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Hut one must on the other hand confess that the art of forgery has also made such progress that I shall not be at all surprised if the same should happen again, and if some specimens which to-day enjoy an undisputed fame and unquestioned authenticity, and are even regarded as the gems of a collection should in the course of time be recognised as most clever forgeries. We can see better than our ancestors, but the eyes of our descendants in their turn will be more acute than ours.
The patina on the bronze coins and the rim of all coins constitute the most important indications of authenticity.
The ancient patina is an oxidation which has eaten into the surface of the metal and which cannot be removed without sacrifying the metal itself, whilst modern patinas are always superficial. The genuine antique patina is always hard, brilliant and shining while in comparison the modern patina is rough, opaque and easily scratched.
The rim of ancient coins is never touched by the file but is simply the result of striking a piece of metal when hot between two dies under the blow of a hammer. In forgeries on the other hand the work of the file is often visible. Moreover the letters are another most important indication because it is always extremely difficult to copy the ancient letters, just as it is difficult to copy a handwriting, but naturally it is only a practised eye that can discern the new from the old, and it would be impossible to lay down any fixed rules.
39. Falsified coins. — The falsified coins are more dangerous that the forged. Some have been made up from two coins, as for example when a coin of Antoninus Pius and another of Faustina have Wen cut in half and the two Obverse sides joined together so as to make one coin with a head on each side. The join is usually not in the rim, where it would be too easily discovered, but within the legend. On the Reverse of one of the coins a hole was scooped out so as to make it like a little box, into which was fitted with wonderful accuracy the Obverse of the other coin cut round just above the legend. These specimens present a genuine and unexceptionable rim and two heads thoroughly genuine but on careful examination the circular join will be found on one of the sides. Other coins have been wrought with the graving tool so as to slightly change the features of the person represented and the legend has been altered accordingly.
Thus a coin of Gordianus III is altered to make one of Gordianus Africanus, or a coin of Volusianus is turned into one of JEmilianus and so on. The traces of the graving tool however skilfully handled always remain visible, chiefly in the letters and in the field which necessarily becomes slightly lowered by the retouching.
Recently a still more dangerous means of falsification has been introduced which consists in employing a genuine ancient coin, restriking it with another head and legend. Thus there have recently appeared in the Roman market very rare specimens in bronze of Annius Verus, Manlia Scantilla, Didia Clara, Britannicus, Quietus, Annia Faustina, and Plautilla, which have deceived even experienced buyers. They may be recognised by the field being too smooth, by the too sudden pressure of the two impressions of the dies, and lastly by the slight lack of metal which thus could not rise into the more deeply cut parts of the die, especially in the legends. And here I will stop so as not to dwell too long on this subject; it is sufficient for me to have put all new collectors on their guard against the wiles of the forgers or falsifiers of coins. Let these reflect from the first that one time or another they will be deceived as they must often contend with men who employ all their skill to deceive them, but whenever any one has been mistaken and has bought a false coin, instead of being discouraged and disgusted with collecting let him consider his little misfortunes as part of the price which every one must pay for experience and as so much knowledge gained for the future.
Let him also be consoled by the thought that at one time or another all great numismatists have been deceived and if it did not seem to me rather ungenerous and almost irreverent, I might record several examples of celebrated men who have thus " caught a crab "! Errare bumanum est: but errando discitur.
40. General rules. — It is absolutely impossible to give strict rules by which to recognise forged or falsified coins. Nothing but the experience of long practice confirmed by some mistakes, paid for in good money, can enable one to attain by degrees the eye of an expert, which without much reasoning recognises by intuition the authenticity or falseness of a coin. However, one should always bear in mind as a certain rule that rare coins ought not to differ in the least from common ones in their appearance. Many times on the other hand, or rather in most instances, the rare coins have a special appearance, a something indescribable in the metal, in the letters, in the patina. Placed among a thousand common coins they will be found to have something which distinguishes them. Why? Certainly not because they are rare but because they are false... One of the very best lessons we could have would be to examine a collection of false, and then another of authentic coins side by side. And with this view in cabinets formed for the purpose of study the section of false coins is of the greatest use.
By all means let young collectors be well on their guard, tor the snares are many, and in order to avoid them at the most dangerous time, that is to say at the commencement of their career, I believe the best advice I can give will be the following:
I". Until you have had some practice buy none but common coins so as to gain your experience in carpore vili;
2nd. Directly a very rare coin is presented to you assume it at once to be false and do not recede from this first judgment until all the arguments persuade you to change your opinion;
yd. While you are not yet sufficiently sure of your own judgment have no dealings with people of doubtful honesty...
And if even afterwards you continue to exert such self-control you will never repent.
HOW TO TAKE IMPRESSIONS, AND TO CLEAN COINS
41. It very often happens that one desires to take an impression of a coin for the sake of illustrating a publication or simply in order to send to a friend an exact representation, without exposing the coin itself to the risks of the post. It is a very simple matter to make such an impression — when one knows how to do it properly, and several times I have accidentally given a great deal of trouble to a friend by asking him to send me an impression, and have even then received one so badly made as to be altogether unserviceable. It is on account of such experiences that I have thought it not out of place to give here some simple and practical rules for making such impressions in various ways. It the subject is not in itself scientific it is nevertheless intimately connected with the science of coins as it provides a means of studying at a distance that which we cannot have in our own hands.
Impressions of coins may be made in several ways, each of which has its own special advantages according to the object for which each impression is intended, and according to the size and also the metal of the coins to be reproduced.
If one intends for example to send by letter a faithful reproduction of a coin merely to give the receiver an exact idea of it, an impression in thick paper will be sufficient. If on the other hand the impression is intended for reproduction by engraving or photography then it will be more convenient to employ a more solid material such as gesso or plaster of Paris.
42. Paper impressions. — Take a small rectangular piece of paper large enough when folded in two, length-ways, to form two squares capable of enclosing the coin which one wishes to reproduce. Take care to procure a strong and flexible kind of paper, by preference a hand-made paper like that with which bills of exchange are made. Having folded the paper, damp the inner surfaces, and place the coin therein, as in an envelope. Then first with the end of your finger, and afterwards with a little hard brush press and rub, holding the paper very firmly over the coin, until you sec the impression both of the Obverse and Reverse imprinted. In order to render it still more clearly visible pass some lead or coloured chalk lightly over it and then the impression will appear almost as clear as a photograph from the original.
43. Impressions in plaster. — When one wants not merely an impression to be sent by letter, but a fac-simile which may be reproduced by photography, typogravure, or some other modern system, the best means is that of a plaster cast.
Indeed in preparing illustrations this means is indispensable, first to give one the means of reproducing at the same time both the Obverse and Reverse of a coin (which cannot be done with the coin itself) and also for the uniformity of colour, when coins of gold, silver, and bronze, or coins ot different tints have to be placed on the same page or plate.
In order to make a positive reproduction in plaster one must necessarily begin by preparing a negative, that is to say a concave mould for the purpose of casting the convex fac-simile of the actual coin.
In making a good negative various systems may be adopted according to the size and relief of the coin. If the coin to be reproduced is as small as silver denarii or aurei the negative may be made with tin-foil, working it in the same way as the paper impressions, but in this case it will be convenient to take a piece of tinfoil of a size sufficient for only one side of the coin; so as to make the two sides separately. When the negative has been made, the plaster should be carefully prepared. Take the finest powdered Plaster of Paris you can procure, put it in a glass, and pour on it enough water to make it into a paste rather more liquid than solid. Then fill in the prepared negative with a little brush taking great care to fill up all the little hollows therein so as to make sure that no air bubbles are formed, and then with a small spoon fill up the space to a depth of about an eighth of an inch or rather more. After about ten minutes the plaster will he hardened and may then be taken off the impression.
44. Negatives of small coins may easily be obtained even with sealing wax, we must note however that although we thus run no danger of spoiling gold, it is very different in regard to silver coins whenever there is any slight oxidation on their surface, and it is dangerous to bronze coins generally, ior they many times leave a part of their surface adhering to the sealing wax, and so not only give an imperfect impression but at the same time are somewhat injured by the process.
45. For the treatment of medallions or of bronze coins in deep relief
it is better to use (Plastilina) Modelling plaster. With a little strip of cardboard or better still of tin, form a little hoop of the required diameter and about ^ of a inch deep, and fill it with plastilina, smooth the surface and slightly cover it and the bronze coin with fuller's weed or endwort to prevent the coin adhering. Then place the coin on the plastilina and press it, take up the whole with the thumbs supporting the coin, and with the other fingers gradually press the plastilina on the type so as to make it sink into all the depressions on the coin, and a perfect model will be obtained. Then turning the model over let the coin drop out and pour liquid plaster into the negative thus obtained just as in the cases of the tin foil or sealing wax negatives. This method of making negatives with plastilina is probably the most convenient and best and while it is indispensable for coins of large dimensions or of great relief it is perhaps preferable to the other ways mentioned for small coins also. Experience has taught me that it is most to be recommended in all cases.
46. Impressions may be made in many other ways and with other preparations, as for example with gelatine or with sulphur, but those described above are the most practical and may suffice to meet all the needs of the collectors. Book-knowledge alone will certainly not be enough, a little practice will also be necessary.
47. On the cleaning of coins. — There is another practical subject of which we must treat because it is a difficult and intricate matter concerning which it is well to warn young collectors in order to restrain their exceeding zeal. The mania for cleaning coins is very often fatal because it is far more easy to spoil than to improve them. There is not much danger of spoiling gold coins, for there is generally no need for cleaning them, and if such need arises they may be cleaned in any kind of acid without suffering damage. Silver coins are much more delicate and therefore must be treated with much greater care. If one has to deal with the original earth of the deposit or with the dust accumulated during the course of years, washing with soap and water will be found sufficient. If, on the other hand one has to deal with oxidation (and sometimes silver coins are covered with a green oxide produced either by copper coins which were mingled with them or else by the vessel in which the coins were buried), it will be best to place them in a solution of acid and leave them there some time. When the simple bath of solution proves insufficient, add to it a small piece ot zinc, taking care that the zinc does not come in contact with the coins. The oxidation very rarely resists this treatment which however must sometimes be continued for several days. Instead of the acid bath which may be obtained with the natural juice of a lemon or a solution of oxalic or of citric acid, one may also very successfully use a solution of carbonate of potash. But the business of cleaning coins becomes \ery much