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Vol 04 No. 12 December 1990

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About This File

We found a recent series of articles (featured in another numismatic publication) by Turkish journalist Ozgen Acarto be rather entertaining. Hopefully, some of you missed them. Entertaining - because having lived in Turkey for better than two years we could easily conjure up a vision of little old forgers feeding coins to roosters. Worth missing - because the articles presented a ludicrous scenario which accomplished little more than to foster an irrational fear among neophyte collectors.

The production of "tourist quality" replicas is a thriving cottage industry in Turkey and has been for many generations. Only last month, having spent more thana few hours wandering through Turkish bazaars, we saw plenty of examples. The fakes seemed at times to outnumber the tourists, as many Westerners apparently felt that even Istanbul was a little too far east at the moment.

Acar's suggestion that these fakes are so good that even the "experts" are fooled is the ludicrous part of the whole episode. There have certainly been forgeries which fooled the specialists for some time, and there are probably some forgeries passing for real in important collections today. If great master paintings, Greek bronze sculpture. and Ming Dynasty ceramics can be forged successfully, it is only rational to assume that the same can be done with ancient coins.

Successful forgery takes time, skill and money. The end result obviously must justify the forger's investment and fortunately, for this reason, good forgeries are as rare as the pieces they imitate.

To suggest that the ancient coin market is full of mass-produced forgeries and that they flow undetected into Western markets - is certainly inaccurate, if not malicious. It is hard to imagine that this series of articles, which portrayed the Turkish forger as a poor victim catering to Western greed in order to eak out a living for his impoverished family, could have been published with a straight face three or four years ago. The set-up for this article's perceived credibility is to be found in the bizarre controversy surrounding the infamous Black Sea Hoard. If the "experts" disagree about the Black Sea Hoard's authenticity, how could they be so certain about detecting these Turkish forgeries?

First, we should not overstate the supposed Black Sea Hoard controversy. The numismatic community was not nearly so divided on the hoard issue as press accounts would imply. Secondly, the nature of the coins involved differs significantly. The Black Sea Hoard, whether genuine, fake or ancient fake, represents original art and reflects the talent of a particular Celator. The question is essentially one of dating the period of the work. The Turkish fakes mentioned in the Acar articles, which are made primarily for tourists, are simply reproductions of earlier originals. Reproduction is the least expensive and easiest method of forgery to employ and consequently, the easiest to detect.

Without belaboring the point, we hope that our readers are not misled into believing that there is a greater danger than really exists. As always, we recommend buying from dealers who have proven reliable and provide an unlimited guarantee of authenticity with each purchase. The next step in easing one's mind about the authenticity of individual pieces is education. Since there are few "schools" teaching this subject, we are largely dependent upon our own ability, and the ability of our compatriots to read the available literature, understand the process of minting, and analyze the objects before us.

We are presenting, in this issue, an article about fakes and forgeries by Dennis Kroh, a recognized expert in this field. The article is a summary of Mr. Kroh's lecture which was presented this past summer at the American Numismatic Association annual convention in Seattle. For greater detail about specific coins, the author has included a short bibliography. Societies such as the American Numismatic Society in New York, and the Royal Numismatic Society in London, as well as the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs, maintain excellent libraries which cover the subject in greater depth.

We received a letter this month from a reader who reminded us of our responsibility to confront the issues important to our hobby. We totally agree, however. we choose to accomplish this task through education and rational dialogue rather than sensationalizing and banner waving. We try to be timely, but seldom deal with "breaking news" or investigative journalism.

We hope all of you enjoy a very happy holiday season. Snow has already visited us here in the north land, and it feels like fireplace time. Thank you to our many friends and contributors who have helped make this a successful year. you are the ones that make it all happen. We close out our fourth year with this issue and look forward to year five - a milestone of some significance in this business!

Please keep the channel of communication open by taking just a moment to share your point of view!




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