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Fake Coin is 'Rare Find'
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
September 18, 2013

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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Counterfeits are counterfeits - or are they?

A counterfeit of a Byzantine gold coin recently discovered in a field in Norfolk, England, has been termed as a “rare find” by Norwich Castle Museum officer Adrian Marsden.

The exact location of the find is confidential, but according to an Aug. 7 British Broadcasting Corporation announcement, the coin was found on land in North Elmham near Dereham. It appears the coin was issued by the rulers of the area, who were French at that time, likely to increase the coinage available for themselves.

Marsden said, “This is an early copy of a Byzantine gold coin made in France. The Merovingians [French ruling dynasty] created copies of Byzantine coins from their bullion as there wasn’t enough coinage coming in from the Eastern Roman Empire. How many of these copies were ‘official’ currency is hard to say. We see very few of these so it’s an interesting find and one that we will hope to acquire for the Norwich Castle Museum collection.”

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The coin has been identified as an imitation of a gold solidus of the Eastern Roman Emperor Maurice Tiberius, who reigned from AD 582 to 602. The coin is described as being 23.5 millimeter in diameter. The coin was later made into a pendant. The suspension loop has three longitudinal ribs that were soldered to the edge of the coin at 12 o’clock. The coin appears to have been buried with its owner. The pendant was recently declared to be treasure at an inquest conducted by the Norfolk coroner.

Marsden said, “What’s interesting is you have somebody in France copying a Byzantine coin which then also followed the trend of turning it into jewelry.”

No information was available in time for this article regarding whether the coin was composed of good gold content or was debased. Family wealth was sometimes worn as jewelry at that time in parts of Europe.

Fake coins are usually envisioned to have been made by criminals who are counterfeiters.

Governments have been making counterfeit coins of other countries for centuries. Among ancient Roman coins there are fourees, silver-plated counterfeits with a bronze core. There is debate regarding if mint employees made these coins after hours at the local mint or if they are the work of criminals.

The Celts issued silver coins mimicking the designs on ancient Macedonian coins of Alexander III. Barbarous radiates are copies of Roman coins produced by local barbarian tribes on the fringes of the Roman Empire. These were likely made due to Roman coinage being in short supply in these outskirts of the empire.

The Crusaders made copies of local Islamic coins. In turn, the local Islamic governments made counterfeits of the Crusader coins.

The Imperial Russian government struck copies of Dutch gold ducats. During the early 19th century Napoleon had counterfeit money of Austria issued in an effort to disrupt Austria’s economy.

In more modern history Operation Bernhard was the Nazi German effort to counterfeit British paper bank notes. Although the accusations are unsubstantiated, the CIA has been accused of counterfeiting the paper money of Iraq in an effort to disrupt Iraq’s economy during the rule of Sadam Husein.

There is evidence that North Korea routinely counterfeits paper money of other countries, especially that of the United States.



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