This one is for the coin collectors, have any of you folks come across forgeries that were made before the fall of the Empire. I know that after the fall of the Empire , a lot of the smaller kingdoms made copies in the Roman style.

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    Yes I have seen faked Roman coins, usually they are made of much less silver than were the real minted coins. As long as there has been money there has been someone trying to counterfeit it.
    – ed.hank
    Apr 8, 2017 at 22:08
  • @ed.hank, thanks for the info. I would imagine that the Roman provinces and the later stages of the Empire would have seen more forgeries. Apr 8, 2017 at 22:18
  • @ed.hank: But how do you tell the difference between a coin that has less silver (or gold) content because it's fake, and coins made by a government that is adulterating the coinage?
    – jamesqf
    Apr 12, 2017 at 5:35
  • @jamesqf i am not really sure what you mean. any coin minted by a government is by virtue not counterfeit. it could be a debased coin, which there are tons of examples, but these are still viewed as legitimate coins. coins made by counterfeiters range the board in quality and in silver/gold content so its hard to say one this specifically will tell you the difference. this is an interesting article on how to spot forgeries but it mainly deals with modern ones... coinsguide.reidgold.com/counterfeits.html
    – ed.hank
    Apr 15, 2017 at 0:04
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    @ed.hank: What I meant is that suppose sometime during the Roman Empire, counterfeiters made good counterfeits by using an alloy with much less gold than the official coin was supposed to have. Then the government decides to debase the currency, and mints official coins with less gold (perhaps, as in Ankh-Morpork, about the same gold content as seawater :-)). So how, a couple of millenia later, do we tell the unofficial counterfeit from the official debased coin?
    – jamesqf
    Apr 15, 2017 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


Of course, there are plenty of examples of ancient counterfeit currency.

In the ancient world, (generally speaking) currency (coinage) was valuable primarily because it contained a certain quantity of of precious metal that was considered intrinsically valuable.

Therefore, there were two general methods of counterfeiting in ancient times. The first and easiest is knowing as "clipping" or "shaving" - since the metal in the coins was intrinsically valuable, you could remove a small amount of the precious metal off a coin, use the coin at face value, and keep a small amount of bullion for yourself. There are countless examples of clipped ancient coins still around today, and you can see some in the above link.

The second general method is similar to modern counterfeiting techniques. Counterfeiters would duplicate the appearance of a genuine coin, but use cheap base metals instead, either by plating a core of cheap metal with a small amount of the precious metal, or by alloying the precious metal with cheaper metal. The Wikipedia page on counterfeit money shows an example of a counterfeit coin from the rule of Domitian, and Coinweek has an article on the subject with plenty of even older examples. That article notes: "Fourées are even older than coinage itself – plated base metal bars have been found that were made to imitate ingots of precious metal used as currency before the introduction of coins."

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