Ancient Coins: How To Tell Real From Fake

Posted on: 14 December 2016


When you  want to invest in all of the ancient coins for sale that you see, you should know that there are some pretty good counterfeit coins out there. In fact, learning how to smelt, shape, stamp, and carve metal is as simple as taking a class at a vocational college. That said, here is how to tell true ancient coins from fakes so that you buy only the real ones.

Uniform Shape vs. Imperfections

Ancient coins were often forged in blacksmith flames. They were hammered into shape and/or poured into individual molds. That means that there are numerous inconsistencies in size and shape. A fake coin will be too perfect in size, too perfect in shape and its edges will be too uniform. With true ancient coins, you want to see those imperfections because the imperfections are signature marks of the smithy- and hand-forged coin. No two ancient coins forged this way will be exactly alike either, so if a coin dealer has duplicates for sale, even if it is a single duplicate, ask to see it. If the coins are exact copies, the coin dealer has been swindled and is unwittingly (or worse, knowingly) trying to sell you one of the coins.

Metal Type

Depending on what era the ancient coins are supposed to be from, the coins should have a specific composition. Bronze era coins will have some measure of bronze or copper mixed in, which gives them that old green patina. When steel became king, coins had a touch of steel in them. Even if most of the coin was primarily gold or silver, it may contain a lesser metal because gold was very soft and too pliable as a coin. Silver was not much better. You can use a metal testing kit to verify the metal types in the coins, which will greatly reduce the chances of investing in fraudulent coins. 

Stamping vs. Engraving

Stamping coins was cheaper and easier to achieve during the forging process in ancient times. As such the stamping often occurred when the coins were past the liquid stage but not so cooled that they could not be imprinted. Engraving coins was not often used because it was very difficult and time-consuming, at least until there were machines that could engrave the coins. As such, true ancient coins will not only have stamping on them, but the stamping may be off-center or not quite perfect. Look for stamped coins and avoid anything that looks engraved (unless you know which coins were actually engraved during certain eras).

For more information, contact local experts on ancient coins, such as Harlan J. Berk, LTD.