, Nevine El-Aref writes “The 739 supposedly Mameluke-era coins discovered in a Cairo apartment have been deemed unauthentic by an archeological committee from the Museum of Islamic Art.”

It is uncertain if the photo in Ahram Online depicts the coins themselves or is a stock photo. Perhaps a stock photo, because the Museum Director General says the coins depict Italian and European dukes of the Mamluk era (1250-1517 AD).

“A Libyan citizen accidentally found the coins hidden in a wall while carrying out routine maintenance on his Nasr City apartment.... [Mostafa] Khaled from the MIA asserted that the coins would be melt[ed] down so that they can't be used as fakes in the antiquities trading market.”

Saturday, February 01, 2014


Alfredo De La Fé is reporting that well-known Chicago coin dealer Harlan Berk is accepting Bitcoins as payment for coin auctions. According to the Berk website:
For Bitcoin Payments: Please make your order from our web site using the wire as payment option. After orders are received we will send out a request for Bitcoins through Coinbase.
I have decided I need some BTC and have created a wallet on Coinbase. Please click this button to donate 1/1000 of a BitCoin to me. Donate Bitcoins

(Currently 0.001 BTC is worth about 90 cents).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Agora Auctions

I want to call everyone's attention to a new auction site, Agora Auctions. They are already up to sale #4. I purchased a coin from sale #3 and it looks exactly like the picture. I have met the owners and they are good guys. The current auction closes on Tuesday.

Auction #4 has the usual good-quality Greek and Roman stuff but there is also some of the lesser-known stuff worth looking at. They have Parthian (including Bronze), Sasanian, and Kushan coins. I was surprised to see a Baktrian fourree. There is a nice run of medieval Islamic stuff.

For folks interested in replicas there are some Peter Rosa replicas of Greek coins in the British Museum including beautiful coins of Syracuse such as this tetradrachm, from Wayne Sayles' collection and illustrated in Classical Deception.

Don't skip the Group Lots! The auction isn't just dealer lots. The Roman Provincial brockage lot seems nice.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Museums clean ancient coins before putting them on display. Dealers and collectors often clean coins and many have their own favorite 'recipes' for cleaning.

A much bigger problem is the cleaning of paper money. The researchers Nabil Lawandy and Andrei Smuk claim that 150,000 tons worth of paper money, unfit for recirculation, are removed from circulation every year at a cost of $10,000,000,000. The researchers have developed a method using supercritical CO2 at 60°C and 5000 psi said to effectively clean both paper and polymer banknotes.

The researcher's paper is entitled Supercritical Fluid Cleaning of Banknotes.

(Hat tip: Marginal Revolution).

I don't collect paper money. Do collectors typically clean it? I have seen a YouTube video (from Suriname the former Dutch Guiana!) showing obsolete banknotes being cleaned in a bucket. Three minutes in the presenter admits he's never done it before!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fake $100 bill signed 'Moe Money'

Martha Waggoner, writing for the Raleigh News Observer, reports that a 19 year old college student was arrested after passing a counterfeit $100 bill. “The signature on the bottom corner of the bill read "Moe Money" instead of the name of the secretary of the treasury. Underneath the signature, the bill read 'Proprietor of the Counterfeiting.'” Police seized a deskjet printer and ink cartridge.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Imitative 'wolf and twins'

Usually I don't collect Roman coins but something really attracted me to this tiny AE 8mm when I saw it at the New York International show.

The seller described it as a "barbarous imitation" of Helena / Wolf and Twins.  (The portrait could also be Fausta.) I don't think there ever was an official Roman coin with that combination.  There weren't any Roman coins quite this small.

I have never looked into late Roman imitations before. I would have expected there to be a catalog of them, either the inventory of a museum or an illustrated auction catalog with thousands of these. Does no one collect them? I would be curious to know if there are other coins like this.  I looked online and found some imitative wolf and twins on Warren Esty's site but nothing else.

I can see why it would be hard to understand the issuing tribes, given that the coins have no labels.  With unlabeled Greek coins the approach is by findspot.  For example, I have read that in Turkey the museums are entitled to everything found in their region. These museums never buy or sell.  Scholars guess the mints based on the number of samples in museum inventories. Is anyone doing statistics like that for Roman imitations?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Same Die Used for Silver and Electrum

Classical Numismatic Group recently auctioned a mysterious silver drachm as lot 114 in their recent auction at the New York International. The catalog notes the drachm is struck from the same die as Rosen 311, which is made of electrum, and Dewing 1008 (silver).

Perhaps one day sufficient specimens will exist to do a die study. I wonder if the electrum coins were struck earlier, later, or at the same time as the silver coins.

Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to inspect the coin myself. The auction photo is clear. The style of the reverse on the electrum specimen in Nancy Waggoner's catalog of the Rosen collection shows a square with a rough pattern. That reverse looks nothing like the four-part reverse on the silver specimens.

It would be unfortunate if the Rosen coin is false, as I believe an electrum gorgon/incuse to be.

I had a great time last week at the New York International. I was glad to see familiar faces. Hope everyone is having a good 2014. Feel free to reply in the comments section on this coin or any other topic related to the show or the new year.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The earliest Greek coin depicting a gorgon?

Perhaps the earliest Greek coin type depicting a gorgon was a series of rare electrum staters. We don’t know when they were struck but the style of their reverse punches suggests they were probably created before Athens struck the silver Wappenmünzen series around 520 BC. Ingrid Krauskopf and Stefan-Christian Dahlinger date this coinage to 650-600 in their LIMC entry on gorgon iconography.

These early electrum gorgons are very rare. I have only been able to find mention of two staters and four or five of the 1/3 stater pieces. Liselotte Weidauer pointed out in 1975 that both the 1/3 staters (which depict a single gorgon) and the double gorgon staters come from the same obverse die. When striking the 1/3 staters, the blank was somehow held over one half of the die.

I wish I could inspect a cast of the stater. From the published photographs it is hard to understand the border design on the double gorgon. I also struggle to see how the the 1/3 staters could receive two punches of the reverse without slipping out of the much larger obverse die. I also can’t figure out what order the reverse punches were done on the stater. It looks like the long vertical punch was applied last, which is the opposite of what I had expected, but I just can’t tell from the pictures.

Weidauer and John Kroll believe the reverse punches resemble the “I am the badge of Phanes” electrum coins depicting a deer, and they suggest Ephesos as the most likely mint. The British Museum’s 1/3 stater was apparently found on Rhodes and George Hill suggested an origin in Southern Ionia. The double gorgoneion design is very unusual. I don’t know of any other Greek examples but a similar double depiction of the Egyptian god Bes can be seen on a Philistian drachm.