Guide to avoiding fake ancient coins on Ebay

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As long established dealers in ancient antiquities and coins we get annoyed when we see blatant fakes appearing with increasing regularity on Ebay.

In the fascinating world of ancient coins these fakes are fetching hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars and they are worthless. A newcomer to the hobby is unlikely to know the signs - that comes with experience - but we have seen a few long established collectors get caught out.

The root of the problem is the Balkans, namely Bulgaria. Plain and simple. I would like to say avoid purchasing anything from that part of the world or from any 'dealer' with a Bulgarian name but they are clever. You don't normally find the name until you have purchased and often the coin is sold from Western Europe or the US. Some of the worst offenders - and many in antiquities circles believe they are all connected as they offer the same rubbish every week - list themselves as being based in Germany or Holland as well as Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

The Bulgarians are so good at spewing out fakes they even have studios and catalogues such as Slavey and Lipanhoff so what do you look out for?

1/ Check the feedback, even if its hidden. Go to Goofbay dot com and enter the sellers ID into the 'Received by' field. If the list screams fake, fake, fake then experienced, knowledgable collectors have been bitten and have responded with negative feedback. Ebay allows Feedback to be hidden but Goofbay is a way around it.

2/ Is the Buyers ID private? Why? There is no reason for it. Chances are the seller, if he is selling fakes, is also indulging in a bit of shill bidding. That is bidding with a second ID against you to bump the price up.

3/ The fantasy tale. We see increasing amounts of ' Found this hoard of coins while fieldwalking in Norfolk' or such. Some even go as far as to shove a few into a piece of pottery or a fake oil lamp (thats another story) just to make it look authentic. What surprises me is that there are so many coins from the other side of the Empire as well as Ancient Greek, Byzantine and we have even seen Bactrian turning up in these 'hoards'. Total Bulls**t.

Anything found in a hoard, especially ones that are found on a weekly basis, must be declared to the coroner in the UK so it would be illegal. The best we saw recently was 'Found while walking along the surf on a beach in Cyprus' yet when you check the sellers buying record he had bought it from a well known dealer in fakes two weeks previous.

You also get the 'I don't know much about coins, it was in my grandfathers effects after he died etc etc' as well as many other fantasy stories. Especially avoid the 'Unresearched coin' listings. Nobody in their right mind would sell an ancient without knowing what it is and its value.

4/ Do some research. Some fakes, especially silver, look like a bad plastic surgeon has been let loose on whoever is depicted as the bust. These are obvious and experienced collectors laugh about them. The more cunning Otho or Pertinax issues that fetch high prices are skillfully worked in the studios of, yes....you guessed it. Bulgaria! There are many coin groups on the net such as coinforgerynetwork or ancient artifacts whose forums have experienced guys willing to offer advice on nay prospective purchase.

5/ AVOID UNCLEANED COINS!!!!! I would say only buy these from established dealers but only in small quantities. Do not buy the bags of 1000 for seven to a thousand dollars a pop in the hope of finding that special rare coin. These quantities have been picked over by the diggers, the person who buys from the diggers, the person who buys from the buyer all the way down the line to the Ebay seller. All he does is throw on top of the pile a couple of cheap detailed Constantine bronzes and photographs them and the buyer is duped into believing the whole pile is like that.

Small quantities, very cheap, are ideal and keep the kids quiet for hours.

Especially avoid those that say 'GOLD FOUND!!'....thats self explanatory.

6/ Use established dealers. We have a website as well as selling on Ebay, so do several other bona-fide coin dealers. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to research the coin you are interested in even if it is an AE bronze from the late Empire....its the only way to learn.

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