Today's featured coin is a forgery of an Indo-Greek silver drachm that I acquired (as supposedly genuine) recently from a source in Pakistan. As prices of Indian coins have risen
considerably in recent years, the problem of forgeries is becoming more acute. I feature this coin in the hope that it can help collectors identify (and stay away from!) similar
The coin purports to be a silver drachm of the Indo-Greek king Philoxenus. You can see a genuine coin of this type here.
On the face of it, and based on the photos I saw when evaluating the coin, the coin looks excellent. The style is absolutely correct and the condition looked good. Once I got the
coin in hand, though, the slight roughness of the surface and the uniform blackish patina got me worried. The patina especially looked artificial, as if some chemical had been
rubbed on an otherwise silvery surface to give it the appearance of age. Look at the enlargement of the photo and you will see what I mean. Given my doubts, I looked at the
edges of the coin, and this confirmed my suspicions. The edges showed parallel grooves all over ... the tell-tale marks of a modern file having been used to "smooth" the edges.
A couple of the edges also showed "ridges" ... the center of the edge was slightly higher than the rest ... proof that the coin had been cast. When a coin is cast, molten metal
is poured between two moulds that are held tightly together. A small "rim" is left in between the two moulds along the edge and this needs to be filed away to hide the fact that
the coin has been cast. The makers of this fake didn't get rid of this "rim" entirely. You can see the detailed images of the edges of the fake coin
here and the edges of the genuine coin
here. The photos make the differences quite clear.
This type of forgery (a cast copy made from an original coin) is different from other types of forgeries where the forger takes a genuine coin and then carves on it to
create something "enhanced" or entirely new. I wrote a paper on that kind of forgery which was published in the Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society, No. 204 (Summer 2010)
and those who are interested can read my draft here. Curiously, on the day I was writing this, I discovered that coin (b) in
Figure 6 of my paper, supposedly a bronze coin of the Kushan king Kanishka with a standing Buddha reverse, was being offered for sale in a German auction and it apparently
sold for 100 euros on a single bid. This was a sure sign that all but one potential bidder understood the coin to be a fake; if genuine, the coin would be worth around $750 or so.
More genuine coins of Philoxenus can be seen on the Philoxenus page.
A Note on Image Sizes: On the web, it is impossible to present coin images in their actual sizes, the way they can be in print. Throughout the CoinIndia website,
however, an attempt has been made to present the coins in sizes proportional to one another. Thus a coin that has twice the diameter as another coin will be shown as
double in size (with the exception of the image on this page, which is always shown at this fixed size, no matter what the size of the original coin was). Wherever possible, the actual
diameter (for round coins) or dimensions (for rectangular or oddly-shaped coins) is provided. Of course, enlargements of each coin are available by clicking on the images.